There isn’t a single person on this good earth who hasn’t experienced sadness, grief, guilt and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The trouble occurs when these problems get you down and keep you down.
In our fast-paced world, it’s commonplace for people to distract themselves from problems with other problems. When work hitches a ride home in your pocket; when endless newsreels scroll past the screen; when tragedies are hashed, rehashed, photographed, filmed, and plastered on every surface—it’s impossible not to experience emotional pain.
With 24/7 access to anyone and everyone you’ve ever known at your fingertips, you may experience guilt—for not doing enough, for not showing up enough, for not supporting enough. Maybe it’s fear that’s holding you back—you’re worried about safety, health (Dr. Google isn’t helping), and relationships.
Well, it’s time you learn that you are enough. It’s time you establish that it’s okay—necessary, even—to let go of those thoughts and feelings that are holding you back from experiencing true happiness. The following strategies can help you do just that.
1. Break Away from Negativity
It’s human nature to harp on negativity. It’s intriguing to rubberneck, liberating to vent, and fun to gossip, but with news and social media taking over our lives, there is too much exposure to negativity.
Identify the people and the things in your life that encourage negativity. Make a point to spend more time with people who are encouraging and optimistic, and less time with people who are toxic—who consistently gossip, mock, or complain. Leave inflammatory Facebook groups. Unfollow negative people on Instagram and Twitter. Check the news a little less often.
“Positivity is like a boomerang. The more we put it out there, the more it comes back to us.”
– Jon Gordon
2. Stop Trying to Control
Understand that you can’t control anything but yourself. Some people become obsessed with trying to control situations and people that are totally out of their control. This leads to unnecessary anxiety, fear, and agitation.
If you are committed to letting go, then let go of what you can’t control. By relinquishing your grasp on worries about all possible future outcomes, you are making room for the present. You’ll be able to live in the moment, enjoy the beauty around you, and accept the people who surround you.
3. Step Back and Take a Breath
It’s so easy to get locked into a routine or pattern when trying to accomplish a goal. Having a one-track mind will not bring you closer your goal—the opposite, in fact.
If you’re trying to meet a tight deadline for work, staring at a blank screen for the eighth hour in a row will be no different than the previous seven hours. It’s time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
It’s often the times we are able to release our hold and take a breath that we become unblocked and our creative juices begin to flow.
If you’re physically holding on to things from your past, there’s a good chance you’re emotionally holding on as well.
Work on getting rid of anything you don’t love. Every object, article of clothing, appliance, and every piece of furniture in your home should bring you joy. Declutter your home, declutter your brain.
5. Laugh it Off
Some people take themselves way too seriously. The danger in this is that when they fall, they fall hard.
It’s important to maintain a sense of humor and to be able to look at yourself in a nonjudgmental way. Doing this allows you to let go of past mistakes—you’re only human, after all—to learn from failures and to move forward with dignity.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention to the moment—of being present.
Obsessing over future plans will bring you no joy—only fear followed by disappointment if something doesn’t work out the way you planned. Mindfulness allows us to let go of anticipations and expectations for the future, as well as pain, regret, and guilt from the past. Being present is one of the most important keys to true freedom and happiness.
There are many methods to practice mindfulness, some of which include:
- Mindful breathing. Let everything else go and just focus on your breath. Do you breathe through your nose or mouth? Are your breaths shallow or deep? Slow or quick?
- Meditation. There are many different types of meditations, and they allow you to separate yourself from the noise and chatter inside your head. Daily meditation has many proven health benefits.
- Nature walks. Trails through nature allow you to detach from problems and look at the bigger picture—where you came from and where you’re going. They allow you to shift your mindset and adjust your goals so that you can experience happiness.
Letting go wouldn’t really be possible without forgiveness. And the first person you must practice this on is yourself. True happiness can’t be achieved if you’re holding on to regrets from your past.
At the same time, try to forgive those around you. Holding grudges and harboring resentment are not actions that will bring you any closer to happiness. Instead, you become a slave to these feelings, and freedom becomes impossible to achieve.
Forgive and let go.
8. Practice Acceptance
Acceptance means letting go of expectations, prejudices, and judgments. It’s about being okay with where you are and who you are. It’s also about understanding that just because you choose to accept something does not mean you’ve forfeited your right to initiate change, work toward improvement, and strive for greatness.
It is not necessary for you to fully embrace something that you have accepted. You don’t need to support, want, or even like what you have accepted. But in the long run, it is a blessing to learn how to accept even the crappiest of situations.
You don’t have to love the chronic disease you’ve been diagnosed with. However, accepting that it is there will allow you to think clearly, choose the best course of treatment or therapy, and maybe even live peacefully with it.
Acceptance can be practiced toward people, experiences, situations, emotions, ideas, appearances, and more.
Without acceptance, the constant struggle against pain can wear you down. Practice acceptance, and you will truly experience freedom and happiness.
“Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”
Happiness is not an elusive, unattainable pipe dream; it is a choice for every person, and happiness begins with weeding out the negatives and striving for the positives. Try implementing just one of these strategies, and the difference you experience will usher you into putting them all into practice. Before long, you’ll have a sense of freedom, a fresh perspective, and an entirely new outlook on life.