Fact or Fiction: Holding on to Anger is Detrimental to your Health?

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FACT.

We’ve all been hurt before and have held onto that toxic emotion for days, weeks, months or even years, and sometimes rightfully so.  But is the bottled up anger actually causing undue stress to your body?  Is the inability to move past the hurt taking up precious emotional and mental space that could be better used for something else?  The answer is plain and simple: YES.  When a significant other lies to you or a friend lets you down, you are hurt and you have every right to be.  However, how you process and deal with the emotion is what holds you back from the ability to move on, to forgive the other person, and to find peace within yourself.  It is human nature to expect people to treat you well, to have your best interest at heart, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen, sometimes people are not kind to one another and in effect, they hurt one another.  It’s not that you don’t have the right to be mad or angry or sad or confused, but if you want to move past the bitterness you have to learn how to let go.  You have to be willing to learn from the experience and to grow from it.

By holding on to the negative energy, you are keeping yourself from enjoying life fully, from being engaged completely in your own life and the life of those you love.  You don’t realize it but the anger builds within you and suddenly the smallest things set you off and your happiness is sucked right out of you.  It doesn’t happen suddenly or all at once, but you begin to realize that there is a chip on your shoulder, that your smile doesn’t extend as fully as it used to.  Your friends, family and children then begin to bear the brunt of your bottled up anger and you don’t realize that you’re quick with them, that your easily irritated or annoyed.  As the anger and hurt build even more, the stress of the situation begins to affect you physically and mentally.  Soreness in your neck and shoulders creep in, headaches appear out of nowhere and even more serious, panic attacks may begin to occur.  These are physical attributes of your emotional imbalance.

Humans are wired to be happy – they prefer to be happy – but when there is something impeding that happiness, both internal and external cues arise.  When you don’t allow yourself to move on from a past hurt, you hinder yourself from growing and developing into the human you are capable of becoming.  But don’t worry, we all go through this and most of us are not truly equipped to deal with the anger in a timely fashion nor to forgive the individual who hurt us.  But studies have shown that the inability to ‘forgive and forget’ can be detrimental to your health by increasing your blood pressure but also your risk of stroke.  Why would you want to put yourself through that?  What if there were ways for you to better yourself and your ability to not only deal with your emotions but to also improve upon your ability to forgive the transgressor?

There are numerous ways for you to overcome your hurt and anger.  The first step is the hardest.  You have to come to terms with the emotion and be willing to forgive the person who hurt you.  This is in no way an easy task.  It is difficult and it is painful.  You may not feel ready to forgive and move on and so this step may take you days, weeks, months or even years.  And you may not be ready to forgive the individual who hurt you.  You may NOT WANT to forgive them.  You may want to hold on to the anger and allow it to continue to build up within you.  If that is the case, you may want to find someone who you can talk to, whether a close friend or even a therapist.  This will allow you to have an outlet to openly share your feelings with someone other then yourself.  And through discussion and insight you may come to terms with the emotion and find the strength to forgive the person who let you down.

Mediation is another form of healing.  There are numerous books and articles on the act of meditating and its profound effects on your health and ability to heal from the inside out (one good one is “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu).  One way to incorporate this into your life is to start and end your day with a few moments to yourself, in a quiet room, away from any noise or distraction.  Take that time to reflect on the positives in your life: your health, your family, etc.  From there, imagine how you want your next few days, weeks, and months to proceed and create a mental image of what happiness looks like for yourself.  Hold on to that image and when you slip back into a past anger or hurt, bring that positive vision to your mind and focus on it until your emotions pass and you are able to rebalance yourself.

Yoga and exercise can also have a positive impact on your journey towards forgiveness.  Whether in a quiet, dark yoga room or amongst the noise and movement of a gym, try to use physical movement as an outlet for your negative energy.  Channel your emotions through your movements until you are “lost” in your exercise and are able to “mute” your mind from the toxic thoughts.  The releasing of endorphins helps your body to find a happy state – try to use this positive reinforcement as a shield.  Allow it to almost reprogram your brain for the moment so that feelings of happiness and contentment can occupy your brain and body.  Ride this high as long as you can.  And if unhappy thoughts reappear, push yourself harder into your physical routine and try to force out the bad juju so to speak.  It may take 5 minutes or an hour, but losing yourself in a physical outlet (without hitting anyone!) may give you the needed boost you were looking for.

This is in no way an easy task for anyone.  No one deals with personal pain easily.  And everyone deals with it differently.  What is most important is to not give in to the emotion – do not allow it to consume you, YOU WILL LOSE.  If you cannot get over the pain on your own, then seek out help, even if it is professional help in the form of a therapist or physician.  Remember, pain is temporary though it feels permanent.  Finding a balance is vital to overcoming the obstacle.  Talk to your friends, reach out to your family, find a gym, mediate, read, pray – do whatever it takes to overcome the emotions and put yourself on a path to forgiving the person who hurt you.

You can do this.  It will be hard at times, but easier at others.  In the end, you deserve to be happy, to live happily.  So, figure out what anger or hurt you are holding on to, figure out who caused you these emotions, and then figure out how to proceed through the necessary steps to forgive and move on.  And though you may never forget the experience, you can always learn and grow from it.  It may not be easy, but you deserve to have a peaceful heart and mind.

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