Boost Your Immune System & Reduce Your Viral Load Through Forgiveness
Good health includes many health-promoting practices from eating the right foods and drinking pure water, to avoiding chemicals and getting proper rest. Spiritual and emotional factors are also important. While designed to live in the present, all of us at some point have to deal with something that keeps us emotionally and physically tied to an unpleasant person or event, and that is unforgiveness. The decision to withhold forgiveness has the deleterious power to bind us to the past through either ours or another’s action or inaction.
Unforgiveness can be thought of as an anchor that holds the emotions of hatred or bitterness, anger or rage, resentment, retaliation and even murder in place. Unforgiveness is an emotional “toxin” and an underlying factor in much physical or psychological dysfunction. Simply stated, the body cannot thrive while holding onto toxicity of any kind.
Just like an anchor is designed to keep a boat from floating away on the water, so our ability to overcome daily stressors is drastically hindered with these ties to past wounds, traumas and offenses.
When bound to the past through toxic decisions such as unforgiveness, the soul (mind, will and emotions) simply cannot operate at maximum capacity. This causes our body to enter into a heightened state of chronic stress which causes physical vitality begin to wane. These toxic emotions keep the body under chronic levels of stress, hindering the ability to repair itself.
As innervation (the excitation of nerve fibers that causes an organ, gland, muscle or body region to react beyond what is required for homeostasis) occurs, among the first systems that become affected are the amount and quality of sleep, proper digestion including the assimilation of nutrition, and the proper elimination of wastes. The mind is often inordinately occupied with wrong(s) done, rehearsing things that did not happen that might have been better said or done in the moment. This chronic insistence of holding on to the “Fight” or “Flight” of the autonomic nervous system’s “Fight or Flight” response hinders the healing processes that occur when the body returns to the “Rest and Digest” of the parasympathetic nervous system keeping the body from returning to a state of peace.
Eventually, a dip in energy levels with increasing fatigue occurs while the body adjusts to the constant state of unresolved stress. This manifests in the physical body through an energetic pathway connected to the autonomic nervous system. (For more information about this newly-discovered organ system, read about the Primo Vascular System HERE.)
Negative emotions increase the risk of having adverse health experiences, for instance, a stroke. In one study “three potential triggers stood out: anger, negative emotions – guilt, fear, nervousness, irritability, and hostility – and sudden posture changes due to a startling event. Nearly 30% of participants reported at least one of those experiences two hours before their stroke. …There was a 14-fold increase in stroke risk with both negative emotions and anger.”1
While it is not known exactly how years of negative feelings and anger affect the risk of having a stroke, it is a good idea for those who experience intense negative feelings to incorporate skills such as forgiveness to release this build-up of inner tension in a healthful manner. We will discuss this in more detail later.
A study published in the European Heart Journal on March 3, 2014, confirms these findings. “Researchers found in the two hours after an angry outburst, a person’s risk for a heart attack increased nearly five times and their risk of stroke shot up more than three times, compared to when patients were not angry. Risk for arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm, was also increased.”2
It is important to understand that for any negative emotion, overexpression, suppression or pretending the problem is not there takes tremendous emotional and physical resources as well as communicating toxic messages to the body. This is always harmful. This would explain why it is most beneficial for maintaining and regaining health and longevity to release the root cause of these emotions. Forgiveness of self and others often plays a key role.
In relationship to anger and cancer, researchers have found that “Extremely low anger scores have been noted in numerous studies of patients with cancer. Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger. There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis. Some studies indicate that it may be beneficial for patients to mobilize anger to battle their cancer.”3
Another study found that natural killer cell counts are negatively influenced by outward expressions of anger. Natural killer cells are important in the body’s anti-tumor immune response. It is significant to note that other factors were measured which did not appear to affect natural killer cell counts such as inward anger, clinical anxiety or depression. The results of this study suggest that the unregulated expression of anger may suppress the body’s innate immunity.4 There is always unforgiveness lurking behind anger. So if someone wants to deal with anger issues, they should consider the need to forgive.
Do you want to boost your immune system and reduce your viral load? Then forgive!
