“Just let it go.” We’ve all heard this phrase one time or another. It’s usually in the context of an unfavorable situation that has happened to us (such as a breakup or a failure), and comes from well-meaning friends or relatives trying to give us sound advice.
I don’t know about you, but all of those times when people were telling me to let go, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue of how to actually let go. For most of my life, letting go was trying not to think about something, only to ultimately find myself thinking about it any old way. It was not until recently that I learned what letting go means and how to go about actually doing it successfully. Here are some things that I have learned to do when in the process of letting go:
- Accept the matter at hand. Things happen, some things are in our control and some things are not in our control. Whether it’s a bad breakup, or something far worse, the fact of the matter is that it happened. Period. Learning to accept it is the first step to letting go. My belief that everything happens for a reason is what has really allowed me to accept the things that happen to me—good and bad. We are all on our own life journey, so this will look different for everyone. Realizing that you cannot change the past will help propel you forward to better times.
- Accept the way you feel about the matter. No more fighting, running away, and hiding from your feelings. If you are feeling sad, angry, anxious, stressed, etc. about something that happened to you, own it! This is not to say you should wallow in your sorrows forever, but allow yourself be in touch with your emotions. You can say “I’m fine” until the cows come home, but lying to yourself (and others) will only prolong the time it takes for you to let go. What’s more is that ignoring the way you feel has so many negative implications from a mental health standpoint. If you’re pissed, be pissed. If you’re guilty, feel bad. If you’re sad, cry. If you’re disappointed, BE DISAPPOINTED! And, don’t be afraid to tell people how you feel—especially if they play a role in what you’re feeling. Talking to people about how you feel is a huge part of acceptance.
- Cease all judgement. Quit judging yourself. I mean it. All too often, we judge ourselves for simply being human. For having feelings that are unshakable. For making mistakes. Quit it. Stop calling yourself stupid or weak for feeling sad or disappointed. Stop telling yourself your life is meaningless because bad things have happened to you. Stop beating yourself up for making mistakes that anyone else could have made. Treating yourself like this is so damaging. Be kind to yourself; accept that something unfavorable has happened to you and acknowledge that you feel uncomfortable about it—without being down on yourself. When you stop judging yourself, you free yourself of guilt and blame that might be weighing you down.
- Stop reacting to uncomfortable thoughts. When you are trying to let go of something, your thoughts often shift to the matter at hand. However; thoughts are just that—thoughts. That’s it. Your brain produces them for numerous reasons (most of which are for protection). Thoughts wield no power or value unless you react to them. Ever try not to think about something, and then you find yourself thinking about it? And, now you’re all mad at yourself for thinking the very thought that you told yourself not to think? And to make matters worse, you become annoyed for being mad at yourself? It’s a never ending cycle. Here, you are judging yourself for thinking—something all human beings do! The bottom line here is that uncomfortable thoughts will come, but they will also go, if you don’t give them any power. Reaction is what fuels thoughts and anxiety. Letting go does not mean forcing yourself to forget, it means not letting something have power over you. Once you stop reacting to uncomfortable thoughts, they will likely become less and less frequent. THIS is the key to letting go. THIS is what will allow you freedom—as opposed to trying to force things out of your mind.
Letting go is a process. With practice (ahem, key word alert), this process will become easier. We are more in control of our minds than we give ourselves credit for. Always remember that happiness is not a destination, but a journey within our greater life journey. If something has been weighing you down and someone tells you to let it go—you now know where to start. You’ve got this!