Learning how to let go of grudges for your health

Author Megan Feldman Bettencourt was the October 2019 speaker at the Norton Healthcare Go Confidently series.

Do you hold a grudge? If you do, you might want to think about letting go for the sake of your health.

Author Megan Feldman Bettencourt, the October 2019 speaker at the Norton Healthcare Go Confidently series, spoke of the effects anger and resentment can have on your health.

“We know that when we’re holding a grudge, when we’re angry, when we’re resentful over a long period of time, every time we think about that person or that event, we’re flooding our brains with stress chemicals,” Megan said. “Over time, what that does is, first of all, increases blood pressure.

“And it also really impacts our brains. So what happens is little by little, those stress chemicals impede the frontal lobe’s ability to solve problems. And the other thing it does it make us more likely to be depressed and anxious.”

That stress can lead to health issues.

“We know that some people, when stressed, depressed or anxious, may be more likely to do things such as overeat, not exercise, or smoke or drink more,” said Renée V. Girdler, M.D., family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Crestwood. “In addition to a rise in blood pressure from the stress alone, these behaviors lead to an increased risk for heart disease.”

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Stress also can lead to more immediate issues that affect your life.

“Some people may have a headache, stomach issues or chest pain, or even have difficulty sleeping,” Dr. Girdler said.

Learning How to Let Go of a Grudge

If you’re holding that grudge and have high stress, you might want to learn to forgive.

According to the Go Confidently speaker, people who are good at forgiving are committed to it. They also share three key habits:

  1. Be authentic. In a situation where you are hurt and angry, let yourself feel the way you feel. You may need time to grieve. Be mindful and notice your reactions to situations big and small, which can help you learn to let that anger and stress go.
  2. Realize that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same.

“The definition of forgiving is to release resentment,” Megan said. “You can release resentment and have a relationship with someone, or you can release resentment and never speak to that person again. There’s a lot of freedom in that.”

  1. Get in touch with your spiritual side. This does not need to mean religion, though many religions have practices that can help with this. It refers more to a greater purpose.

According to Megan, when you forgive, you often feel as if a literal weight has been lifted. This can make you feel more energetic. Being in touch spiritually also can make you feel as if you’re part of something larger than yourself.

“It just has to meaningful and purposeful for you,” Megan said.

Steps for Forgiveness

Do you need to practice forgiveness? Here are three steps Megan suggests:

  1. Think about someone you could forgive. It may be someone with whom you are annoyed or angry. Write a letter to that person. You don’t have to send it, but be sure to declare your forgiveness.
  2. Write a second letter to yourself. Self-forgiveness happens to be more difficult. Think about something you can forgive yourself for and a way to be more compassionate for yourself.
  3. Spend a little time thinking about your purpose and what drives you. What is something that inspired you or inspires you? What excites you or makes you feel ok? Once you know this, try to find a way to practice this activity or spend more time moving toward that purpose.

Go Confidently, held several times a year, is meant to inspire and motivate people to be the best versions of themselves. It is presented by the Norton Healthcare Foundation and Caretenders.

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