It isn’t healthy to hold a grudge.
That’s according to a new study from Harvard University, which revealed that forgiving others could benefit people’s overall mental health.
International researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, studied 4,598 subjects from five countries — Colombia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Africa and Ukraine — who said they’d been hurt or offended by another person.
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The subjects were taken through self-directed exercises inside a “forgiveness workbook.”
The workbook shared strategies, including how to recall hurt feelings instead of suppressing them, as well as empathizing with the offender, lead Harvard researcher Tyler VanderWeele shared during a New York Times Q&A last month.
Two weeks after completing the self-directed exercises, individuals reported reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to those who did not receive workbooks.
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During the Q&A, VanderWeele suggested the disposition to forgive is “potentially very much needed” with the “increasing polarization” of today’s society.
It’s also possible for people to become more forgiving by rethinking how to interact with the world “more generally,” he said.
“This is most certainly not going to be the last time I’m hurt or offended by others, so when this happens again, might I be in a better position to forgive?” he said.
Dr. M. David Rudd, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, reacted to the study.
He told Fox News Digital in an email that the findings are “consistent with what we’ve known about working with those struggling with post-trauma problems for some time.”
Forgiveness is “critical” in the trauma recovery process.
“Forgiveness is critical to recovery,” he said.
“The brief nature of the intervention is potentially very important, coupled with [the] impact on anxiety, depression and overall well-being more generally.”
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Rudd added that forgiveness is “critical” in the trauma recovery process, particularly for military veterans.
And often, it’s about “forgiving oneself,” he said.
“Forgiveness interventions help address common post-trauma struggles that involved persistent guilt and shame, particularly with veterans involved in combat,” Rudd added.
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“The study is a nice contribution, demonstrating the potentially powerful nature of a brief, structured forgiveness intervention that can be applied broadly, across multiple contexts, and requiring limited clinical training,” he said.