The more you look at it, the clearer it becomes how much influence we each have over the shape of our own lives. It may not always feel like it, but a great deal of it comes down to what we choose to hold onto, and when we choose to practice letting go.
The people who surround you, the experiences you continue to have, even the emotions you feel are a result of these choices.
The life that you lead is largely defined by the things you hold onto. And perhaps even more importantly by the things that you choose not to hold onto. And those choices, letting go of the tedious, the toxic, the tiring, are a chance to create levity.
With a mindful awareness of this power that we each have, we can actively lighten up our lives by learning to love letting go. What’s weighing you down? What’s costing you more than it gives in return? What can you free yourself from to start living a more peaceful life?
5 Ways to Lighten up Your Life
1. Letting Go of Expectations
We all have expectations. Expectations of what will go right, what will go wrong, what color shoes our boss might be wearing today, you get it. It’s a good thing, it helps us to make plans.
But expectations, particularly when they are not met, can be dangerous. They can cause you needless pain and discomfort at a time when there is really nothing else to be done about them.
When you come into a situation with expectations of how it will go, they will either be right or they will be wrong. In either case, your expectations did their job (helping you prepare for this moment) and the moment the situation unfolds, they’re no longer of any use to you.
Holding onto how things should have been, or how you would have liked events to take shape, can only cause frustration. Letting go of expectations, once they have served their initial purpose, frees you up to live in the present and adapt to what may come, without the extra emotional weight of what could have been.
2. Letting Go of Control
Control is nice, isn’t it? Much like expectations, having a sense of control makes us feel safe. It makes us feel prepared for anything that comes at us, because we will be ready to handle it.
So why would we ever worry about letting go of control?
The bittersweet truth is that you can’t control everything. Bitter because you can’t always be ready for everything, and some stuff is going to happen that sucks. Sweet because acknowledging this truth, and letting go of control, is a key to mindful happiness.
Start by recognizing the difference between what you can control (your actions, how you respond to situations, how you manage your emotions) and what you can’t (the choices other people make, events that occur, how things make you feel).
Trying to exert control where you cannot brings nothing but frustration and anxiety. Letting go of control in these cases is a wellspring of peace, levity, and contentment.
3. Letting Go of Anger
It is rational, healthy, and even expected that we will all feel anger from time to time. But it is poisonous and self-defeating to let it take over.
Anger is a helpful response because it readies us to respond to perceived threats (whether physical, emotional, social, or otherwise). But it often lingers long after the danger has passed, when the emotion is no longer needed. At this stage, ruminating in anger can only hurt you, exacerbating the pain it came about to resist.
If it helps you, try this technique — Acknowledge your emotion, give it a name. “This is anger.” Thank it for its service, for coming to visit you, and visualize yourself letting go of that anger. This may not be easy the first time you try it, but will always get better with practice.
4. Letting Go of Things
Do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you?
Most of the items on this list focus on letting go of certain thoughts, or emotions. But the physical things that you hold onto also play a large role in defining the experience of your life.
Practicing minimalism has taught me that some things are well worth keeping around and cherishing, but most things aren’t.
Letting go of the physical stuff you don’t need creates space. Free space in your life to breathe, to think, to more deeply enjoy those precious things that you do hold onto.
5. Letting Go of Relationships
This is a tough one that I have personally struggled with.
There are many different types of relationships we have with the different people in our lives. A few are the precious relationships that will remain strong till the end. Many are important and special to us during a certain season in our lives, but change as time goes on. Some are weak tie relationships that don’t need to be anything more or less than a passing connection.
Every human relationship has potential to bring a little more joy and beauty into the world. But not all of them are meant to last forever. Some of them don’t even work from the get-go. And that’s okay.
When a relationship is no longer a healthy place for everyone involved, it’s okay to let go. In the end, it’s best for everybody. There are people out there for you at every stage of your life.
What are you holding onto? What do you wish you weren’t?
These are just a few good ways to start letting go, but in truth there are countless others. Hopefully this will get you started thinking about what really matters in your life. What you want to cherish and invest yourself in fully, and what to move on from.
Is there something in your life you want to start letting go of? What about something you know for sure you want to always hold onto? Share below!