A study of those living with HIV presented at the Society of Behavioral Medicine 32nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions “shows individuals who truly forgave someone who had hurt them in the past showed positive changes in their immune status.”5
CD4 is a type of protein that is found on immune cells such as T-cells, macrophages, and monocytes. CD4s do not neutralize infections; however, they trigger the body’s proper response to infections. The results of a blood test CD4 T-cell count are used to indicate the health of immune function. It is most commonly used in people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). In this next study, CD4 cell percentages correlate to the health of the immune system with a significant relationship to the level of forgiveness.
“Not forgiving is like drinking poison and
expecting the other person to die.”
“We hypothesized that higher levels of forgiveness would be associated with higher CD4 cell percentages controlled for demographic and behavioral variables as well as viral load,’ Dr. Owen told Medscape Medical News. ‘And none of these variables accounted for the relationship between forgiveness and CD4 cell percentages. So, there is something special going on between forgiveness and CD4 cell counts.”5 Interestingly, this study also equated the greater the forgiveness, the higher the CD4 percentages which boosts the immune system and reduces viral load.
It has also been found that forgiveness improves immune function in those with HIV. A new study was presented at the Society of Behavioral Medicine 32nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions. This study included people who were living with HIV. It revealed that “individuals who truly forgave someone who had hurt them in the past showed positive changes in their immune status.”6
Another study confirms the correlation. It found the more unforgiving nature a person has, the worse mental and physical health were experienced, and conversely, demonstrated that there is a positive interaction of those who practice having a forgiving nature and a correspondingly weaker effect of stress and adverse mental health in an individual’s life.7
Caution: Unforgiveness may be detrimental to your health!
What Unforgiveness IS ~
Reverend Michael Barry, PhD, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania explained, “…Unforgiveness is a state where a person retains negative emotions, including anger and hatred, for a perpetrator of harm. ‘This creates a state of chronic anxiety, and chronic anxiety has a predictable impact on a wide range of bodily functions, including the reproductive system, the digestive system, and the immune system,’ he said.
‘There is a direct correlation between unforgiveness and our immune system, which directly affects our healing processes.”Rev. Michael Barry, Ph.D.
For example, stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenalin, have been shown to reduce the production of natural killer cells — the ‘foot soldiers’ in the fight against cancer, he noted.
Dr. Barry’s own research has shown that almost two-thirds of cancer patients identified forgiveness as a personal issue for them, and 1 in 3 of them indicated they had severe forgiveness issues, ‘so we are aware of the emotional pain that many of our patients are in.”8
Caution: Forgiveness may be beneficial to your health!
What Forgiveness IS ~
Forgiveness is something one does for themselves. It is solely for the individual, not anyone else. Incorporating the practice of forgiveness into one’s lifestyle brings health-promoting separation for the soul and the body, breaking its destructive negatively-charged chronically stressful emotions, thoughts and behaviors anchored to a toxic past.
For those who have experienced the release of deeply forgiving another person, it is a truly liberating, burden-lightening decision for the restoration of health.
What Forgiveness is NOT ~
The act of forgiveness does not make light of or diminish the violation, pain or suffering of the wounded in any way. The kind of emotional turmoil associated with traumatic events follow people throughout their lifetimes. Sadly, unforgiveness towards self or others can affect one’s ability to succeed, experience healthy and fulfilling relationships, feel the depths and the heights of love, hope, peace and joy, and even a dramatic lessening of physical vitality.
Forgiveness is not forgetting, nor does it approve of a wrong done. It is a powerful technique that can bring separation, lessening of emotional angst, and increased ability to live with joy in the present and with confidence toward the future.
Reconciliation may or may not be appropriate as a result of forgiveness. This is different for each individual as there are situations where reconciliation is not recommended. A safe distance of separation should be kept if there is any possibility of continued emotional or physical abuse to the forgiver or their children. In some instances contact should be completely avoided.
How To Forgive? Some Pointers…
Forgivers are predominantly “faith-oriented and empathetic people who understand the meaning of forgiveness as letting go of negative emotions.”9 Their primary tools are prayer and meditation. Fostering a willingness to forgive along with a decision to not carry past burdens into the present gives the fortitude to release others deeply within their soul. The most successful forgivers fill their minds with good thoughts about themselves and their future, scripture is often used and gives added direction when walking out from past offenses.
- Understand what forgiveness really is
- Acknowledge that the negativity is affecting your emotional or physical health
- Put your feelings into words.*
- Garner the support of family or friends*
- Be specific. A generalized “I forgive everybody” type of prayer is not effective.
- It is best to start small and work one’s way up to the more difficult transgressions.
- Write down the date you have deeply forgiven someone, just in case you need a reminder.
- Repeat forgiveness exercises as needed.
*Verbalizing one’s feelings lessen the intensity of the emotions. The reason is that the attachment of a word to an emotion decreases the amygdala’s response. As a result, this increases the response of the prefrontal cortex where thinking occurs.10 This is why people find talking about emotional issues with family, friends, or a counselor can be helpful.
Do people need to know I’ve forgiven them?
Well no, not really. Especially if they don’t know they have caused an offense. Simply forgive and enjoy the release that you have gained while moving on with your life.
Can I forgive someone who has died or left me that I will never see again?
Absolutely! Remember that forgiveness is for YOU! It’s about you and releasing your negative connections with any person or situation in the past. Freedom is merely a deeply heartfelt decision away.
Wounded People, Wound People…
Let’s face it. All of us have been hurt, and in turn have hurt someone at one time or another. The most honorable thing we can do is diligently practice forgiveness in our own lives, and where we have wounded others ask for forgiveness. In this way we help them find the release that they need by experiencing forgiveness for themselves.
Personal Story ~
When my father passed, I felt very disoriented and surprised at the effect his death had on me. Within days, the mother of friend approached me and confessed that she resented how I could be so happy all of the time. Still grieving, I was not exactly feeling “happy”.
As I looked into her pain-filled eyes and heard her words I understood that she didn’t come to accuse me, rather, she came for help. She had a point, I usually did exhibit a joy that she wanted for herself, but it wasn’t until later that I understood why.
Taking responsibility for the role I had in her offense, I replied, “I am so sorry to have caused you pain. Will you forgive me.” To which she graciously did. It wasn’t until later that the thought occurred to me that I had seen this woman almost every week, but never “noticed” the burdens she silently carried due to the painful connections to her past, until that day.
I am grateful for that exchange. Although it cost me nothing, it made me a better person and lifted a burden of precious woman who had endured much suffering during her lifetime.
How To Ask for Forgiveness? Some Pointers…
To maximize the effectiveness of requesting forgiveness, it should be thought of as a transaction. Both parties have a role.
- Turn off the cell phone and eliminate all interruptions
- Make solid eye contact
- Listen and take responsibility: “I’m sorry that I (Use their words). Will you forgive me?”
(Don’t say: “I’m sorry ‘if‘ I…” The word ‘if’ inserts doubt and shows unwillingness to take full responsibility. This makes the apology less sincere.)
- Wait patiently for their response
- Ask: “Is there anything else you need to share?”
Of course, the response you would like to hear is “Yes, I forgive you”, but that does not always happen. If you don’t get that answer, gently persist. Remember, you have nothing better to do than help this person become free. It may take time and tears for someone to verbalize or process forgiveness for a deep wounding – or for an offense that touches another deep wounded place.
If they need more time and persistence, kindness, gentleness, and love from you, agree to come back to forgiveness again later. If so, make an appointment and keep it. When ready to restart the forgiveness process, begin again at step number one.
The Most Important Thing to Teach a Child is how to Forgive.
Forgiving and needing to be forgiven is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of our humanity.
Some health issues are being discovered that are not only rooted in unforgiveness, but in self-unforgiveness or even the need to forgive God for situations and deeds caused by others that were then attributed to Him.
With practice, forgiveness becomes easier. We become more prone to forgive and establish that trait in our lives. In the end it benefits our physical and mental well-being, making it much easier to experience joy and gratitude.
At Genesis School of Natural Health it is our desire that you experience vibrant health; rewarding, deep and lasting relationships, and discovery of the joy and peace that comes with forgiveness.