Whether it’s a simple disagreement with a loved one or a long-held resentment toward an old friend, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that unresolved conflict can go deeper than you realize. Beyond the initial hurt or feelings of mistrust, you may be left feeling insecure in your relationship. Unfortunately, whatever hurt and disappointment you carry with you can affect both your physical and mental health in a number of negative ways — from increased risk of heart attack and higher blood pressure to anxiety and depression.
In fact, feeling chronically angry — which is very different from the fleeting feelings of anger that spur action or resolution — puts you into an intense fight-or-flight mode, resulting in numerous physical changes in heart rate, blood pressure and even immune response. Those physical changes then increase the risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
On the other hand, letting go of that heavy burden can improve your health as well as your happiness. With forgiveness often comes lowered blood pressure, improved mental health and a more positive outlook. When you learn to forgive, you free yourself of the deep resentments that can lead to so much negativity, and you allow yourself to heal and find happiness. To clarify, forgiveness means the release of resentment or anger, not the acceptance of another’s continued harmful behaviors. You don’t need to let someone “off the hook” or return to the same relationship in order to move forward. To release the resentment, you may choose to:
– Reflect on why the person may have committed the offense
– Sit with your feelings and allow yourself the range of emotions you may feel
– Re-frame your thinking of the situation to see yourself in a more empowered way, whether that’s because you chose to leave a difficult relationship or have the strength to see a situation more clearly and remove yourself from that situation
– Identify what you need to move forward
– Make a decision to find happiness in releasing the resentment and anger
Forgiveness is a process and also a practiced exercise. With forgiveness comes peace and improved health, one day at a time.