According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize, it can even affect your physical health. Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, explains that being hurt and disappointed carries an enormous physical burden. It can lead to numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.
The Act of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is not just telling someone you forgive them. Swartz states that it is active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not. It may not always be easy, but the result is worth the effort.
Studies show that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health. It can lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels and sleep, and reduce pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. When you practice forgiveness, you release anger, resentment and hostility. This then allows you to feel both empathy and compassion.
How to Practice Forgiveness
Some people are naturally more forgiving, but it can be a learned behavior. In fact, according to a survey by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute, 62% of American adults say they want to improve their forgiveness skills. Swartz gives these six steps to help you start practicing forgiveness:
- Reflect on and remember the events that occurred.
- Empathize with the other person and think about the situation from their point of view.
- Recognize that no one is perfect and forgive deeply in your heart before saying anything.
- After deciding to forgive and feeling forgiveness, seal it with an action.
- Let go of expectations. Just because you practiced forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person will.
- Forgive yourself and know that their actions are not a reflection of you.
To learn more, visit Johns Hopkins Medicine!