It can be really hard to let go; and whilst it can be okay to hold on to some things, like a special item from a loved one who has passed away, many of the things we hold on to so tightly only bring us pain and sadness. Of course, as Frozen's Elsa proves, it's not that easy to just "let it go", so we've got a few tips to help you let go of those things which are holding you back.
"In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you" - Buddha
Although it can be hard to let things go, harbouring feelings of sadness and anger only leave you feeling exactly that: sad and angry. Holding on to objects, feelings, or memories that cause these emotions, unfortunately, doesn't change anything, and when you hold a grudge against a friend or family member, this does nothing to change or help the situation at hand. In fact, it only prevents you from creating a positive present and future for yourself.
When we let go of things that make us feel bad, we begin a journey towards a stronger, more self-assured, happier self.
The first step of letting go is accepting.
When you start to think about a memory that makes you feel tense or stressed or sad, take a moment to acknowledge it. We don't mean that you should give that memory more thought or attention, simply notice it; notice that your mind is ruminating over this memory, then take a deep breath, and redirect your thoughts towards something that makes you feel positive. This might not work the first few times, and it might begin to feel like a vicious battle - but we promise, the more you practice acceptance and distraction, the better you will become at letting go.
A good example of when to try this might be if you find yourself reflecting on some criticism you received at work. Notice that your mind is dwelling on it, remind yourself that criticism is only there to help you improve and that you did your best. Then, take a deep breath and move on.
Sometimes letting go is a more physical thing.
When you want to let go of feelings towards someone - for example an ex partner - one of the worst things you can do is hold on to their things. We recommend dumping any of their possessions you still have lying around, as throwing them away can be a very satisfying method of disposal - especially if you have feelings of anger towards the person. However you can also create some good by donating the items to charity.
Sometimes the things you want to let go of might not be related to a person at all. You might just be a hoarder - no shame, everyone hoards a little! In this case, it's time to get your Marie Kondo on and go through all your stuff. Make sure you don't hold on to anything that doesn't make you feel happy and positive and of course, any clothes that don't fit anymore!
Perhaps our most important piece of advice: practice forgiveness.
Unless someone is truly toxic, our negative feelings towards someone are often triggered by a fleeting argument and are only temporary. That's where forgiveness comes in. You might find forgiveness particularly hard if you're someone who likes to hold grudges, and that's totally normal; you're completely within your right to feel hurt or frustrated if someone has said or done something to anger or upset you. However, holding on to these feelings for prolonged periods of time won't help you achieve happiness or relief, so this is when you should begin to work on empathising.
Resentment takes up far more energy than it's worth. So, take the time to think about what's happened to make you feel how you do and what those feelings are. Dig deep. Then, when you have worked through your emotions, shift your attention to the other person or people involved.
Think about how they might be feeling right now and how they might have been feeling when they did or said what they did. People often say hurtful things when they are experiencing negative feelings themselves, so it can help to try to understand their point of view - or at least why they might have expressed themselves in that way. If you can, it really helps to think back to a time when you hurt someone else and remember why you did it - whether it was intentional or not. Don't dwell on it but take a mental note.
Now, picture a time when that person made you feel happy. Hold that moment in your mind. Remind yourself of how much you enjoyed this moment and how many more moments like this you could have if you let go of these feelings of resentment. After this reflection, you might find it easier to forgive that person.
Lastly, write down what you would like to let go.
This is one of our favourite methods for learning to let go. Get yourself a notepad or a worry relief journal, then every time you find yourself dwelling on a negative thought or feeling, write down your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs that you would like to let go of.
Want to take this one step further? If you can do it safely, tearing out pages with negative thoughts and feelings and burning them in a fire can help solidify the process of letting go. When we see our negative thoughts disappearing before our eyes, we often feel a sense of relief and become less likely to think them again. Again though, we emphasise safety; if you have an open fire or a wood burner in your home, this is perfect. Otherwise, a metal sink or metal bin would also work.
If you don't have a way of doing this safely, shredding the pages or tearing them up and throwing them away instead works just as well, but keeping them in the notepad is fine too!
Remember, letting go is never an easy process, nor is it a fast one. Stay positive and picture yourself in a happy place where you are your strongest self. Take baby steps, and we promise one day you'll look back and wonder why you ever held on to such negative thoughts and feelings in the first place.