How Letting Go Of A Grudge Is Good For Your Health

An author by the name of Lewis B. Smedes once said, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." Well, as you're about to see in just a few minutes, there are layers of truth to that perspective because there is plenty of science to support that there are all kinds of physical, mental, and even relational benefits that come with choosing to forgive someone who may have offended or hurt you.

But first, a few points about the act of forgiveness itself. While holding resentment or a grudge against someone may initially seem like it's punishing them for what they did to you, Mayo Clinic shares that staying in that mindset could cause you to hang on to anger and bitterness in such a way that it triggers depression, keeps you "stuck" in the past (instead of focused on the present), and it could also affect your quality of relationships with other people — people who didn't cause you any pain or harm.

So, what if you've tried to forgive but it seems like the anger you have just won't go away? Some tips that you may want to try include getting to the root of actually what offended you, trying to get into a mindset of empathy (processing a bit of what may have caused the "offender" to act in the way that they did), and seeing how going through the experience may ultimately benefit you on some level.

And how in the world could someone hurting you actually help you? There are lessons that could be learned from the situation. You could figure out how to set boundaries to avoid a similar experience in the future (via WebMD). And, as you're about to see, it could improve your quality of life in ways that you didn't anticipate.

So, let's dive into how forgiveness can prove to be holistically beneficial. Some of the ways just might surprise you.

Forgiveness can boost your immunity

Probably the best way to describe your immune system is it's the part of your body that helps to protect you from viruses, bacteria, or fungus that could lead to some form of illness. Since no one enjoys being sick, it's important that you do all that you can to keep your immune system healthy and strong.

Physically, you can do this by not smoking, exercising on a regular basis, eating healthy foods, getting six to eight hours of rest, and keeping your weight under control. However, something else that you can do is forgive others.

That's right. There are studies to support that when you pardon someone for offending you, it can decrease stress levels that can sometimes weaken your immunity, if you're not careful. In fact, there is also research that states that forgiveness can strengthen the immune system of individuals who've been diagnosed with HIV. And anything that can help you to keep illness at bay is definitely something that's worth trying, right?

Forgiveness calms down your nervous system

Bet you never thought in a million years that forgiveness would have anything to do with your nervous system. Oh, but it does. According to an article that was published on Everyday Health's website, "The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together, so that your body can regulate things like blood pressure and heart rate, and function the way it should both in stressful situations and non-stressful moments."

In other words, when you're holding a grudge, not only does it have the ability to spike up your blood pressure and heart rate, it could prevent you from feeling calm and relaxed too. The problem with that is when your pressure and heart rate are elevated, it could lead to a heart attack, stroke, an aneurysm, or even dementia (via Mayo Clinic).

As you're seeing more and more, unforgivingness can take a real toll on your health in ways that you've probably never considered before — ways that are potentially quite serious.

Letting go of a grudge can boost self-esteem

According to Verywell Mind, your self-esteem is all about how you see and value yourself. When you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you are confident, you have a good sense of identity and overall, you feel pretty secure within yourself.

It's pretty common for self-esteem to be lower during your childhood years and for it to elevate over time. Either way, it's important to have a solid sense of self-worth because it affects everything from your decision-making process and your relationships to even how motivated you are when it comes to setting lifelong goals.

That said, something else that forgiving others does is it helps to boost your self-esteem. The more you're able to release feelings of resentment, the easier it is to feel in control of your life which can help you to value yourself more. Since all of this can ultimately lead to greater life satisfaction too — yep, another win for choosing to let resentment go.

Kicking a grunge to the curb can reduce your anxiety levels

Did you know that, reportedly, over 40 million people within the United States deal with some type of anxiety disorder? Some of the physical symptoms include sweating, shortness of breath, and insomnia while some of the emotional ones include irritability, restlessness, and a preoccupation with seeing life from a "glass half empty" perspective.

While anxiety can reveal itself in different forms (including panic disorders and phobias), if there's one thing that everyone who deals with anxiety can agree on, it's that they want ways to decrease their levels as soon as possible. One method is yep, you guess it — forgiveness.

Verywell Mind shares that there's research to support that when you forgive someone, it helps to calm you which decreases your anxiety levels in the process. Psychology Today states that after forgiving someone, you tend to feel less irritable and that can make you feel less anxious too.

Not to say that forgiveness is a replacement for what your healthcare provider recommends in order to treat your anxiety issues. However, if something can be done outside of their expertise, why not also try it to see if it works?

Forgiveness decreases stress

It can never be said enough just how many illnesses and health issues are directly tied to stress. There's obesity, diabetes, depression, asthma, and heart disease (via WebMD) to name a few. There's also memory loss, insomnia, autoimmune diseases, and skin issues like eczema (via Healthline), all related to stress.

