Chronic anger puts your body in flight or fight mode, which results in numerous changes to your heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. It can cause depression, anxiety, problems sleeping and concentrating. Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels, improve sleep, reduce pain, reduce blood pressure and decrease levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
Depending on the offense, forgiveness can seem nearly impossible. It can be difficult to find compassion for someone who has wronged you. It may even feel like forgiving them is like letting them off the hook. However, forgiveness allows you to let go of the negative emotions and thoughts and be able to move forward, either with or without that person.
Forgiveness is not just saying the words. It’s a choice that is made. It’s a process in which you are actively making a decision to let go of negative feelings whether it’s deserved or not. Depending on the severity of the offense, the process could take weeks, months or even years.
The following steps can help with the process of forgiveness:
- Before you can forgive, you have to reflect and process the offense. What happened? How did you react? How did you feel? How has the hurt and anger affected you since it happened?
- As hard as this may be, empathize with the person. If you can put yourself in their shoes, you may better understand why they did what they did. This act of empathizing doesn’t excuse the offense or the person but it helps you see them as a human being that made a mistake.
- Let go of the expectation that they will or should apologize. If you don’t expect it then you won’t be disappointed.
- If able, tell the person that you forgive them. If that is too difficult or not possible, talk about it with someone you trust or write about it in a journal.
Forgiveness is tough at times, however, the more you practice forgiveness the better you’ll be at it. And the research is clear, that forgiveness leads to a happier and healthier life.