Forgiveness Helps Heart Health – when not imposed by religious duty

It seems like the heart is rewarded for letting go…:)

2007 – Study equated forgiveness with lower blood pressure. (J.P. Friedberg, S. Suchday and D.V. Shelov, “The impact of forgiveness on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery”, International Journal of Psychophysiology 65(2), 2007, 87-94.)  

2006 – Study showed significant reductions in blood pressure for those who were hypertensive and experienced high levels of anger, then went through forgiveness training.  (D. Tibbits, G. Ellis, C. Piramelli, F.M. Luskin and R. Lukman, “Hypertension reduction through forgiveness training”, Journal of Pastoral Care and Counselling 60(1-2), 2006, 27-34.)

2003 – Study showed that heart attack survivors had improved coronary function after 10-hour forgiveness course. (M. Waltman, D. Russell and R. Enright, “Research study suggests forgiving attitude may be beneficial to the heart”, Paper presented at the American Psychosomatic Social Annual Meeting, March 5-8, Phoenix, Arizona.)

2001 – Study showed that those who think of painful memories and grudges experienced higher blood pressure and faster heart rates. Those who imagined forgiveness had lower blood pressure and heart rates. ( C.V.O. Witvliet, T.E. Ludwig and K.L. Vander Laan, “Granting forgiveness or harbouring grudges: implications for emotion, physiology, and health”, Psychological Science 121, 2001, 117 – 23.)

All studies cited in “Why Kindness is Good for you” by David Hamilton.

However Professor George Vaillant from Harvard says in his book, “Spiritual Evolution” that  “forgiveness imposed by religious duty increases blood pressure; forgiveness mediated by empathy and love does not”, citing a study. (Shin-Tseng Huang and Robert Enright, “Forgiveness and Anger-Related Emotions in Taiwan: Implications for Therapy, ” Psychotherapy 37 (2000): 71-79.)

Emotional, Mental and Physical Wellbeing

Instead of wasting thousands of dollars on medical care when we get serious illnesses, it makes sense to me to look at how we can prevent illness by taking care of ourselves and doing things that cost nothing. Think of the money and time saved. Think of the suffering saved. Think of our family’s energy saved.

We get more information on diet and exercise these days.  My main interest is in how emotional and mental wellbeing relate to our physical wellbeing. It’s not something most doctors tell us about in detail.

For a start, did you know that studies show that

– appreciation is good for your heart health and that negative emotions can lead to heart disease?

– depression is linked to low self-compassion?

– marital stress is linked to heart disease?

This is something I feel really passionate about so I’m really looking forward to sharing what I learn from the science on this…stay tuned….