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Forgiveness Can Give You freedom From Anxiety and Depression

How Forgiveness Helps

When we look at the causes of anxiety and depression our thinking processes are often part of the problem. Anxiety becomes habitual when we spend too much time having worrying and frightening thoughts. Our body then gets into very alert and vigilant state. This means our our body is being flooded with the types of hormones, which makes it even more likely that we will think anxious thoughts. By putting our nervous system on “alert” we tell our nervous system to look for those things which might go wrong (or are going wrong) and to not look for things that are going right. Our perspective becomes one-sided, and distorted towards the negative, without us even realising it.

Likewise thoughts of doom and gloom, such as feeling stuck in a situation with no way out or no hope for a better future can also become habitual. Such thoughts cause our body to be flooded with the types of hormones which make us feel sluggish, lacking in energy or enthusiasm and even more likely to have despairing and unhappy thoughts.

By giving us a way to change or interrupt our habitual thought patterns Forgiveness allows us to make radical positive changes. It helps us to cope with the things which we find worrying or fearful and it also helps us find hope and new possibilities in situations where we feel stuck. Yet Forgiveness can take us further than this – much further.

Here are all the physical and mental benefits you can reap by learning to forgive:

Forgiving unconditionally could mean a longer lifespan.

People who practice conditional forgiveness — in other words, people who can only forgive if others say sorry first or promise not to do the transgression again — may be more likely to die earlier, compared with people who are less likely to practice conditional forgiveness, according to a a 2011 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

“This is due simply to the fact that those who cause an offense will not always fulfill such conditions, regardless of their appropriateness, and the offended party does not have the power to make them occur,” they wrote in the study.

It gets you out of that angry mode.

When you’re chronically angry, you’re in a flight-or-flight mode — which can have effects on blood pressure and heart rate, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. But when you truly forgive, that leads to decreased stress, which can help to tamp down the anger. “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, said in a statement.

And not forgiving someone is associated with more anger, arousal, sadness and feelings of not being in control, according to a 2001 study in the journal Psychological Science. WebMD reported on a Hope College study, showing that when people held on to a grudge, they had higher physiological activity — facial muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure and sweating — compared with when they forgave.

It helps your health across the board (including your sleep!).

A 2005 Journal of Behavioral Medicine study showed that forgiveness is associated with a whole range of health measures, including medications taken, sleep quality and fatigue.

The health benefits of forgiveness seem to come largely from its ability to reduce negative affect (feelings of tension, anger, depression and fatigue), researchers found. With forgiveness, “the victim relinquishes ideas of revenge, and feels less hostile, angry, or upset about the experiences,” the University of Tennessee researchers wrote. “The present study suggests that this pathway most fully mediates the forgiveness-health relationship. Thus, health consequences of lack of forgiveness may be carried by increased levels of negative emotion.”

“If there is a causal role between forgiveness and health, then reduction of anger, anxiety, and depression may explain how forgiveness operates on the body,” they added.

Making amends helps you forgive yourself.

When you are the one who needs forgiveness, making amends with the person you wronged can better help you to forgive yourself, Baylor University researchers found.

In research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, people who asked for forgiveness for a wrongdoing were found to be more likely to feel like it was OK to forgive themselves. The research also showed that in a hypothetical situation, making amends with a friend who they committed a wrongdoing toward increased the likelihood of the study participants self-forgiving.

“One barrier people face in forgiving themselves is that they feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go,” study researcher Thomas Carpenter, of Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences, said in a statement.

Your heart will thank you.

That’s because forgiveness has been shown in research to have effects on lowering blood pressure. A 2011 study of married couples in the journal Personal Relationships, for instance, showed that when the victim in the situation forgave the other person, both experienced a decrease in blood pressure.

“This study provides the first evidence we are aware of suggesting that receiving forgiveness also predicts positive physiological functioning: Perpetrators who received more conciliatory behavior (as reported by victims) had lower blood pressure than did perpetrators who received less,” researchers wrote in the study.

Similarly, a 2003 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed that forgiveness is associated with decreased blood pressure levels. “Forgiveness may produce beneficial effects directly by reducing allostatic load associated with betrayal and conflict, and indirectly through reductions in perceived stress,” researchers wrote.

It could have immune system benefits.

Research presented at a 2011 meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that people with HIV who practiced genuine forgiveness toward someone who’d hurt them had higher CD4 cell percentages (considered positive for their immune status), Medscape reported.

“Results support our hypothesis and reflect previous findings on relationships of psychosocial factors with immune makers in people living with HIV/AIDS, and findings indicate that forgiveness of another person may be beneficial for their health,” study researcher Amy Owen, Ph.D., of the Duke University Medical Center, told Medscape.

It can strengthen your relationship after infidelity.

Truly forgiving your partner after infidelity can be the key to saving (and even strengthening) the relationship, a recent study from University of Missouri-Kansas City researchers showed.

In fact, the Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice study showed that forgiveness trumped time, relationship satisfaction and commitment in overcoming the hurt from infidelity, researchers found.


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