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Science reveals 4 surprising ways holding a grudge is hurting your health

POSTED: August 7, 2017 9:01 a.m.
David Snell/

Well, that explains a lot.

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It's common knowledge that holding a grudge is not a good thing to do. But letting them go is easier said than done. It's extremely difficult to let go of anger and resentment toward those who repeatedly offend you with no sign of remorse. It can be even more difficult to let go of those feelings when they're directed at yourself.

Well, as it turns out, holding a grudge is literally hurting your health. Let's take a look at the science:

1. Forgiving others increases physical capacity and vice versa

According to this study from Sage Journals, "People induced to feel forgiveness perceive hills to be less steep (Study 1) and jump higher in an ostensible fitness test (Study 2) than people who are induced to feel unforgiveness. These findings suggest that forgiveness may lighten the physical burden of unforgiveness."

Isn't that incredible? Holding a grudge is a much more physical burden than we think.

2. Letting go reduces blood pressure

In this study, researchers had married couples talk through an unresolved conflict from their relationship. They checked their blood pressure before and after the exercise. The result: both the perceived victim and the perceived offender experienced lower blood pressure.

Pretty cool, right?

3. Forgiving others promotes healing

It's true. For example, in this study, researchers found that subjects (all diagnosed with HIV) who were more forgiving had higher CD4 cell counts (CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that fight infection). Further research suggests that letting go of grudges may promote physical healing even more than we think.

4. Holding a grudge can even make you gain weight

That's a scary thought, isn't it? First they wrong you and now you're packing on the pounds. It's just not fair. Holding a grudge causes your body to release cortisol, a hormone which helps regulate stress. But too much cortisol over an extended period of time causes all sorts of issues in your body, including weight gain.

Luckily there's a way out: Let it go.

More on cortisol and stress

Cortisol releases into the body in response to stress, leading to a "fight or flight" state. When fight or flight becomes the norm in your life, it rips you apart from the inside out. Here are just a few more effects of holding a grudge, caused by cortisol and stress:

Forgiving

The point of all of this is not to scare you, but to just give you one more reason to unload that burden you're carrying around. Holding a grudge is not a form of revenge, it's just you punishing yourself for someone else's choices.

Get even with those that hurt you in the cruelest form possible: Forgive them.
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