Mind & Well-Being Connection


 Links of Forgiveness and Gratitude to Health and Well-Being.


Forgiveness and Gratitude represent positive psychological responses to interpersonal harms
and benefits that individuals have experienced. It is well established that blame toward others for one’s misfortunes and sustained hostility and anger are physically and mentally harmful.

Forgiveness may contribute to well-being mainly from its potential to help people mend and preserve supportive, close relationships. Forgiving was more strongly associated with well-being
in highly committed relationships rather than less committed relationships partly because
not forgiving in close relationships leads to psychological tension (i.e., a state of discomfort
resulting from conflicting mental processes and feelings). Not surprisingly, forgiveness appears to be
beneficial for relational well-being.  People in romantic relationships reported having forgiven each other was positively associated with both partners’ satisfaction and commitment to their relationships, suggesting that
forgiveness is linked to both the forgiver and the forgiven person’s reports of relationship quality.
Conversely, research has demonstrated that endorsing revenge as a conflict resolution strategy
is positively related to difficulty maintaining close friendships. The more
that the children in this study reported ‘‘getting back’’ at friends in imaginary conflict scenarios,
the fewer best friends they had, the more their peers rated them as hostile and less positive, and
the less accepted they were by their peers.
In research study of this subject participants who were asked to imagine forgiving a real-life
offender showed improvements in terms of cardiovascular (heart rate, blood pressure) and
sympathetic nervous system functioning (skin conductance levels, corrugator electromyogram),
compared to those who were asked to imagine not forgiving a real-life offender. Participants’
psycho-physiological responses paralleled their self-reported emotions (i.e., they felt more negative,
aroused, angry, sad, and less in control), and they even persisted into the post-imagery
recovery period. The researchers also argued that because people may intensify their hurtful
memories and vengeful thoughts in daily life, such psycho-physiological responses may even be
stronger during natural reactions to offenses. These results give a view of what happens to the
body during experiences of unforgiveness and imply that such responses, if chronically exhibited,
can seriously erode physical health by influencing susceptibility to and progression of disease.

Research also shows that dis-positional gratitude is associated with other measures of positive
affect and well-being. Researchers found trait gratitude to be negatively related to resentment about the past, and to depression in clinical samples, gratitude to be negatively associated with depression, anxiety and envy in nonclinical samples. Moreover, dis-positional gratitude was associated positively with optimism and hope. Thankfulness was related to less risk for internalizing (e.g., depression and anxiety) and externalizing disorders (e.g., substance abuse) in an epidemiological study. Taken together, these results imply that gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and pathological conditions and that it may
even offer protection against psychiatric disorders.

Gratitude is a cognitive-affective state that is typically associated with the perception that one
has received a personal benefit that was not deserved or earned, but rather, due to the good
intentions of another person. Gratitude is a moral affect because it results
from and stimulates behavior that is motivated by a concern for another person’s well-being.
We could be grateful for a variety of benefits: personal (e.g., advice) or collective (e.g., books/
programs your organization badly needed), material (e.g., a gift) or interpersonal (e.g., emotional
acknowledgment from a friend), monetary (e.g., a loan) or non-monetary (e.g., much needed
help), mundane (e.g., a book you were wanting) or non-material, such as benefits from
nature (e.g., awe-evoking weather) or from spiritual life (e.g., experiences of divine interventions).
Gratitude can serve as a moral barometer because it indicates a change in one’s social relationships
as a result of people who he/she regards as moral agents for having augmented his/her
personal well-being. Gratitude can also serve as a moral motive because it motivates people to
respond to kindness with kindness and to subsequently inhibit destructive motivations toward
a benefactor. Finally, gratitude can serve as a moral reinforcer because its expression can increase
the chances that a benefactor will respond with benevolence again in the future, just as showing
ingratitude can instill anger and resentment in benefactors and inhibit future acts of kindness.

Relationships can be a cause of great happiness and of great distress in our lives. Gratitude
may help you to savor the benefits that you receive from others, thereby extending the
emotional benefits that people receive from their positive social interactions with others. On
the other side of the social coin, forgiveness may help to minimize the negative consequences
of interpersonal harm for people’s health, well-being, and social relationships. Lets encourage each other to incorporate
gratitude and forgiveness into the grammar of our lives and relationships so they become happy and bring joy. :-)


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