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How to Forgive, and Why You Should

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http://health.usnews.com - The deepest wounds feel like they'll last a lifetime: The absent mother who robbed you of the mother-daughter bond you craved and deserved. The eighth-grade bully who turned the classroom into a living nightmare. The boyfriend who broke his promises and chose her instead.



You feel bitter. You still hold a grudge. But clinging to those betrayals and disappointments, that hurt, is bad for the body and mind. "It's inevitable that we'll all be hurt by others, and that it will happen often," says clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, who's based in Pasadena, Calif. "People have accidents, make mistakes, behave selfishly, and even intentionally try to hurt one another. We can't escape it. Forgiveness is a vulnerable act that can feel like it opens us up to more pain. But we need to have a way to process and let go of the effects of injury, or we risk serious physical and emotional consequences."



Indeed, experts say that forgiving those who have wronged us helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate. One study found that forgiveness is associated with improved sleep quality, which has a strong effect on health. And Duke University researchers report a strong correlation between forgiveness and strengthened immunity among HIV-positive patients. The benefits aren't just limited to the physical, either: Letting go of old grudges reduces levels of depression, anxiety, and anger. People who forgive tend to have better relationships, feel happier and more optimistic, and overall, enjoy better psychological well-being.



Anecdotes support the research. Psychologist Robert Enright, author of The Forgiving Life, has taught forgiveness in a variety of settings, and next year he'll do so in Liberia in the wake of a 14-year civil war. "Every human being on the planet has been injured by another's injustice, and how we respond to that can make all the difference,"

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