Grudges have a way of digging in and sticking like Velcro. It might feel good at first, but that soon sours. Grudges can not only make us feel emotionallybitter and resentful, but can also affect our physical health. Studies show this kind of seething anger increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and can make us flat-out depressed. The good news? There are ways to release a grudge. The first step is to simply see you’re holding onto a grudge and then acknowledging it. From there, take the following steps:
Don't forgive until you are really ready. You don’t want to be sweeping your feelings under a rug of hidden resentment.
Ask for an apology. Although it’s not a good idea to focus on righting the wrong by getting an apology, it’s certainly okay to ask for one.
Talk to someone. If you believe someone has done you wrong, discuss it with a trusted friend and get her viewpoint. A different perspective may open an avenue of forgiveness.
Write down your thoughts. Think about what upsets you and how you feel about it. Writing can keep your perspective in focus.
Don’t focus on righting the wrong -- or getting revenge. Although this is a common reaction of grudge-holders, it’s a destructive pattern. Instead, practice releasing your anger through exercise, talk therapy or deep breathing and meditation.
Keep in mind that letting go of a grudge does not mean you stuff your feelings away. It means changing how you think about the situation. You can't change what happened, but you can change your attitude and interpretation of events.
Remind yourself that you’re not perfect. How many times have you made a mistake?
Finally, letting go of a grudge doesn’t mean you’re condoning a hurtful action, or excusing bad behavior, it means you’re moving on so that you can put emotional control back in your own hands.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s medical reporter. Check for her daily updates.