“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” ~Ajahn Chah
Eckhart Tolle believes we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity. Perhaps this explains why we often hold onto our pain far beyond its ability to serve us.
We replay past mistakes over and over again in our head, allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape our actions in the present. We cling to frustration and worry about the future, as if the act of fixation somehow gives us power. We hold stress in our minds and bodies, potentially creating serious health issues, and accept that state of tension as the norm.
Though it may sound simple, Ajahn Chah’s advice speaks volumes.
There will never be a time when life is simple. There will always be time to practice accepting that. Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful. Here are some ways to get started:
Let Go Of Frustration with Yourself/Your Life
1. Learn a new skill instead of dwelling on the skills you never mastered.
2. Change your perception—see the root cause as a blessing in disguise.
3. Cry it out. According to Dr. William Frey II, PH.D., biochemist at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, crying away your negative feelings releases harmful chemicals that build up in your body due to stress.
4. Channel your discontent into an immediate positive action—make some calls about new job opportunities, or walk to the community center to volunteer.
5. Use meditation or yoga to bring you into the present moment (instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future).
6. Make a list of your accomplishments—even the small ones— and add to it daily. You’ll have to let go of a little discontentment to make space for this self-satisfaction.
7. Visualize a box in your head labeled “Expectations.” Whenever you start dwelling on how things should be or should have been, mentally shelve the thoughts in this box.
8. Engage in a physical activity. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, chemicals that improve your state of mind.
9. Focus all your energy on something you can actually control instead of dwelling on things you can't.
10. Express your feelings through a creative outlet, like blogging or painting. Add this to your to-do list and cross it off when you’re done. This will be a visual reminder that you have actively chosen to release these feelings.
Let go of Anger and Bitterness
11. Feel it fully. If you stifle your feelings, they may leak out and affect everyone around you—not just the person who inspired your anger. Before you can let go of any emotion, you have to feel it fully.
12. Give yourself a rant window. Let yourself vent for a day before confronting the person who troubled you. This may diffuse the hostility and give you time to plan a rational confrontation.
13. Remind yourself that anger hurts you more than the person who upset you, and visualize it melting away as an act of kindness to yourself.
14. If possible, express your anger to the person who offended you. Communicating how you feel may help you move on. Keep in mind that you can’t control how the offender responds; you can only control how clearly and kindly you express yourself.
15. Take responsibility. Many times when you’re angry, you focus on what someone else did that was wrong, which essentially gives away your power. When you focus on what you could have done better, you often feel empowered and less bitter.
16. Put yourself in the offender’s shoes. We all make mistakes, and odds are you could have easily slipped up just like your husband, father, or friend did. Compassion dissolves anger.
17. Metaphorically throw it away. For example, jog with a backpack full of tennis balls. After you’ve built up a bit of rush, toss the balls one by one, labeling each as a part of your anger. (You’ll need to retrieve these—litter angers the earth!)
18. Use a stress ball, and express your anger physically and vocally when you use it. Make a scrunched up face or grunt. You may feel silly, but this allows you to actually express what you’re feeling inside.
19. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and gently flick it when you start obsessing on angry thoughts. This trains your mind to associate that type of persistent negativity with something unpleasant.
20. Remind yourself these are your only three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it. These acts create happiness; holding onto bitterness never does.
Let Go Of Past Relationships
21. Identify what the experience taught you to help develop a sense of closure.
22. Write everything you want to express in a letter. Even if you choose not to send it, clarifying your feelings will help you come to terms with reality as it is now.
23. Remember both the good and the bad. Even if appears this way now, the past was not perfect. Acknowledging this may minimize your sense of loss. As Laura Oliver says, “It’s easier to let go of a human than a hero.”
24. Un-romanticize the way you view love. Of course you’ll feel devastated if you believe you lost your soul mate. If you think you can find a love that amazing or better again, it will be easier to move on.
25. Visualize an empowered single you—the person you were before meeting your last love. That person was pretty awesome, and now you have the chance to be him or her again.
26. Create a space that reflects your present reality. Take down his pictures; delete her emails from your saved folder.
27. Reward yourself for small acts of acceptance. Get a facial after you delete his number from your phone, or head out with friends after putting all her things in a box.
28. Hang this statement somewhere you can see it. “Loving myself means letting go.”
29. Replace your emotional thoughts with facts. When you think, “I’ll never feel loved again!” don’t resist that feeling. Instead, move on to another thought, like “I learned a new song for karaoke tonight.”
30. Use the silly voice technique. According to Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, swapping the voice in your head with a cartoon voice will help take back power from the troubling thought.
Let Go Of Stress
31. Use a deep breathing technique, like ujayii, to soothe yourself and seep into the present moment.
32. Immerse yourself in a group activity. Enjoying the people in your life may help put your problems in perspective.
33. Consider this quotation by Eckhart Tolle: “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” Questioning how your stress serves you may help you let it go.
34. Metaphorically release it. Write down all your stresses and toss the paper into your fireplace.
35. Replace your thoughts. Notice when you begin thinking about something that stresses you so you can shift your thought process to something more pleasant, like your passion for your hobby.
36. Take a sauna break. Studies reveal that people who go to sauna at least twice a week for ten to thirty minutes are less stressed after work than others with similar jobs who don’t.
37. Imagine your life ten years from now. Then look twenty years into the future, and then thirty. Realize that many of the things you’re worrying about don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
38. Organize your desk. According to Georgia Witkin, assistant director of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, completing a small task increases your sense of control and decreases your stress level.
39. Use it up. Make two lists: one with the root causes of your stress and one with actions to address them. As you complete these tasks, visualize yourself utilizing and depleting your “stress supply.”
40. Laugh it out. Research shows that laughter soothes tension, improves your immune system, and even eases pain. If you can’t relax for long, start with just ten minutes watching a funny video on YouTube.
It’s a long list, but there’s much left to be said! Can you think of anything to add to this list—other areas of life where we need to practice letting go, and other techniques to start doing it right now?
Photo by Katie Romanova