Make A Holiday Peace Pact For Health
Loved ones gathered together during the holidays can bring out the worst in people who continue to harbor resentment toward a particular friend or family member. Anger-filled reunions take all the fun out of the fa-la-la. Even worse, holding hurt, anger and hostility is bad for your mental and physical health. Forgiving someone of their trespasses not only opens up new pathways in a relationship, it’s good for you. Here’s how to learn to forgive and what making amends can do for your health.
Letting go lowers blood pressure
In a 2006 study conducted by Dr. Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., author of Forgive for Good, researchers examined whether people diagnosed with stage 1 hypertension could lower their blood pressure after going through a forgiveness training program. The scientists measured anger expression and blood pressure. After an eight-week forgiveness training program the subjects showed significant reduction in their blood pressure compared with the control group. Researchers suggest that this kind of training could be a useful clinical intervention for some patients with hypertension who have high levels of anger.
Reduce anger, raise optimism, improve cognition
While in college, Luskin became interested in the power of forgiveness. After being unable to release his anger towards a friend, he decided to complete his dissertation on the topic of forgiveness. After getting his doctorate, Luskin then created the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. "The results were very positive," he said. "People showed less stress, less anger, more optimism and more forgiveness."
Forgiving someone might also make you smarter. Dr. Tom Farrow, a clinical psychologist, and his colleagues scanned a subject's brain using a high-definition magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. It turns out when a person is in the process of forgiving, activity in the frontal lobe of the brain increases. The frontal lobe is involved in problem-solving and complex thought, essentially the more complex functions of thinking and reasoning.
Steps to forgiveness
Luskin lists nine steps to help forgive:
Learning to forgive doesn't mean you necessarily condone wrongful behavior or distressing situations, it means acknowledging your anger and resentment, gaining perspective, then consciously choosing to make amends so you can find peace. In the process of letting go, you can improve your emotional and physical health.
More on forgiveness
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