Lack of Forgiveness Can Affect Our Health
I read the following article by Sheryl Walters several years ago and it was an "ah ha" moment for me. I have referred back to it many times for guidance that has consistently kept my emotions in check.
I always thought that forgiving someone meant "letting them off the hook".
What I learned was that forgiveness was not about the person who hurt me, it was about ME! It was about giving myself a gift - yes....a gift!
That priceless gift was one of better health, both physically and emotionally.
Everyone knows that being angry feels terrible. When we feel angry at someone, we get a tight feeling in our chest and body, and our minds aren't free. Feeling angry at someone who cuts you off when you are driving is bad enough. Long term, chronic anger can ruin peoples' lives. Feeling angry for something that happened in childhood can literally make people prisoners of their own emotions.
Dr. Luskin of Stanford University is studying how forgiveness can help people become healthy. The 150 volunteers who have taken part in the Stanford Forgiveness Project say that letting go of the hurt caused by other people or by forces they see as being outside themselves, is not just one of the greatest emotional releases; they feel better physically, as well.
"Getting angry and needing to forgive are universal phenomena, but the skills to forgive are inadequately taught."
Holding on to anger for too long can obviously affect a person's emotional health. But hanging on to that anger, Dr. Luskin says, can also seriously affect people's physical health.
How is the Body Affected?
Lack of forgiveness, which often occurs as a result of having been hurt, humiliated, angered, or having suffered fear or loss, feelings of guilt, or envy, can have profound effects on the way your body functions.
Physically the body is in a state of stress. Muscles tighten, causing imbalances or pain in the neck, back and limbs. Blood flow to the joints is restricted, making it more difficult for the blood to remove wastes from the tissues and reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Normal processes of repair and recovery from injury or arthritis are impaired. Clenching of the jaws contributes to problems with teeth and jaw joints. Headaches can become a problem. Chronic pain may get worse.
Blood flow to the heart is constricted. Digestion is impaired. Breathing may become more difficult. Anger can seriously impair the immune system, increasing the risk of infections and illness.
Luskin cites several studies that show how anger can affect the cardiovascular system by adding to a person's general level of stress. Other studies have indicated that patients who have had heart attacks have been able to improve their physical health by practicing forgiveness and working to feel more tolerant and less angry.
Additionally, Dr. Luskin says, when the body releases certain enzymes during anger and stress, cholesterol and blood pressure levels go up, not a good long-term position to put the body in. Forgiveness has been shown to lower blood pressure naturally. The bottom line, we can eat healthy and take care of ourselves on a physical level, but if our hearts are filled with anger, our bodies are not in optimum health.
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