Forgiving your enemies may be good for your soul, but a series of recent studies are proving that the act has quantifiable physical benefits as well.
GOOD reports that medical research into the psychological benefits of forgiveness only dates back to the 1980s, but in recent years the subject has been the focus of studies investigating its physiological impact on health.
Kathleen Lawler-Row, head of psychology at East Carolina University, has completed several studies on forgiveness, and found that when people forgive those who have betrayed them, they exhibit a marked decrease in blood pressure. Conversely, participants who refuse to forgive others’ transgressions experience blood pressure spikes surrounding "acute, stress-induced, cardiovascular reactivity"―which is associated with hypertension and coronary heart disease.
Other studies seem to confirm decreased stress levels in forgiving people. In addition to lower blood pressure, studies like the one from the John Templeton Foundation, found forgiving people exhibited decreased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. And researchers at NYU found that cardiac patients’ who were forgiving demonstrated not only less anxiety and depression, but were found to have a lowered risk of repeat cardiac episodes.
Finally, it’s not just the human heart and nervous system that can benefit from letting things go. Forgiveness may boost immune systems as well. According to Duke University researchers, patients living with HIV who chose to forgive others’ past betrayals exhibited positive changes in their immune status, despite experiencing no changes in their antiretroviral drug regimens.
Do you think practicing forgiveness would make a difference in your own health? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com