New scientific research reveals a pivotal link between mindfulness and forgiveness.
Research published in the journal Emotion shows that people who practice mindfulness are more able to forgive, and that mindfulness can be a therapeutic treatment for people who are struggling to forgive others.
The benefits of forgiveness are well documented. They include the facts that forgiveness improves relationships, reduces stress, improves blood pressure, and helps to alleviate the symptoms of depression, according to the MayoClinic.
For thousands of years spiritual systems have advocated the importance of forgiveness, from passage of The Bible that discuss the spiritual importance of forgiveness, to specific Buddhist meditation scripts that help us to forgive.
Research on Mindfulness and Forgiveness
The latest research highlights the benefits of mindfulness for forgiveness, and suggests that daily mindfulness can help us to foster a more forgiving attitude.
Study author Johan C. Karremans [associate professor, Radboud University Nijmegen], states, “While mindfulness is studied extensively, there is relatively little research on the potential interpersonal impact of mindfulness. Studying the link between mindfulness and forgiveness is one of the small steps towards understanding the interpersonal impact of mindfulness”.
Many traditional meditation techniques have been associate with forgiveness, such as the Loving Kindness Meditation script and Karuna, both of which focus on cultivating compassion [READ: The Importance Of Compassion In Life]. And now it seems we are learning about the link between mindfulness and forgiveness.
Many people struggle to forgive because forgiveness incorporates painful memories and emotions that are difficult to process. Karremans states that practising mindfulness helps us to step back from these emotions so we can more easily come to forgiveness. “The difficulty in forgiving another person often lies in the process of immersing oneself in emotions and thoughts about what happened, which tends to fuel rather than lower the hurt,” says Karremans. “Taking a step back, and taking a third-person perspective on such internal processes (which mindfulness may help you to do) could prevent this extra layer of distress in the wake of being offended, and make it easier to forgive.”
When you practise mindfulness you focus on the present moment and objectively observe any negative emotions. This, as Karremans states, gives us what can be thought of as a “third person perspective” on emotions, which makes them easier to process.
How Researchers Discovered The Links Between Mindfulness And Forgiveness
Researchers conducted five studies involving 592 people. The researchers found that individuals who agree with statements like ““I perceive my feelings and emotions without having to react to them” (which is the essential aspect of mindfulness) and “I am good at findings words to describe my feelings” (which is a key skill used in Vipassana meditation) were more able to forgive.
The researchers also found that guided mindfulness meditations can help with forgiveness for past offences, and that couples tend to find mindful partners more forgiving. Because of this, the team states that mindfulness meditation could be beneficial for interpersonal relationships because it helps people to forgive.
The research also shows that mindful individuals are more likely to be able to see things from another person’s point of view. The researchers do note the there are limits of the study, mostly that they were based on self-reports of mindfulness and forgiveness that might not be completely accurate.