There are many things that we hold on to that disrupt our living, delay our recovery or joy, defeat our attempts to gain wellbeing, and deny our better self a chance to shine. At the risk of sounding like a well-known Disney princess song, we’re going to talk about how to let it go.
Letting what go?
Grudges and unforgiveness – If you have been hurt or wronged, it can be challenging to let go of your anger. While it feels natural to hold on to resentment, doing so can have a detrimental effect on your mental and physical well-being. Like they say in AA groups, holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Self-defeating habits of mind – Negative self-talk is a common problem that is based upon narratives we have picked up along the way. Perhaps you have heard too many negative attributions toward you. Perhaps you have added your negative attributions as well. Perhaps your habit of mind is to assume the worst (a.k.a. “catastrophizing”).
Guilt over past setbacks – Dwelling on the memories of past set-backs or failures and the real or imagined impacts of the failures can be crippling to forward progress and wellbeing
Letting go of whatever is disrupting, delaying, defeating, or denying wellbeing helps one to be free of the mental health impacts. Studies indicate that higher levels of forgiveness toward self and others were correlated to better mental health. Other research indicates that letting go of grudges, self-loathing, and guilt can lower anxiety and depression, reduced substance use, and increase positive emotions and life satisfaction.
How can one start letting these things go? Letting them go involves coming to terms with what happened in your life, acknowledging your genuine emotions, and making peace with the events to move forward. Here are a few ideas:
- Go into the process without self-judgment, which only adds to the problems. Let go of self-judgment.
- Don’t set a timeline or a specific outcome. Let go of your time and outcome expectation for now.
- Process the event through remembering, taking note of your emotions. Writing at this stage can be helpful – journaling is cathartic for many people. Let go of unhealthy emotions.
- Explore your past actions and responses in each situation, looking to understand what happened, any part you played in it, and to learn and grow from the process. As you do this, let go of negative emotions you find – guilt, shame, anger, resentment, etc.
- Commit to self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. This may take time and several attempts. Stay with it. Let go of all negativity, for they can harm you.
- Include your faith perspectives in the process, for most faiths highly value forgiveness of self and others, and an active faith is correlated with greater wellbeing.
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