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Holding Grudges? Study Says Forgiving People Is Good For Your Health

Jun 20, 2016 07:24 AM EDT
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Mental health in the workplace - by the numbers

Forgiving other people or yourself can do wonders for your mental health, a new research found.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, not holding grudges against yourself or other people can help you avoid stress and other mental health problems.

The researchers examined the effects of holding grudges to 148 young adults through a series of questionnaires. The questions aimed to assess their levels of lifetime stress, their tendency to forgive, and their mental and physical health.

The research found that living with stress takes a toll on a person's physical and mental well-being.

However, the research also discovered that if people were forgiving of themselves and other people, this virtue alone eliminated any effect of stress on their mental health.

"Forgiveness takes that bad connection between stress and mental illness and makes it zero," Loren Toussaint, associate professor of psychology at Luther College in Iowa and lead author of the study, told Time.

"If you don't have forgiving tendencies, you feel the raw effects of stress in an unmitigated way. You don't have a buffer against that stress," Toussaint added.

According to the research, people who are more forgiving may have better stress-coping skills than people who are not. Also, the study suggests that people who don't hold grudges react to their stressors with less intensity.

Critics of the study point to the fact that a connection between being forgiving and lesser stress and mental problems is difficult to determine and that the sample of people used in the study is too small.

Toussaint, however, said that forgiveness could be learned. He said that there are therapists who promote forgiveness within a person and also referred to a recent study he had done, which shows that a short prayer or a brief meditation can help people become more forgiving.

"I think most people want to feel good and [forgiveness] offers you the opportunity to do that," Toussaint said.

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