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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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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