Popular Science

How to forgive someone who has hurt you—and why you should

Letting go of the bitterness you feel toward people who have hurt you—even if they don't deserve it and you'll never see them again—is good for your health.
It's not for the benefit of the person who wronged you.
It's not for the benefit of the person who wronged you. (DepositPhoto/)

Every new year brings expectations for change and resolutions for better behavior, and the start of an entire new decade makes these pledges feel that much more hopeful. Perhaps you’ve promised yourself you’ll spend the next few weeks changing your dietary habits, or solidifying a daily gym routine. This year I’m channeling my resolution-related energy into forgiving someone who hurt me—and I’m not doing it for their benefit. I’m doing it for my own good.

If you’ve never heard it before, hear it now: Holding onto grudges is bad for your health, and just thinking about forgiving people who’ve wronged you can leave you better off. And there’s empirical evidence on how best to go about forgiving them, even if you never plan on speaking to them again—and even if you only have an hour or two to spend thinking about them.

Why forgiveness can help you feel better—both mentally and physically

Before we get into the evidence on how best to go about forgiving someone, let’s start with why you might want to. A key to understanding forgiveness is that the act is less about making the world a kinder one and more about helping yourself. You also don’t need to believe someone deserves your forgiveness in order to forgive them; I, for one, am confident that the person who abused me deserves no such thing. So why try to forgive?

A growing body of evidence suggests that chronic anger can take a daily on your cardiovascular health and immune system. Letting go of the bitterness you feel toward another person can lower your anxiety, . Basically, —especially if those feelings are due to bitter or traumatic memories that frequently come to mind unbidden.

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