Letting go… More easily said than done, right? Yet, it’s crucial if you want to lead a more serene life.
Today, I wanted to share with you some tips I have developed over time to be more zen and let go of things I can’t control! I’d like to mention that for me, these strategies took time to fully adopt and discomfort was a necessary step to succeed in truly letting go. But it was genuinely worth the effort! Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
The benefits of learning to let go
Letting go is a topic I’ve talked about a lot with those around me. Why? Because people often ask me how I manage to be so zen with 4 kids, while at the same time carrying out many projects and having a ton of interests.
There’s no secret… Becoming more zen for me has involved a lot of hard work in order to learn to know myself better and care for my physical and mental health. It’s not magic, it does take effort and energy, but for me, it’s really been worth it!
I actually think that learning to let go helps
- Reduce anxiety and be less stressed on a daily basis
- Be less negative, more satisfied and more optimistic
- To have better relationships
- To have more self-confidence.
So, what are my tips for achieving this? Here they are.
My #1 tip for letting go: focus on what you can control
It’s too easy to agonize over things you have no control over when you could really benefit from focusing on the things you can control!
Instead of focusing on the behaviours and actions of others, we can focus on our own reactions and actions.
To help you see things clearly, here is a short list of things you can’t control (so there’s no need to try to control them or spend energy worrying about them!)
- How people around you treat you, what they think of you and whether they like you (or not!)
- Other people’s feelings, thoughts, beliefs and reactions
- The weather and the passage of time
- Death (others’ and your own)
- The future (and the past!)
On the other hand, there are many things you can control, such as
- The way you think and how you treat the people around you
- Your own actions and reactions
- How and with whom you spend your time
- Your open-mindedness and optimism
- Your ability and desire to change
- Your state of mind
Something helpful is to write down all the things that bother you and put them in two columns: the things you control—and the things you don’t control. Personally, when I feel stuck, anxious or when I feel like things are spinning around in my head, writing helps!
This small tip will help you focus your energy on the things you can address, and consciously make the choice not to waste time fighting the ones you are powerless to change.
When I feel my anxiety rising about a situation, I ask myself: is the cause of this anxiety something I have control over? If the answer is no, I make the choice to mentally move on (at first, the key is to become aware of what you need to do and with time, it gets easier and easier. But you have to start somewhere!)
My #2 tip: accept what is inevitable
Practising acceptance was eye-opening for me, as it was something I associated with vulnerability. But in fact, when done consciously, surrendering to acceptance can be completely liberating and even empowering!
In addition, the state of acceptance is much more pleasant than the state of fighting against what we can’t control. When we accept, we are relaxed, calm. When we fight, we are anxious, alert, tense.
When we’re faced with something inevitable, one of the healthiest reactions we can have is to have the courage and strength to accept, to succumb—aka not to fight against what is inevitable.
Being in a state of acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to remain passive in front of a situation. It’s simply that it allows us to take action from a state of inner calm, rather than from a state of agitation.
To make acceptance easier, I found a trick that may seem funny at first, but ends up being useful anyway: it’s to make a list of all the behaviours or actions you could adopt or do if you accepted the situation.
Then, you can practise doing them, even if you’re not convinced that you’ve truly accepted the situation.
It makes me laugh because it’s kind of a “fake it till you make it” tip, but I tested it, and it helps to move in the right direction!
My #3 tip: practice optimism
This tip sounds silly and I must say that I’m blessed because I’m naturally rather optimistic. But, like everyone else, I sometimes get overwhelmed by negative thoughts and see the glass as half empty.
When you want to let go, it’s really important to put yourself in an optimistic frame of mind and have faith that the things you can’t control will turn out for the better (and not according to the multiple disaster scenarios you can imagine in your mind!)
So next time you catch yourself reacting negatively… Look for something positive to counteract your initial reaction!
My #4 tip: learn from your mistakes
By deciding to consider your past mistakes to be learning opportunities, you avoid wasting time ruminating on the past in a useless way, and you can better focus on the present moment or on your future.
My #5 tip: assume your choices or change your mindset
There have been times in my life when I felt like I couldn’t let go. But a few months ago, I heard a phrase from Marie Forleo that got me thinking. She suggested replacing “I can’t” with “I won’t.” So I started doing that, and I was surprised by the effect.
For example, at one point when I was thinking “I can’t stay calm when I see that my son has left all his dirty laundry on the floor,” I replaced that with “I won’t stay calm…”. Why? Well, because the fact that the clothes are on the floor is out of my control. But, how I react to it isn’t.
So I know it’s not easy (and of course, here I used a banal example, but I’m well aware that not all situations are that simple), but it is absolutely possible to own our reactions and change our perspective when we realize that we are the one who put ourselves in a state. Indeed, we don’t suffer this fate.
I also found that this simple change in mindset helped me to move forward, rather than being stuck in a negative mindset. By becoming aware of my role in the equation (i.e., the fact that I was choosing to let myself get into a state), I stopped being a victim and was able to more quickly find inner calm.
It sounds really silly, but it took one major breakthrough for me to really understand that I had the choice to react the way I wanted to… And it was truly liberating.
The other thing I do that I find essential in order to move on is to say what’s bothering me instead of dwelling on it over and over again… In most situations, saying what bothers you (a behaviour, a reaction, an action or a comment for instance) will not change anything, but at least you don’t stay stuck with your thoughts, and I find that once it’s said, I feel lighter and helps me to let go. The key, however, is not to expect that sharing what’s bothering you will change anything! It’s just a way to let go of what’s bothering you and if there’s a positive reaction, that’s a bonus.
My #6 tip: take a step back
According to Dr. David R. Hawkins, letting go happens when you become aware of a feeling, let it exist, live with it, and let it run its course, without trying to make it different or do anything about it.
There is no need to resist, vent, fear or reason the feeling, the idea is simply to be aware of it and resist the temptation to change it in any way.
According to Hawkins, resisting the feeling makes it gain importance, while letting it exist allows you to move into another state, often accompanied by a lighter feeling.
For me, letting go is a bit like detaching yourself from the situation. By deciding to let go, I detach myself from my feelings about the situation, so that I’m able to be aware of it, but it’s almost foreign to me, since I have taken a step back.
My #7 tip: forget about blame
In some situations, it can be so tempting to blame someone or something for what’s happening to us… But the truth is, it doesn’t help and it even hinders our ability to let go!
My #8 tip: breathe
If you are rather impulsive, breathing deeply will do you a world of good! When a strong emotion comes up, remember to take 3 deep breaths and exhale slowly. This will help you calm down and get you in the right frame of mind to put things into perspective.
My #9 tip: be gentle with yourself
As in any process of profound change, patience is a must… No one changes overnight. The process is gradual and it’s not linear either… So it’s super important to be gentle with yourself!
My #10 tip: congratulate yourself!
Take note of the things you are managing to do better and better and focus on your progress rather than your failures. This will give you the courage to continue working towards your goals. On my part, I write down all the situations and my reactions in a small notebook, which I regularly review to see how I progress and learn as I go. It’s a way to notice that things are evolving—even if slowly. By forcing yourself to take note of the small wins, you will feel better and more empowered to let go.
What are your tips for being zen in your daily life? Do you feel like you are able to let go? Share your tips with me by commenting on this article!
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