Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It

Whether it’s a simple spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health.

The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure , and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.

“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D. , director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response . Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.

Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.