“Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on" – Eckart Tolle
There may be many reasons why we hang on mentally to things, repeating them over and over in attempt to gain some control, and whilst Tolle believes we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity or empowerment, holding on mentally to things we can not change is unlikely to serve our best interests.
Whatever the reason, holding on means that too often we are left replaying past mistakes or “the should have done” tasks which increase feelings of shame and regret, drowning us emotionally as thoughts continually interrupt our present moment.
We may cling to frustration and worry about the future, as if the act of fixation somehow gives us power, or hold stress in our minds and bodies without realising it, but this can further create serious health issues in the long term.
Someone recommended to me words by Ajahn Chah’s which have remained with me ever since and I return to them when I can;
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
- Ajahn Chah
For those who find it challenging to actually let go and feel peaceful, I’ve jotted down some practices that make it easier, and over the years I've found them useful as practical steps.
Why not try:
Learn a new skill - instead of dwelling on the skills you never mastered, this also boosts your creativity and problem solving skills
Cry it out - science has shown crying away your negative feelings releases harmful chemicals that build up in your body due to stress
Meditation or yoga to bring you into the present moment (instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future).
Make a list of your accomplishments - even the small ones - and add to it daily! This will help shift your perception of your abilities, your schedule, and most importantly, you’ll have to let go some regret and frustration to make allow for feelings of self appreciation that will grow
Visualize a box in your head labelled “Expectations” - Whenever you start dwelling on how things should be or should have been, mentally shelve the thoughts in this box. It's a great way to become aware of what's unrealistic and overshadowing life
Engage in a physical activity - exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, chemicals that improve your state of mind.
Focus - all your energy on something you can actually control instead of dwelling on things you can’t, even something small like tidying a desk has been shown to be effective for improving feelings of worth
Express your feelings - through a creative outlet, like writing, blogging or painting and add this to your to-do list to cross off when you’re done. This can also be a visual reminder that you have actively chosen to release these feelings.
Use deep breathing techniques - to soothe yourself into the present moment.
Metaphorically release it - write down all your stresses and toss the paper into your fireplace or rip it to shreds.
Imagine your life 5 years from now - If you can, look into the future and decide if the things you’re worrying about really matter in the grand scheme of things. Obviously, this won't be valid every time, but it can help so you don't sweat the small stuff.
Forgive - mistakes happen but holding back and remembering the same thing again and again will do nothing good to anyone. If you’ve made mistakes, apologize, console and forgive yourself.
Like everything in life, these do take practice, but letting go of obsessive, compulsive or repeating thoughts is something that becomes easier the more you try. There is no magic wand, but there is opportunity to give it a go, until you find what works best for you.
If you’re looking for more mindful support remember to check out our Online Meditations & Online Relaxation tracks for home use and you can get a free full body relaxation audio when you join the monthly Newsletter.