5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge

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Getting angry is one thing. Holding a bitter grudge is another. Over the long term, chronic feelings of resentment can harm your physical health, according to the authors of a new book, Embitterment.

The influence of negative emotions is so powerful that the authors think there should be a new diagnosis called post-traumatic embitterment disorder, or PTED, for those who can’t forgive the people who have wronged them, reports CNN’s senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen in her new “Empowered Patient” column.

Like other negative emotions — stress and depression among them — bitterness has physical consequences: high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, increased risk of heart disease. The longer you hold a grudge, the more likely your negative emotions will take a toll on your heart and your health.

“The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous,” Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, told CNN. “The data is just as established as smoking, and the size of the effect is the same.”

Life is nothing if not unjust, however, so we’re all apt to feel bitter about something at some point in our lives. The trick is not to let it become a chronic problem.

Cohen offers five tips to keep your anger from festering. I’ve summed them up, below, but to get a fuller picture, you should read Cohen’s column in its entirety on CNN:

  1. Vent to a friend about what’s bothering you
  2. Remember that you’re not the only person in the world who’s ever been wronged
  3. Consider confronting the person who injured you
  4. Realize you’re only hurting yourself by holding a grudge
  5. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view