The real reasons you should stop hating your ex

It's not uncommon to harbor feelings of hatred, hostility, and ill will toward your ex. Perhaps your ex cheated on you, left you heartbroken, or blindsided you in a way you just can't get over. Even the mere thought of your ex may make you infuriated. But whatever the case may be, while it's perfectly normal and natural to feel anger and hatred from time to time, having chronic feelings of animosity toward your ex is actually causing you physical and emotional damage.

As Nelson Mandela famously said, "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies." In other words, you're really hurting yourself on multiple levels by holding on to these feelings of bitter anger and loathing. Here's why you should let go of these negative emotions right now and stop hating your ex once and for all.

You're hurting your heart

Even if your ex broke your heart, it may surprise you to learn you're literally hurting the health of your heart when you have feelings of abhorrence and anger over this person. As noted in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, people actually increased their risk of a suffering from a heart attack by nearly nine times following an anger outburst, even up to two hours after this kind of episode. And if that's not alarming enough, a study in Circulation revealed those who were quick to anger had a higher risk of developing heart disease and suffering a heart attack, despite having normal blood pressure levels.

It's clear that your emotions are powerful enough to cause significant internal changes, as these feelings of hatred and rage against your ex can actually cause your body to go into fight or flight mode, which results in an accelerated heart rate and skyrocketing blood pressure. And the more frequently your exasperation occurs, the more you're damaging the walls of your arteries. So the next time the thought of your ex makes your blood boil, it's important to keep in mind what's really happening to your body.

You're hurting your brain

Holding on to hateful feelings about your ex is also harmful to your brain. A study in Neurology revealed negative thoughts and emotions can actually trigger a stroke, even up to two hours after experiencing these feelings. Since an American dies from a stroke approximately every four minutes, you shouldn't wait to stop the hate.

Further, as noted in Frontiers in Neuroscience, research on mice revealed recurrent feelings of anger, resentment, and hostility can actually lead to significant changes in the brain. In fact, as new neurons developed in the brains of these angered mice, they became even more hostile and aggressive. The takeaway from this is that chronic feelings of hostility against your ex have the potential to change you into a more negative person — even if you consider your ex to be a rat.

You're hurting your immune system

When you hate your ex, you're actually putting your body at risk of disease by lowering your immunity. In fact, your emotions play a powerful role when it comes to protecting your body from potential illness, and the research is there to prove it. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America demonstrated that negative thoughts can actually lower a person's immunity against the flu.

And on the flip side, it's interesting to note that having positive thoughts and sanguine emotions can actually help to increase a person's antibody production and flu resistance. Along these same lines, a study in Psychosomatic Medicine revealed those who frequently expressed positive emotions rather than negative were able to increase their resistance to everyday colds. With this in mind, it's clear that clinging to negative thoughts can negatively impact your ability to stay healthy, which is even more evident when looking at a study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Researchers determined people with a pessimistic outlook who chronically experienced negative emotions increased their risk of mortality by nearly 20 percent.

You're increasing your weight

When looking more closely at the detrimental impact hating your ex can have on your body, it's important to recognize how these negative emotions can lead to weight gain. While our bodies were built to handle moments of sporadic stress and anger, they weren't designed to be continuously under stress. So when you're chronically stressed out and upset over your ex, cortisol, which is known as the "stress hormone," remains elevated in your body, and your appetite goes up as well. In other words, when you're filled with anger and animosity toward your ex, you can end up filling yourself up with comfort foods as a result.

To that end, a study in Psychosomatic Medicine revealed that women who experienced high levels of stress had more abdominal fat as well as higher levels of cortisol. And most interestingly, these women weren't overweight, yet they still carried this excess weight around their midsections due to their negative emotions.

Further, being unable to let go of your feelings of hate and anger toward your ex can be stressful enough to negatively impact the way in which your body processes what you eat. A recent study in Molecular Psychiatry revealed that women who ate healthy fats but experienced stress the day before reaped the same health outcomes as those who ate unhealthy fats but who hadn't had a stressful event prior to their meal. With this in mind, it's evident that feelings of hatred, ill will, and stress due to your ex are profound enough to cause problematic metabolic changes in the body that can potentially eliminate the benefits of healthy eating.

You're increasing your risk of developing an eating disorder

Speaking of eating, there's also a strong connection between negative emotions and the onset of an eating disorder. In fact, hating your ex can be powerful enough to become a trigger that sets you on a dangerous and destructive path, as fixating on food can become an escape from your negative feelings, whether you restrict food, overeat, and/or purge. In fact, research has outlined the high probability of a causal relationship between negative emotions, including anger and hatred, and their connection to bulimia, as noted in Behavior Research and Therapy.

Also, research in European Eating Disorders Review revealed men and women tend to handle anger differently, as women are more likely to turn to disordered eating, such as binging, in order to deal with their negative emotions, while men are more likely to engage in other impulsive behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse.

