We’ve all held a grudge or two before—even when we know it’s not the smartest or most productive thing to do. But did you know it’s also not the healthiest? Holding a grudge or refusing to forgive someone can have adverse effects on your health. Conversely, the benefits of forgiving your supposed wrongdoer have several healthy implications, both physically and mentally. July 7 is Global Forgiveness Day so in an effort to help you put your mind and body at ease, here are four reasons to consider “burying the hatchet” and empathize with a friend or foe for your health.
- Forgiveness means less stress.
When you hold onto a grudge, your body and mind are stuck dealing with additional stress. We all know stress is bad, but getting worked up over something that someone did decades, years or even days ago creates a continuous cycle of stress. Every time you think of someone or something negatively, it’s stressful for body and mind, which can jeopardize your health.
- Letting go lowers your blood pressure.
Think of someone who got on your nerves recently or something someone did that really bugged you. Odds are your blood pressure just went up a little. Or, at least it probably did, according to this study. Nonetheless, you don’t want an ongoing reason to promote hypertension, and a grudge is just that. Next time you think about that person or thing that upset you, think about your blood pressure, too.
- Holding on can hurt your heart.
Grudges can be heartbreaking. They can also hurt your heart, particularly when anger is involved. According to the American Heart Association, higher levels of anger can increase your risk of coronary heart disease. This is more common in older men. The Harvard School of Public Health determined men might be five times more at risk of heart attack and three times more at risk of stroke following an episode of anger. The lesson? Take a deep breath, calm down and forgive.
- Saying goodbye to grudges improves sleep.
Giving your grudge a rest might help you sleep better. Why stay up thinking about things that bother you when relaxing, restorative sleep awaits? Consider uncovering your feud with someone so you can cover up in your blankets and get a healthy amount of rest. The next time you find yourself up at night thinking of past wrongdoing, consider your sleep habits and contemplate forgiveness, instead.
There are plenty of other reasons to forgive and forget. But forgiving isn’t always easy. If you have trouble forgiving, many professionals recommend the practice of empathy. In other words, if you can’t forgive someone, it still helps to understand where that person is coming from—“walk a mile in their shoes,” so to speak. Sometimes, even that can be hard, and that’s okay. There are many ways to cope with or work through a grudge, including group or talk therapy. If you’re curious about your options, talk to your doctor or ask your insurance company about your options for mental wellness resources. And remember, it’s always a great time to give up that grudge and find peace for your health.