We often speak of forgiveness as a virtuous trait, but rarely do we talk about it in terms of the physical health benefits. I write about this today because as ADHDers we need a lot of structure, and often times we lose focus, forget some of the structure we set-up for ourselves and then beat ourselves up for not following that structure.
So I went on a search looking for actual research as to why it is important to strive to forgive others, and then applied that research inwards to highlight the importance of forgiving ourselves as well.
I did not have to go far to find research on the benefits of forgiving others. The Mayo Clinic’s recent article about forgiveness, explains that letting go of anger and practicing forgiveness can help lead to:
- Healthier relationships
- Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
- Less stress and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain
- Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
An About.com article lists a number of different studies on the physical benefits of forgiveness, some showing a lower heart rate and less stress. Two other studies they list show the following:
- Forgiveness is positively associated with five measures of health: physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints. It seems that the reduction in negative affect (depressive symptoms), strengthened spirituality, conflict management and stress relief one finds through forgiveness all have a significant impact on overall health.
- A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that forgiveness not only restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the offending party (in other words, forgiveness restores the relationship to its previous positive state), but the benefits of forgiveness spill over to positive behaviors toward others outside of the relationship. Forgiveness is associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity and other altruistic behaviors (and the converse is true of non-forgiveness).
The reason I point this out is because we often look at the benefits of forgiving others, but we fail to realize that this same affect occurs when we forgive ourselves. When we constantly strive for perfection, and screw up, we tend to hold grudges, have negative thoughts and have increased anxiety. It is only when we understand we are human, imperfect by nature, and forgive us for our faults can we release this negative energy and truly be our healthiest and best.
I stress this today because I’ve written a lot since starting. In looking back to my goals I know that I don’t always ‘Remember the Milk,’ I often times ‘Check my e-mail in the morning,’ some days I don’t exercise and I haven’t quite gotten down the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of blogging. It is OK. The most important thing I need to remember on a daily basis is to forgive myself, remember that I am human, so that I have the strength, energy, and health to continue working to become a better person.