When looking more closely at how loathing your ex can lead to disordered eating, it's important to keep in mind these conditions can often result from misplaced feelings and suppressed emotions. In other words, many women can develop an unhealthy relationship with food as a way to deal with the lingering negativity and hatred from their relationships.

You're missing out on sleep

Getting enough sleep is imperative for your body, as it plays a major role in maintaining your physical and emotional health. However, fixating on negative thoughts about your ex enough to keep you up at night, which can have dire consequences for your entire body. After all, not only is sleep vital for your brain, heart, immune system, cardiovascular health, as well as keeping a healthy weight, but missing out on sleep can take a large toll on your mental capabilities.

First, not only does sleep deprivation impair your rational decision-making capabilities, but a lack of sleep also has the power to negatively impact your memory and your ability to recall information. Plus, missing out on sleep because of animosity toward your ex can also become a vicious cycle that fills you with more negativity, as a lack of sleep can harm your mood and emotional well-being. A lack of sleep can impair your ability to control your emotions, making you more on-edge and prone to outbursts over minuscule and insignificant issues. And if that's not worrisome enough, researchers from UC Berkeley revealed that when you're up all night mulling over your dreaded ex, you're also increasing your anxiety levels and putting yourself at risk of turning into an excessive worrier.

You're increasing your risk of depression

When looking more closely at your health and well-being, it's important to keep in mind hating your ex is powerful enough to become an underlying cause of depression. In fact, your negativity, hostility, and anger toward your ex can translate into pain and grief, and you may feel long-lasting dejection and demoralization because of what transpired with this person.

However, it's not just your mood and emotional health that can suffer as a result of depression, but your physical health as well. Research has found that depression can put you at a greater risk for obesity, as noted in the American Journal of Public Health. Further, another study revealed those who suffered from depression were more likely to develop cancer. And while your ex may have broken your heart, research has also found that having depression significantly increases a person's risk of dying from heart disease.

You're harming your relationships with others

You likely know from experience that being around someone who's optimistic, upbeat, and happy is far more pleasant and enjoyable than spending time with someone who's spiteful, angry, and upset. And when you're harboring feelings of animosity and ill will toward your ex, your resentful nature can make it difficult for others to be around you, as the negative energy you're expending can be a major buzzkill.

Plus, while it may be difficult for you to admit, hating your ex can be a clear sign you're still into this person, as you're continuing to give him significant amounts of your time, energy, and attention even though he's no longer in the picture. And when you're still invested in this past relationship in any capacity, you're making it harder to establish a meaningful future relationship with someone new. After all, whether your feelings are positive or negative, obsessing over your ex can be a turn-off and a red flag that you're not yet ready for a new connection.

You're hurting your productivity

Hating your ex can not only cause physical and emotional harm, but it can also end up hurting your career. In fact, it's been shown that having high levels of anger, stress, and loathing on the job can inhibit your ability to problem-solve effectively, as well as hurt your ability to recall important information. This may not be too surprising, since fixating on your ex's evil ways can be highly distracting and impair your concentration levels.

Plus, employees with negative emotions and a negative outlook are more likely to become fatigued at work and have lower levels of productivity. If that doesn't make you a little more nervous about your upcoming performance appraisal, research presented at the Society for Neuroscience's Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., found even images of your hated ex can be powerful enough to impair your productivity, as people scored lower on performance tests after watching unpleasant movie clips as opposed to movie clips that were happy and upbeat. In a word, when your hatred for your ex weighs on your mind, it can inhibit your mind from working properly on many different levels.

How can you stop hating your ex?

Considering the profoundly negative impact that hating your ex can have on you and the many different aspects of your life, it's never been more important to move past the anger and ill will. While this may seem difficult, the good news is there are proven techniques to help you let go of these feelings.

The first step is to recognize that you can't change what transpired between the two of you. Clinging to the past and replaying old situations is painful and pointless. Instead, pay attention to the triggers and situations that are causing your ex to pop into your mind in the first place. Is it when you're feeling lonely? Or perhaps when you drive by a restaurant that the two of you used to frequent? Once you recognize the specific emotions and situations triggering your negative feelings, you can practice what's known as cognitive behavioral therapy and make a conscious effort to change your thinking patterns to rid your mind of him.

Can you forgive your ex?

Another important question you should also ask yourself is whether you're able to forgive your ex, as this can be a key step toward improving your life in numerous ways. And while forgiving certainly doesn't absolve him of his hurtful actions, it can release you from the physical and emotional burden he's placed on you. In other words, forgiving your ex enables you to unshackle yourself from the detrimental and damaging role he still plays in your life.

So if you're wondering how to forgive your ex, a powerful exercise can be to write down your feelings about him and what happened between the two of you. Once you put it all out on paper, it suddenly won't seem so impossible for you to move on. On the other hand, if you're unable or unwilling to forgive, which you have every right to be, you should resolve to free yourself from his grasp. Even if you don't forgive him for the hurt he's caused, you can regain control of your life by choosing to leave the hatred in the past and move on to a lighter and brighter future.

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