Resentment is tough, especially when you’ve been hurt by someone deeply. We all struggle with resentment at some point in our lives. Yet, when we hold on to anger and resentment, it only causes us to suffer more. What you may not realize is that resentment can greatly impact your physical and mental health. Angela Buttimer, a licensed psychotherapist at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, says that holding grudges causes us to carry negative, tense energy in our biology.
“When we hold onto grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick,” Buttimer says. You must pay attention to your levels of resentment. Leaving it unchecked can damage you in more ways than you know. Here are four ways resentment affects your health.
It puts you in fight or flight mode.
Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says there is an incredible physical burden to being hurt and disappointed. When you’re chronically angry and hold onto resentment, it can put you into fight-or-flight mode. This can cause big changes in your blood pressure, heart rate, and immune response. When these things occur, it can increase the risk of depression, diabetes, heart disease, and other condition. Forgiving can turn this around, as forgiveness improves stress levels and leads to better health overall.
It causes psychological damage.
When we carry resentment and negative emotions like bitterness and anger, it can cause psychological damage. When we dwell on these feelings, it can begin to destroy our mindset and look at other people. You will begin to look at everything through a negative lens. Resentment also keeps us mentally stuck in the past, which prevents us from moving forward. This can significantly inhibit your ability to see the opportunities in front of you. You may even begin to see yourself in a negative light. This is not only unhealthy but also destructive.
It destroys relationships.
Resentment can destroy your personality, which will impact your friendships and relationships with loved ones. You begin to become the person that nobody wants to spend time around, and you end up feeling even more alone.
Steven Stosny, Ph.D., author of “Empowered Love” and “Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress,” says that angry and resentful people get into trouble, particularly in intimate relationships, even when they aren’t doing anything wrong. This is because their bodies and facial expression generally express frustration and hostility outside of their awareness. “Being around angry and resentful people makes us resentful, even when they say nothing offensive,” Stosny says. When you’re hanging onto resentment, the people around you notice, even if you don’t realize it.
It causes us to have more negative emotions.
If you’re holding onto anger and resentment, you’ll find yourself experiencing many negative emotions. Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Cambridge, Mass, talks about the importance of letting go of anger because of the damage it causes to our health. “People who are angry a lot tend to have other chronic negative emotions as well,” Kubzansky says. Letting go of resentment can help enhance your health without you even noticing. The best way to move forward from resentment is to find true happiness. One of the best things you can do to break free from the chains of resentment is to forgive. It is done for our own happiness and growth. When we hold onto our pain, it causes more harm to the person holding onto it than anyone else. When we forgive, we can move on without feeling the need to seek revenge or hate the person that inflicted our pain.
When we choose to forgive, that doesn’t mean that we are justifying the harmful behavior. It also doesn’t mean that we will continue to relate to the person that hurt us in the same way. However, it does mean that we are freeing ourselves from a huge burden that impacts our health and our state of mind.
When we choose not to forgive a person who harmed us or wronged us, we begin to take on so many negative emotions that can damage us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Studies have found that forgiveness has huge health benefits. Research also points out that this can increase with age. “Forgiveness is a choice,” Dr. Swartz says. “You are choosing to offer compassion and empathy to the person who wronged you.” If you resent someone, you must begin to take steps to change your attitude so your physical and mental health can improve.
You can begin to do this through the act of reflection. Look back at the events that have taken place in your life that cause you to struggle with anger and resentment. Think about the ways you’ve felt and reacted to those situations. Ask yourself how these situations are impacting you now.
Also, take the time to empathize with the person you are angry with or resenting. If you want to forgive and begin the healing process, it may be time to talk with that person. You shouldn’t walk into these situations with any expectations. Remember, an apology may not come from that person. Getting an apology shouldn’t be the goal. Your healing should. When you don’t come into situations with expectations, you will never be disappointed.
When you decide to forgive, you are turning your feelings into actions. Forgiveness is a process that takes time. It’s not something you do for the person who hurt you, but for you. It’s also important that you take the time to forgive yourself. People often forget that the act of forgiving also includes the forgiveness of self. Any pain you felt as a result of someone’s actions is not a reflection of your worth.