A part of the reason why stress is so literally stressful to your system is because, for one thing, it raises your glucose levels higher than they should be which can make it challenging for your body to repair damaged tissues. Also, stress has the ability to slow down your bodily functions which makes you more susceptible to harm.

Something that can help to bring stress levels down is forgiving folks. One study even revealed that over the course of five weeks, people who forgave others noticed a significant improvement when it came to how stress affected them both physically as well as mentally.

While you might believe that holding a grudge against someone feels good and empowering, your internalized stress disagrees with you. No situation is worth putting your health at risk. Just one more reason to strongly consider forgiveness.

Letting things go enhances your sex life

As if you needed any more reasons to engage in a little physical intimacy tonight, there are all kinds of health benefits that come from having sex. According to WebMD, sex can help to keep your immunity intact, lower your blood pressure, relieve pain, reduce stress, and make it easier for you to fall (and stay) asleep — and that's just for starters!

Interestingly enough, when you have sex, it also makes you want to have more sex too. And when you're participating in coitus after forgiving someone, it can make everything about the experience better for you. Debby Herbenick Ph.D., M.P.H., once shared in an article on Psychology Today's website that, "If we could forgive [our] partner fully, maybe we could look at them with new eyes — with an innocence and a love and acceptance that made them feel entirely loved and wanted. If we could forgive ourselves for the times we've said hurtful things or betrayed ourselves or others, maybe we would act more confident in and out of bed, in and out of love."

If you really stop to think about the fact that forgiveness can make you more understanding and compassionate (via Mayo Clinic), how could that not cultivate an environment for better intimacy?

Forgiveness boosts your cognitive function

There's a pretty good chance that you've heard of the term "cognitive function" before. Still, if you're wondering what it means in Layman's terms, it simply means that it's how your brain works when it comes to thinking, learning, reasoning, remembering, and solving problems.

Some of the things that are proven to improve cognitive function are exercising, eating healthy, avoiding substance abuse, checking your blood pressure, keeping your blood sugar levels balanced, and being intentional about taking care of your emotional health.

One way that you can do that is to forgive people. Science shares that forgiving others taps into a side of your brain that "triggers" feelings of empathy. Forgiveness actually helps you to be less aggressive too, which can keep you from participating in what may be considered to be "socially unacceptable behavior." 

All in all, if you want your brain to function at peak levels, forgiving others is a solid way to do it.

Letting a grudge go improves your overall mental health

Although there are many layers when it comes to what mental health entails, probably the best way to define it is it's what causes you to think, feel, and act the way that you do. Many mental health experts say that aspects like your upbringing, your life experiences, and even your DNA play a direct role in the state of your mental health. That's why it's important to be as intentional about caring for it as you would for your physical well-being.

When it comes to this particular point, it's important to take note that when you're having problems in a relationship, it can definitely take a toll on your mental health. That's because relational issues can result in mental and physical fatigue, overthinking, and even feelings of helplessness.

Something that can take a lot of this pressure off is forgiving someone. Not only can it help to decrease negativity, it can improve your spiritual life and make you feel more mentally strong as well (via Verywell Mind).

Forgiveness improves your quality of sleep

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three people don't get enough sleep in the United States? That's a serious issue because sleep deprivation is directly linked to things like weight gain, heart problems, a fluctuation of hormones, a weakened immune system, irritability, and even issues with fertility (via Medical News Today).

And while there are all sorts of things that can cause you to have trouble falling asleep, a reason that doesn't get nearly enough attention is unforgivingness. According to an article that was published in The Washington Post, a study that featured 1,423 American adults cited that individuals who are more forgiving end up not only sleeping better, but they experience uninterrupted rest too. Meanwhile, "people who don't forgive, researchers explain, tend to linger on unpleasant thoughts and feelings, such as anger, blame, and regret. This can involve painful rumination — focused attention and repetitive thoughts about distress" which can lead to some pretty restless nights.

No one is worth you not getting some much-needed zzz's. Something else to keep in mind if you're currently struggling with forgiving someone right now.

Getting over a grudge increases longevity

If you've ever been curious about what the current life expectancy rate is, it's somewhere around 77 to 78 years of age. Some of the things that can shorten your longevity include smoking, drinking, a lack of consistent exercise, financial stress, and constant negativity (via The Healthy).

As we prepare to bring this article to a close, because longevity is on the list, you can probably already tell that science also backs up the fact that if you make it a point and purpose to be a forgiving individual, that can also help to keep you living a long and full life.

Some studies state that people who prioritize their health and spirituality and practice forgiveness with others have a greater chance of making it past 66. A part of this is due to the fact that the more forgiving you are, the less likely you are to be angry or anxious. Plus, forgiveness puts you into a more positive mindset which helps you physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

Anything that can help you to live a long and full life is worth applying. Try forgiveness today. You've just read 10 reasons why you won't regret it if you do.