Let It Go: How Holding Grudges Affects Your Health
The Mind-Body Connection
New research shows that letting go of anger does more than give the soul a break. It's good for the body, too. People who tend to forgive others have lower rates of heart disease and are happier and more satisfied with their lives, according to 2008 studies by Loren Toussaint, PhD, a psychology professor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
Dr. Toussaint has also looked at differences between male and female forgiveness. Women are more magnanimous, he has found. But a lot of women hang on to past hurts, and those who do are three times more likely to be depressed. It's worse for men. Guys who can't forgive are seven times more likely to be depressed than those who can let go of grudges.
If holding on to anger is so bad for us, why do so many of us do it? "There's a common misconception about forgiveness," Dr. Toussaint says. "People think that pardoning someone's misbehavior means either condoning it, which makes you an accomplice, or giving in to it, which means you're a doormat. In reality, the ability to forgive means that you rise above the conflict as a way of taking care of yourself."
Dr. Luskin agrees. "In order to forgive you don't have to let go of your opinions about someone's attitudes or actions. You just have to let go of the anger, frustration, or sadness that's eating away at you."