By Donna Gates, as seen on:

Forgiveness literally heals the heart.

A study done in 2003 at the University of Tennessee found that forgiveness is associated with lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and a reduction in stress hormones—such as cortisol and adrenaline.

What is going on? According to researchers, forgiveness lowers perceived stress.

In other words, when we are able to forgive ourselves and others, we perceive the world as a less hostile place.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves is forgiveness.

This may mean forgiving others or forgiving ourselves for our own mistakes.

Over the past decade, countless studies have found concrete biochemical pathways that begin with emotional stress and end in disease.

For example, in addition to making us feel off-kilter, psychological stress can dramatically throw the immune system out of balance.

Oscillating hormones and an unregulated immune response is the perfect recipe for many of the chronic diseases we see today. Examples are cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmunity and dementia.

When we are angry or hold a grudge, this affects our own body more than it affects anyone else.

Let’s face it: if we are hard on others, we are even harder on ourselves!

While it makes sense to reduce our perception of stress and forgive, this matters most when it comes to self-forgiveness.

Our own body image and health challenges can often generate a vicious cycle of stress and self-inflicted hostility.

In our effort to be well and feel great, we can end up creating an unhealthy relationship with food or worse—an unhealthy relationship with our own body.

Many of us, in an attempt to be healthy or create a certain physique, begin to obsess over food and numbers. These numbers may be on the side of a box or what shows up on the scale. Whatever you are counting, understand that numbers have little to do with genuine health.

Sticking to a healthy diet or loosing weight can be as much of a physical battle as mental one. It is important to understand that health is NOT about:

  • Counting calories.
  • Becoming lean.
  • Cutting out fats.

In fact, the most current research tells us that there are many factors outside of mental stamina that are associated with weight gain and sticking to new dietary plan. Some of these factors involve the immune system or the hormonal system. If we never bring these systems into balance, dieting can become an agonizing process.

What matters most is optimal health.

This means that all systems of the body work together in a harmonious way.

The body is always changing and its needs are always fluctuating. Optimal health is not something that we can pin down, but something that we must constantly create.

When we forgive, allowing ourselves to learn, make mistakes and grow, we set ourselves up for success!

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