After a Year That Pushed Us to the Brink, It’s Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral

Andrew Serazin: In one study, people who were more likely to forgive were less likely to engage in excessive drinking and smoking. Likewise, the disposition towards forgiveness has been associated with reductions in anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders. Even more surprising, individuals who forgive have a healthier cardiovascular response to stress. One study of 85 patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease found that those who reported being more forgiving had significantly lower levels of artery-clogging cholesterol. According to one leading researcher, the cardioprotective effects of forgiveness may be as large as those for beta-blockers, a common medicine for lowering blood pressure. Now these correlation studies are interesting. But as a trained biomedical scientist, what gets me really excited are the 50-plus studies of forgiveness as an intervention. Researchers have identified the essential components in the process of forgiveness and packaged these components into practical tools that can be delivered with or without a therapist. When we design such interventions it means we not only have a theoretical understanding of how something works, we also can break a complicated behavior into its component parts, study how people can get the maximum benefit, and ultimately spread those findings.

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