Why forgiveness is good for your health

Nov 15, 2011, 9:46 a.m.

When personal relationships go sour, it's easy to be consumed by feelings of distress and resentment. These feelings not only distract us from appreciating the blessings we do have, but they damage our mental, spiritual and physical health, as well.

Among the many harmful effects brought about by the stress of negative emotions is a chronic elevation of the hormone cortisol. Elevated cortisol is associated with insomnia, uncontrollable cravings, weight gain, impaired brain function, high blood pressure, abdominal fat, suppressed thyroid function--and the list goes on. And that's just cortisol! Imagine all the other changes to our body's chemistry and the havoc each can wreak.

So difficult as it may be, it's in our best interest to forgive those that hurt us. By releasing the energy attached to thinking about the person, we free our mind, heal our soul, and bring both immediate and lasting changes to our physical well-being.

If you're having trouble letting go, watch for when your mind wanders to bitter thoughts about the person or group. When this happens, stop what you're doing and take a long deep breath. As you exhale, release that thought, as though you're blowing it out of your body. Say to yourself, "I release you," and immediately turn your attention toward something for which you are grateful, like the beautiful weather or the people in your life that bring you joy. Be patient with yourself and repeat this action as often as you need to let go of your distress.

It's rarely an instantaneous fix, but small steps like this can pave the way to helping you heal and move forward.

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