Stress Management Relationship Stress The Many Benefits of Forgiveness By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on March 04, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print NicolasMcComber/iStockphoto Betrayal, aggression, and just plain insensitivity: people can hurt us in a million ways, and forgiveness isn’t always easy. Whether you’ve been cut off in traffic, slighted by your mother-in-law, betrayed by a spouse, or badmouthed by a co-worker, most of us are faced with a variety of situations both serious and mundane that we can choose to ruminate over or forgive. But forgiveness, like so many things in life, is easier said than done. The Challenge of Forgiveness Forgiveness can be a challenge for several reasons. Sometimes forgiveness can be confused with condoning what someone has done to us: “That’s OK. Why not do it again?” Even for people who understand the distinction between accepting someone's bad behavior as "okay" and accepting that it happened, forgiveness can be difficult because these two are easily confused. Forgiveness can also be difficult when the person who wronged us doesn’t seem to deserve our forgiveness. It can feel like you are letting them "off the hook." While this feeling is completely understandable, it's vital to remember that forgiveness allows us to let go of a connection we have to those who have wronged us and move forward—with or without them. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the one who is forgiven. Ultimately, forgiveness is especially challenging because it’s hard to let go of what happened. Forgiving someone who has committed unacceptable behavior can be difficult when we are having trouble letting go of anger or hurt surrounding the event itself. The Importance of Forgiveness Forgiveness is good for your heart—literally. One 2017 study from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine was the first to associate greater forgiveness with less stress and ultimately better mental health. Increases in forgiveness made for less perceived stress, which was followed by decreases in mental health symptoms (but not physical health symptoms). Other research in 2017 showed that 'state' forgiveness --- an intentional, purpose-driven disposition bent toward forgiveness --- produced in those participants who undertook forgiveness perceived senses of mental well-being, which included reductions in negative affect, feeling positive emotions, experiencing positive relations with others, discerning sensibilities of spiritual growth, and identifying a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a greater sense of empowerment. Research reported slightly earlier, in 2015, linked forgiveness with the proverbial forgetting. Emotional, intentional forgiveness influenced subsequent incidental forgetting. Determined, purposeful emotional forgiveness causes forgetting and is an important first step in the forgiveness cascade. To sum it up, forgiveness is good for your body, your relationships, and your place in the world. That’s reason enough to convince virtually anyone to do the work of letting go of anger and working on forgiveness. Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares why it's OK to give second chances, featuring Purple Heart recipient Craig Rossi and Fred. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts How to Forgive Forgiveness may not always be easy, but it can be easier with a few exercises and the right mindset. First, keep in mind that forgiveness is something you do for yourself to sever your emotional attachment to what happened. (Think of taking your hand away from a hot burner on the stove—it remains hot, but you move away from it for your own safety.) Also, remind yourself that you are moving forward, and forgiving this person allows them (or at least what they've done) to stay in the past as you move on. Journaling, prayer, or meditation, and loving-kindness meditation can all be helpful in easing yourself into forgiveness as well. 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Toussaint LL, Shields GS, Slavich GM. Forgiveness, Stress, and Health: a 5-Week Dynamic Parallel Process Study. Ann Behav Med. 2016;50(5):727–735. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9796-6 Akhtar S, Dolan A, Barlow J. Understanding the Relationship Between State Forgiveness and Psychological Wellbeing: A Qualitative Study. J Relig Health. 2017;56(2):450–463. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0188-9 Lichtenfeld S, Buechner VL, Maier MA, Fernández-Capo M. Forgive and Forget: Differences between Decisional and Emotional Forgiveness. PLoS One. 2015;10(5):e0125561. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125561 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Stress Management Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.