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21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

Life throws us in the rubbish dump sometimes. It happens to all of us. We are often faced with situations that leave us feeling strong emotions like frustration, anger, bitterness and stress which can transcend through our lives for days, weeks, months and even years. How many instances have you heard the words time’s a healer when being comforted by others? Technically, time is a healer but what if it’s taking longer than you imagined?

If you’re finding it hard to recover, then you’re not alone. As humans, we are a sensitive bunch and it’s our nature to get attached to things, people and situations which in turn can make it that much harder to let go. If you feel you’re holding on to something that has happened to you in the past, it’s really important to not be hard on yourself. It’s a natural process we need to go through to get to the other side and the negative emotions we feel shouldn’t be demonised or belittled as they are ultimately crucial for our overall happiness.

It may be a cliche that taking positive action will help heal but anything positive, big or small, will move you in the right direction. That’s not to say it’s a way of ignoring negative emotions – the two can be present side by side and work together to get you on the road to recovery.

A lot of the work is mindset and most of the time our mindset is stuck in a particular place – seemingly unwilling to make a shift. The key is not to force it but to slowly edge it to a more positive way of thinking and there are many different ways you can do this.

1. Crying It Out

Going by the idea that your negative emotions are there to heal you, not to hinder you, it’s important that you feel them. Crying is an amazing way to acknowledge how you really feel and start shifting those feelings.

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2. Taking Responsibility

Blame is a hinderance to happiness and anger causes us to throw that blame towards what is causing it within us. When we blame other people for the way we feel we are taking away our power and giving it to someone else or to the situation. But this isn’t about blaming yourself instead, it’s about realising what you could have learned from the situation and what actually can make you feel empowered and less angry.

3. Changing Your Perspective

I mentioned mindset and this is a powerful tool in trying to let go of past hurts. Changing your perspective on a situation is a way of shifting it to a lower level. Try to see the positives from it as little as they may seem. A small shift can turn into a bigger shift later on.

4. Practising Meditation And Yoga

Not always for everyone but yoga and mediation is known to have a heap of health benefits. There’s been loads of scientific studies that show regular meditation and mindfulness practice can lower depression and other great factors like lowering blood pressure and ultimately stress. Breathing techniques associated with meditation can calm your body and your thoughts.

5. Getting Involved In Group Activities

Being around people has a great healing factor and gives a sense of togetherness. Conversations and activities with people you love or new friends can put things in a better perspective. You may find unexpected solace in people that can lift your mood and mindset.

6. Laughing It Out

This may seem like a shallow suggestion but laughing and smiling can actually have an immense positive effect on our body and mind. Watching a comedy or a funny video clip even for a few minutes can cause us to feel less tension and anxiety. Even small amounts can help reprogram the mind to change its way of thinking.

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7. Rewarding Yourself

Any progress is important and you should give yourself a reward for any small step you feel you’ve taken in the right direction. Treat yourself to your favourite coffee, chocolate or anything you love.

8. Acknowledging That The Past Was Not All Good

When we’re trying to let go of something in the past, we tend to romanticise how things were. It’s important to acknowledge that the person or situation that we’re having trouble with was not necessarily as great as we remember them to be.

9. Focusing On The Future

A hard one to do when you’re mind is not wanting to go there, but focusing on the future is a great way to heal. Start with something small like planning a trip or something big like a possible career change.

10. Exercising

Exercise is obviously a great way to lift your mood and outlook on life. Getting your body in check and releasing those endorphins can do absolute wonders for your mindset.

11. Practising Forgiveness

Earlier I mentioned how blame can be a soul-destroying thing. It might feel good but it’s only making us hold on even more. We can get a better sense of empowerment by forgiving our past hurts. That does not mean accepting what happened as right but to just release on the negative feelings you have towards them.

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12. Identifying What the Experience Taught You

We all learn from what we’ve done. We are an accumulation of all our experiences and what we’ve learned from them and this is no exception. Try to identify what you’ve learned and you will start to see that shift to a more positive way of thinking

13. Writing It Down

There’s power in writing things down. The process of writing down how you feel can help clarify your feelings and emotions. Reading them back to yourself can give great insight and help you find possible ways to move on.

14. Taking A Vacation

Some may see it as running away but taking yourself out of the situation to somewhere new and unfamiliar can have a great healing effect. Seeing different parts of the world can help put your thoughts in perspective.

15. Replacing Your Thoughts With Different Ones

Sounds hard to do, right? But if you find you’re thinking too much about the past then give yourself ‘trigger’ thoughts. These are happy memories that you can pull on when you find your mind wandering – literally replacing them with more positive thoughts.

16. Learning A New Skill

This is a great one as it can play a huge part in taking your mind off unwanted thoughts. Learn a new language or start going to that yoga class. Putting your energy into something else will mean less energy spent lamenting the past.

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17. Finding Closure By Confronting

If you feel your lack of ability to let go of something is because you never got closure from the situation then consider confronting it. This doesn’t mean attacking anyone or shouting blame but having it out with the person that hurt you (once you’re ready) can bring a sense of peace afterwards.

18. Changing Your Circumstances

Sometimes a change of circumstance is needed. We can often get trapped in the same way of life, living in fear that change is slightly uncertain and this will move us away from what we’re holding on to. But there’s great empowerment in changing your life – sometimes a fresh approach is all you need to start healing.

19. Acknowledging Your Three Options

There are three fundamental options when it comes to situations we don’t like: remove yourself, change it, or accept it. If you find that you’re just stuck and unable to move on then at some point you need to be brave and acknowledge what you need to do to properly heal yourself. For some, it comes quite quickly and for others it may take a while before they find the courage. Either way, there’s no wrong or right time but just remind yourself that one of these options is what you’re aiming for.

20. Getting Rid Of Reminders

No matter what it is you’re trying to let go of, having reminders around only further expands your thoughts on the situation. Put aside a time to gather up anything that serves as a reminder and throw them away or put them out of sight.

21. Letting Yourself Be Happy

Last but certainly not least, is allowing yourself to be happy. Don’t restrict yourself from the happiness you deserve. Self-love is the most important thing – you can’t move on and lead a happy and fulfilling life without the ability to love the person you are – faults and all. Know that you will heal eventually and that you’ll be a better, stronger person because of it.

Featured photo credit: Stefan Kunze via albumarium.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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