Forgiveness: A Key To Your Highest Health
I recall a question once posed to me by a patient, who at that time really wanted to die…not by his own hand in the form of suicide, but rather from some kind of mercy offering from God or the universe to afford him a way of escape from the pain and suffering he had endured and witnessed during his life. From a difficult childhood, surviving a near-death bomb blast as a Vet of the Vietnam War, to teaching in a tough inner city high school… he had seen the good, the bad and the ugly of life and wanted no more of it. The question he asked was this: “Can you teach me how to forgive?” In an instant, my heartstrings were pulled.
It wasn’t long until this patient and I developed a wonderful rapport and he felt comfortable sharing more of his concerns about forgiveness and his struggles to let go of the pain and memories he had accumulated through the years. Believe me, I shed many tears after a few of our appointments. He definitely suffered from years of unaddressed PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) but was determined to free himself from the entanglement of anger, frustration and resentments. Eventually, he gave me an open door to share my thoughts and insights about the power of forgiveness and he gained the healing benefits of letting go of the bitterness.
Together we learned that forgiveness is not just a formality, it is a state of mind and a change of heart that can lift many burdens –both mentally and physically.
By practicing forgiveness you can actually:
- Lower Your Levels of Stress: Forgiveness offers the great benefit of lowering cortisol and ultimately your stress levels. It allows you to stop the “flight or fight” response and find “rest and recovery.” Lower stress also means less pain in your body!
- Increase Your Immune Health: It has been shown that levels of immunoglobulin A (an antibody that helps fend off infections such as colds and flu) plummeted in study participants after researchers asked them to dwell for five minutes on a situation that stirred up anger, frustration, and resentment. The effect lasted up to five hours! Recalling feelings of compassion toward a person or situation for the same amount of time bumped up their IgA levels significantly.
- Keep Your Heart Healthy: Forgiveness is good for the heart—literally. There are several studies that that demonstrate how those who hold on to grudges tend to have increases in their heart rates, while those who are more empathetic and able to forgive tend to have lower heart rates. Forgiveness has also proven to lower your blood pressure. Both are great benefits and you don’t have to take a drug with a multitude of side effects to achieve it!
- Extend Your Life: Holding on to the pain of unforgiveness certainly can shave years off your life and, most certainly, the quality of your life. I think this one goes without saying…those with more forgiving natures tend to live years longer.
So Here Is the Takeaway
True forgiveness is easier said than done. It can be difficult, especially if someone truly upset you in a way that contradicted your values and morals. However, it is important to remember that holding that unforgiveness comes with a huge cost…for some it may even be their very life.
The information contained in this article is for information and education purposes only and is not medical advice. Do not use this information as an alternative to obtaining medical advice from your physician or other professional healthcare provider. Always consult with your physician or other professional healthcare provider about any medical conditions you are experiencing. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, contact your local emergency services for help.DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE