The Effects of Holding Resentment

Think about a situation where someone wronged you in the distant, or not-so-distant, past. Maybe they bullied you in school or proverbially threw you under the bus in the workplace. Years may have gone by since the incident, but recalling it might still get your blood boiling.

Simply put, you’re harboring resentment. Even when that individual inflicted real or imagined harm, holding grudges and animosity against them just makes things worse for you.

That’s where the problem lies. Your physical and emotional health might be harmed by harboring resentment. A grudge may:

Increase your pessimism: In a 2014 study, it was discovered that people who retained grudges found it harder to complete a fitness test as they viewed hills as being steeper than people who let go of grievances. The study found that, for some people, carrying a grudge may actually be physically taxing.

Make you socially isolated: A study conducted in 2016 discovered that social isolation was associated with a decrease in forgiveness or an increase in grudge-holding. In other words, harboring resentment may serve a self-protective purpose at the expense of intimacy with others if you already have a tendency to keep a distance from them.

Increase the risk of mental decline: A 2018 study found that over a 10-year period, people who regularly engaged in self-forgiveness experienced less cognitive decline than those who held onto higher levels of hostility—classified by cynicism and suspicion of others.

Negatively impact your mental health: According to 2019 research, harboring resentment may raise your risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other psychological health disorders.

Contribute to your overall stress: Holding onto resentments can make you more stressed, which can lead to inflammation, reduced immunity, high blood pressure, and cardiac issues.

However, according to a study from 2016, embracing forgiveness as a coping strategy may help mitigate the damaging consequences of long-term stress on one’s health.

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Virginia Mueller