The Art of Letting Go: 5 Ways to Rediscover Levity and Joy

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 comes down to what we choose to hold onto and when we practice letting go.

The people surrounding you, the experiences you continue to have, and even the emotions you feel result from these choices. 

The life you lead is largely defined by the things you hold onto. And perhaps even more importantly, by the things you choose not to hold onto. And those choices, letting go of the tedious, the toxic, the tiring, are a chance to create fun.

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 unmet ones, can be dangerous. They can cause you needless pain and discomfort when there is 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 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. Once they have served their initial purpose, letting go of expectations 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

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 will 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 have none brings nothing but frustration and anxiety. Conversely, letting go of control in these cases is a wellspring of peace, fun, 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 (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, and give it a name. For example, “This is anger.” Thank it for its service, for coming to visit you, and then visualize yourself letting go of that anger. This technique may not be easy the first time you try it, but it will always get better with practice.

4. Letting Go of Things

Do you own your stuff, or does it own you?

Most items on this list focus on letting go of specific thoughts or emotions. But the material things you hold onto also play a significant role in defining your life experience.

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, think, and more deeply enjoy those precious things you choose to keep.

5. Letting Go of Relationships

We have many types of relationships 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 particular season in our lives but change as time goes on. Finally, some are weak-tie relationships that don’t need to be anything more or less than a passing connection.

Every human relationship has the 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 there are countless others. Hopefully, this will get you thinking about what matters most in your life. What you want to cherish and invest yourself in fully, and what you no longer need.

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Hey, I’m Sam. I created Smarter and Harder to explore big ideas, both old and new, about building a better life. My mission is to evolve the conversation about personal growth and have fun doing it.

3 thoughts on “The Art of Letting Go: 5 Ways to Rediscover Levity and Joy”

  1. Hi Sam,

    I enjoyed reading this post, I think it’s really important to be reminded to let go of the thoughts that are weighing you down. I’ve written about cognitive behavioral therapy on my blog and I think it has a lot of overlap with what you’re saying. The goal is to find the cognitive distortions like having too many expectations for yourself and replacing those thoughts with more realistic ones.

    • Thanks Diego, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve had a little bit of exposure to CBT, and I can definitely see the connection there! There’s a lot of challenging unrealistic expectations and trying to have more constructive conversations with yourself here.

  2. Although I’ve tried to let go of negative thoughts, sometimes it is just really hard. Then I found out I should not be so strict with myself. And now everything becomes better! Thanks for your sharing!


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