You’ve got something on your mind. Regret, maybe, or worry. You’ve lost a job, a relationship has ended, someone close to you has died. Well-meaning people tell you to just “let it go”. But it’s not that simple, is it?
Letting go is a process. You might wish you could just mentally “flip a switch” and get rid of the worry, stress, or unhappiness that is plaguing you, but there are steps involved, and it takes time.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t feel your feelings. They’re YOUR feelings. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn them off. (Wouldn’t that make life easier sometimes?) And it’s perfectly natural for you to have sad or worried feelings as you go through life’s downturns. But hanging on to those feelings too long is not doing you any good.
Those Darn Feelings!
Can you express them somehow? Write in a journal, or even just on a piece of notebook paper. I often find that once I’ve written the words down on paper, they stop running over and over through my mind. You can go back later and reread what you wrote if you really want to, but it may be better to crumple up the paper and throw it away, or burn it. Physical acts of release go a long way toward letting go of the issue.
Paint. It doesn’t have to actually look like anything, just splash those colors around. Are you angry? Maybe your painting will be mostly reds and oranges. Sad? Some blues and browns. Every brushstroke becomes a little piece of your feelings, until they’re all on a canvas in front of you. Take a deep breath and release it as you’re viewing your painting. Then sell it! You will be physically letting go of those negative feelings, and making a few bucks at the same time!
Join in a group activity. When there are other people around, it’s harder to dwell on your worries. Just be sure the group activity isn’t sitting around a table drinking alcohol! That could lead to commiserating and wallowing, which will only serve to re-enforce the very thoughts you’re trying to let go of. No, I mean a group activity that’s upbeat and fun, something that preferably gets you moving. And the more the merrier…the more people you have around you to focus your attention on, the less your attention will be focused on yourself (and your worries).
Laugh. As often as you can. (I find that videos of baby goats on YouTube get me LOL-ing every time!) There are usually at least a few funny moments in everyone’s day. Do your best to make note of them as they are happening. Smile or chuckle in the moment, and then tell the “funny story” to someone else later on, to share and re-experience the humor. Laughter releases endorphins, those hormones responsible for making us feel happy and for lowering stress levels.
Can you change your perception of the issue?
Try to look at the root cause of your unhappy feelings as a blessing in disguise. You know what that is: something that seems bad or unlucky at the time, but ends up being something good later on.
This is how I’m trying to view my impending divorce. I wasn’t the one who wanted out, but I didn’t have any choice in the matter once my soon-to-be-ex had made up his mind. Since we separated just over a year ago, I’ve spent a lot of time rediscovering ME. I’ve got a whole future blog post in the works, about all the things I don’t miss by not being married any more! For now, suffice it to say that it’s VERY helpful to look around my house that is filled with MY things, my house that I painted and decorated the way I wanted it, to open my refrigerator full of food that I like..,you get the picture.
When it comes to life, there are expectations, and then there is reality. You planned to go to work Monday morning, and now you don’t have that job to go to. You made a vow to be married forever, and the other person decided they didn’t want that any more. You wanted more time with your parent/brother/best friend, but they died.
It helps to make your reality all about YOU, if only for a little while. It’s easier to start letting go of your anger, your pain, your unhappiness, when you realize that YOU matter.
Make the choice.
Yes, it is a choice. Focus forward, not back. Think about what you’re going to do tomorrow, not what happened yesterday. Choose joy, not hurt. As you begin to make a habit of noticing all those good little moments in each day, by default you’ll be thinking less about the sad thing that’s been bothering you. And slowly but surely, little by little, you will have let it go.