Paulo Chaccur – Goal for the start of the year: the act of forgiving is good for the heart

Who has never been harmed by someone else’s actions or words? Maybe someone in the family who was constantly critical growing up, a co-worker who sabotaged a project, or a cheating partner. More often than not, these are situations that generate deep and lasting wounds and feelings of anger, resentment, pain, sadness, bitterness, and even revenge.

However, according to an article published by mayonnaise clinic (USA), practicing forgiveness can help change this scenario and even benefit your health, including your heart. This is because the act of forgiveness can restore peace, hope, love and joy.

Forgiveness can lead to the path of physical and emotional well-being. The explanation lies in the fact that feelings are able to alter the functioning of our body.

Here, however, it is important to make a clarification: forgiving does not mean forgetting or even making peace with those who have done wrong.

The healing power of forgiveness

Forgiveness is not just about words. It is an active, mental and emotional individual process. It involves making a conscious decision to let go of resentments and negative thoughts, whether the person deserves it or not.

It is a resolution that needs to be internalized and worked on. With this, it can generate a kind of peace of mind, a liberation, which helps us to move forward in life. What caused the wound happened and cannot be changed. However, forgiveness can lessen its grip on us.

Studies indicate that the act of forgiving brings rewards for heart health and function:

strengthens the immune system

provides a feeling of relaxation and decreases muscle tension

improves cholesterol levels and blood pressure

reduces pain

contributes to sleep

improves self-esteem

Decreases levels of anxiety, depression and stress

reduces the risk of heart attack.

Is it possible to train forgiveness?

According to a study conducted by Stanford University (USA), it is. The research, conducted in a Wisconsin hospital, involved patients aged between 21 and 79 years. Each of the participants carried a deep and unresolved psychological wound, a painful experience that has continued to hurt and haunt even after years. Something that made them angry and frustrated and flustered every time they thought about it.

The researchers asked them to describe this incident in detail. All underwent a cardiovascular stress test at the same time. A reduction in blood flow to the heart was evident as they reported this. The patients then went through a short forgiveness training program. The proposal was to help everyone recognize and accept their own anger or pain. Ten weeks later, another similar test was performed.

But this time the experimenters had a much harder time finding evidence of anger in the participants’ heart scans. Somehow, through forgiveness, the experience of talking about the hurtful event became less hurtful. Among the conclusions, the study showed that anger can be toxic and harmful.

Carrying negative feelings can hurt a lot.

That is, remembering the fact that you have not yet forgiven makes the organism relive the event. These invasive and repetitive thoughts produce a rush of adrenaline and cortisol, which end up releasing harmful markers for internal balance. If an individual remembers an event, say, every day for ten years, he bombards his body with hormones for that entire period.

Being hurt by someone, especially someone we love and trust, can cause anger, but dwelling on painful events or situations, holding grudges, and allowing negative feelings to overcome positive ones, can create a constant state of bitterness, sadness, and hostility. Holding resentment against someone is extremely stressful.

This generates an emotional overload that makes the individual feel more angry, irritable and out of control. We can therefore say that anger is a form of chronic stress. And stress, especially the hormones it stimulates, has a number of negative effects on systems throughout the body.

Consequences for the cardiovascular system

Stress puts us in a “fight or flight” state, resulting in numerous physiological changes, such as changes in heart rate, immune response and metabolic processes, increased blood pressure, vasodilation, and decreased blood flow to the heart.

These changes increase the likelihood of heart disease and risk factors for the cardiovascular system, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, among other conditions. When we feel anger uncontrollably and regularly we can have an arrhythmia, for example, which can cause other problems in the future.

Additionally, people who carry this kind of feeling are more likely to experience sleep disturbances, anxiety attacks, major depression, psychosomatic and post-traumatic stress disorder – again issues that can have devastating long-term effects on the health of the individual. heart. .

An article published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology (with a review of 44 previously published studies) confirms that anger and hostility are significantly associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease as well as worsening conditions in those who have already been diagnosed with an organ problem.

Forgiveness and stress

Forgiveness therefore helps relieve stress. Another study, published in the journal Annals of behavioral medicine (2016) with more than 330 participants aged 16 to 79 revealed that, regardless of age, people who are able to forgive experience a decrease in the perception of their own stress, a decrease that also leads to a reduction in distress psychological.

The act of forgiving is associated with lower blood pressure and heart rate levels. In short: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together. While the sympathetic is related to chronic stress and the “fight and flight” response, the parasympathetic is the calming part that “turns off” the hyperarousal of certain areas of the brain.

So, under conditions of high stress, any action that can calm a person down, including the practice of forgiveness, activates the parasympathetic nervous system and can benefit both the mind and the body.

Attitudes for 2023

The fact is that the heart and the mind are closely connected. There is a huge emotional and therefore physical toll when we are hurt or disappointed. Negative moods, including anger and chronic stress, as we have seen, can be destructive and lead to a decline in health over time in a spiral of sickness and disease.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, makes room for building healthier relationships. By letting go of anger, resentment, and hostility, you can increase empathy and compassion. Getting to the point where you are able to forgive someone, be it another person or even yourself, can be extremely difficult, but necessary. So don’t ignore the emotions that can overwhelm you and harm your health.

Acknowledge your feelings and express them. The damage caused must not generate even more damage. If the situation is very difficult to overcome, you need to seek professional help. Finding ways to take care of your emotional well-being will benefit your quality of life and your heart. How about including the act of forgiveness in this New Year’s resolutions?

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