“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
There are many good reasons to forgive but did you know that forgiveness can affect your health?
I’m going to tell you about my experience with forgiveness and a few scientific studies. You may be surprised to discover that science now supports the importance of forgiveness.
I had a good childhood until my father died. Following that initial trauma, I experienced more loss and other serious family problems. My mother, like many people of her generation, thought that the best way to deal with problems was to “just get on with your life”. So, I did.
For many years I didn’t realize that the problems and struggles I faced as an adult could be traced back to my childhood. When I was helping my mother who was in the first stages of dementia, I realized that I felt horrible. I was so angry. I blamed others. I judged people. The worst part of this experience was that I was angry at my mother. I realized that I didn’t want to feel that way ever again. I didn’t want to feel angry every time I was with my mother. That was not the daughter I wanted to be.
Through my study of positive psychology and the law of attraction, I knew I could make different choices. I made the choice to forgive. Forgiveness was not a quick fix. It was a long process. As I began forgiving my life became more peaceful and I was happier. Forgiveness is still an important part of my life.
You may be wondering how I was able to make such big changes in my life. I needed to know a lot more about forgiveness and how science supports forgiveness. This information can help you start forgiving and can put you on the path to living your best life.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the capacity to let go of all suffering, hurts, and betrayals from the past and to choose positive emotions such as love, kindness and compassion. I had to learn that I was releasing all this pain for myself – not the other person.
Forgiving does not mean that you absolve the other person of responsibility for what they did. Forgiving does not mean you need to forget. You are releasing the painful emotions, not the memories.
As you let go of hurts, resentments and grudges you can begin to live a life of peace, well-being, better health and happiness.
The mind-body connection
According to many spiritual leaders our natural state is one of robust health and well-being. I have often heard the phrase “dis-ease” to describe a physical ailment. This means that your body and your emotions are not at ease. If you believe, as I do, that we are energy beings then it makes complete sense that chronic anger, worry, disappointment, fear, doubt and resentment can create an internal environment in which disease can flourish.
Positive psychologist Barbara Frederickson tells us that we are steeped in a different biochemical stew when we have a positive attitude about life. Our body produces less stress-related hormones and more dopamine and opioids. Our immune system works better and we have less inflammation.
Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, says, “A person’s health isn’t generally a reflection of genes, but how their environment is influencing them. Genes are the direct cause of less than 1% of diseases: 99% is how we respond to the world.”
Karen Swartz, M.D., the director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic, says “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.” Prolonged anger puts us in a constant state of fight or flight which can lead to depression, heart disease, diabetes and many other serious conditions. Forgiveness has been shown to calm stress levels which leads to improved health.
In her book Childhood Disrupted, Donna Jackson Nakazawa describes the Adverse Childhood Experiences study or ACE. Researchers found that adverse experiences in childhood predisposes the child to many chronic adult diseases. Childhood adversity is a common problem. Sixty four percent of adults have one ACE and 40% have two or more. Nakazawa recommends forgiveness as a powerful technique to jump-start your healing. She tells us that we need to let go, forgive and move on if we want to recover our health.
I have covered a number of powerful reasons to forgive. The first step is deciding that you are ready to forgive and welcome more peace and better health into your life. True happiness cannot be achieved if we are carrying the painful baggage from our past.
If you are ready to live your best life…
My book, First Create Happiness and the Rest Will Follow will soon be available on Amazon. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. I am so grateful for everything in my life that made this book possible.