5 Ways Forgiveness Is Important For Your Overall Well-Being
Forgiveness is a finicky component of the human condition. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but being able to genuinely forgive others (and yourself) when those mistakes occur isn’t just a switch we can all automatically flip in our brains. There’s a lot at stake emotionally, from trust to betrayal and everything in between.
A survey conducted by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute found that 62 percent of adults in the United States feel like they need more forgiveness in their personal lives. And if you ask us, that’s way too many people living in the land of remorse, resentment and regret. So here are five reasons it’s worth really listening when those who have wronged you come forth and offer you a heartfelt apology (including that little voice inside your head).
1. Opening your heart to others keeps it healthy for you.
In a 2011 study from the journal Personal Relationships that observed a bunch of married couples, when the victim of a particular situation forgave the partner who committed the wrongdoing, both parties experienced a healthy decrease in blood pressure. That means that receiving an apology and, conversely, receiving forgiveness creates positive forces in your life. So if you’re facing a sense of conflict, regardless of whether you’ve been wronged or you’re the one in the wrong, your heart wants you to face that problem head-on.
2. Your mental health wins in a multitude of ways.
Piles of research suggest that people who are more forgiving of others and themselves fare better when it comes to fending off depression, anxiety, chronic stress, anger and hostility. On the flipside, people who can’t seem to say, “I forgive you” and genuinely mean it are more prone to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems.
3. You become more equipped to handle physical challenges.
Yep, that mind-body connection is a real thing. A 2014 study published in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science revealed that people who choose to forgive others for their wrongdoings not only perceive a less daunting world, but also perform better on difficult physical tasks. The researchers hypothesize that forgiveness releases the mental, emotional and physical burden on the body, allowing it to move more freely afterward.
4. Sleep struggles become a distant memory of the past.
According to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, being a forgiving person is positively associated with quality shut-eye and negatively associated with self-medication and feelings of fatigue. These connections make sense since forgiveness helps to alleviate feelings of tension, anger, sadness and exhaustion held in the body when you’re emotionally upset with others or yourself. The moment you can accept something for what it is and let go is the moment your physical body can begin to relax.
5. Your sense of life satisfaction will grow by leaps and bounds.
A 2017 study from the Institute of Pedagogy and Psychology in Poland found that, across all age groups, the ability to let go and forgive is strongly associated with greater overall life satisfaction. We can’t say we’re that surprised — harboring a bunch of toxic resentment for years and years would easily knock us down a peg or two emotionally. But if you just let bygones be bygones and move on with your life, there is so much less negative baggage sitting around to hold you back.