How Holding Grudges Can Shorten Your Life

And How to Move On

January 12, 2018

How grudges are bad for your health

We’ve all been wronged by someone at some point in our lives. From family to friends, spouses to coworkers, we interact with different personality types on a daily basis – disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to occur.

But sometimes those conflicts hit a nerve and are just too difficult to let go. That’s when it becomes all too easy to develop a grudge.

Grudges play an interesting role in our psyches. Sometimes we can’t let go of our hurt feelings even though we want to, and other times we’re just not ready to let go. Either way, holding onto a grudge feels like a mental consolation prize – you were wronged so now you get a grudge.

It may sound a little backwards, but it’s true. Holding a grudge is a way for us to subconsciously seek compassion and empathy as a means to compensate for the negative feelings we experienced in the past – which is why grudges it can be so hard to let them go.

This issue is, holding onto hurt and anger may generate some comforting sympathy in the moment, but grudges don’t fix the root problem. They don’t help us heal.

Healing is never an easy process, but it’s worth the work. Studies have shown that holding onto negative feelings is not only bad for your mental state, it can actually affect your health.

Carrying a grudge can hurt your heart – literally. A study from Emory University found that bitter people had higher blood pressure and were more likely to die from heart disease than more forgiving people.

This could be due to something called a C-reactive protein, which is linked to heart disease and stroke. When we experience negative feelings (which can be brought on by conflict), our bodies get ready to fight. Staying in that “fight’ state for an extended period of time, can increase the amount of the C-reactive protein in our bloodstreams, increasing the likelihood of heart disease.

On top of that, prolonged feelings of resentment can also negatively impact metabolism, immune response, and organ function. Those feelings also put you at a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety.

Ready to let that grudge go yet?

Start by shifting your focus from who hurt you, to what you actually feel. Try to separate your feelings from the person who caused them – make the feelings of hurt, sadness, or anger your own, independent of another person.

This will likely take time and a conscious effort to achieve, but keep at it. When you find yourself reliving the incident in your mind, don’t dwell on the story or chain of events that took place. Just keep directing your mind back to the emotions you feel.

Eventually, your mind will recognize that those negative feelings no longer serve a purpose. Being unattached to another person, these feelings are just that – feelings.

When you no longer have a need for the grudge, your mind will oftentimes let it go on its own. Typically, the hardest part of moving past hurt feelings is being able to separate them from the person, but you can do it. You’ll feel better mentally and physically once you do.

Collier, Nancy. (2015, March 4). Why We Hold Grudges, and How to Let Them Go. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201503/why-we-hold-grudges-and-how-let-them-go
Fillon, Mike. Holding a Grudge Can Be Bad for Your Health. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20000225/holding-a-grudge-can-be-bad-for-your-health#1
Mitchell, Emily. (2014, April 7). How Holding a Grudge Hurts Your Health. Retrieved from https://www.menshealth.com/guy-wisdom/let-go-grudge