It sounds so easy. Except that it isn’t.
The feelings follow you, even when you try to leave them behind.
And sometimes there’s a part of you that wants it that way.
We hold onto so many things—relationships, memories, expectations, hopes, and even belongings.
The truth is, our lives are largely defined by what we chose to let go of, and what we hold onto. The process of determining what to keep close deserves your best insight and effort.
Fortunately, there is solid wisdom out there that reaches beyond empty words.
Check out this collection of my favorite blog posts on the topic of letting go. Some are inspirational. Some are practical. Some provide a wide overview, while others focus on one piece of letting go.
Each one of them has the potential to change the way you think, feel, and live.
Vicki Peterson’s post at The Mighty is an important reminder to allow the process of letting go to unfold in its own time.
You can’t let go of feelings you haven’t allowed yourself to feel. What happens if you skip the step of experiencing your emotions? They hide out under the surface and continue to impact your physical and mental health.
Working through those feelings can take longer and require more focus for survivors who were conditioned to hide their abuse. What looks like dwelling on the past to someone else may actually be the crucial first step in healing.
What you resist persists. Jess Bonasso explains how fighting things we want to let go of can actually give them more power. She describes her method for transforming challenges without letting them take over your life.
Marc Chernoff says most of our suffering in life comes from holding onto the wrong things. And most of the time those things aren’t even real.
They are illusions; expectations of how we wish things were, memories of how they used to be, or worries of how they might be in the future. He uses this imagery to help capture his point:
Imagine you’re blindfolded and treading water in the center of a large swimming pool, and you’re struggling desperately to grab the edge of the pool that you think is nearby, but really it’s not – it’s far away. Trying to grab that imaginary edge is stressing you out, and tiring you out, as you splash around aimlessly trying to holding on to something that isn’t there.
Now imagine you pause, take a deep breath, and realize that there’s nothing nearby to hold on to. Just water around you. You can continue to struggle with grabbing at something that doesn’t exist… or you can accept that there’s only water around you, and relax, and float.
He goes on to explain what it looks like to float—and swim, instead of struggling for that imaginary ledge.
Your experience of your memories actually changes each time you think of them through a process called neuroplasticity. Debbie Hampton explains how to pair negative memories with positive associations in order to soften their emotional impact.
Henrik Edberg invites you to consider what benefits you are getting by NOT letting go. There is always a reason for the things we do (and don’t do). If you want to make a change, it helps understand what you were getting out of the old way of doing things.
Mark Manson describes reliving a memory of a beautiful first date with his wife. He realizes that as happy as they now are, he also mourns his younger self and that earlier stage of life.
I relate to his story. I adore my teenage and young adult children. At the same time, I mourn the infants and toddlers they used to be.
Manson goes on to explore why these ongoing everyday losses matter so much to us, and how to avoid letting them negatively impact our lives and relationships.
Leo Babauta explains that letting go is about changing your underlying mindset. Beliefs like “I am right,” or “things have to happen a certain way” hold you back from future possibilities. He explores ways to open your perspective and live more fully.
John Pavlovitz explores the bittersweet beauty of gifts that come along with loss.
But the real story is that there is a balance in this living; something born with each thing that dies, something found for each thing lost. Today I took a walk in the woods and I thought about the much younger me walking in the woods four decades ago.
I started to remember that it has never been only about losing:
I lost the skin on my knee and found the healing of my mother’s kiss.
I lost the girl I once thought I would marry and found the love of my life.
I lost my father and found compassion for the grieving.
He invites you to be encouraged by all the goodness around and ahead of you, even when you struggle to let go of the goodness behind you.
S.J. Scott helps you analyze how living in the past might be holding you back. Then he gives 7 steps for letting go of the past and 19 steps for developing habits that will help you live in the present. This is a great practical guide for making measurable changes.
This short post from Steve Maraboli invites you to make one key mindset shift. You wouldn’t cook a stew using expired ingredients. Building your life is much the same. Are you bringing outdated ingredients into the life you are trying to create?
This post by psychological therapist Jennifer White at Love Wide Open explores some of the deeper reasons that you may have trouble letting go of the past. Issues like unresolved trauma, regrets, guilt, low self worth, or loss can get in the way. She provides helpful tips for moving on.
This guest post for Steven Aitchison offers memorable wisdom from the trash collector.
Diana Raab, PhD, from dianaraab.com tells the story of struggling to clean out her attic in preparation for moving. The space is filled with items she doesn’t need but has sentimental attachment to. Letting go of them feels like losing her own identity.
The trash collector gives her advice for life:
Lady, one thing I’ve learned in this job, which you probably think is made for dummies, is that letting go ends up being your only means of survival. The more you hold on, the less you’re able to survive. You must live each day as if it were your last. If you try doing this, you’ll embark on a whole new perspective and life journey. Trust me. I might seem like just a dumb garbage man, but I know. Now you go ahead and have a fine day.
Amy Morin lists things you need to let go of to be happier. It may not be what you were expecting.
Letting go isn’t just about leaving external things behind. It’s about the thought patterns and habits you choose to carry with you internally.
Margaret B. Moss explores how to bounce back from the pain and trauma of life through choosing creativity and hope.
Silver linings don’t materialize out of thin air, or magic. We weave our own silver linings with the threads of our own imagination, spirit, and courage.
Letting go can mean many different things. Check out Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui’s downloadable worksheet to help you dial in the areas of your life where you are carrying excess baggage.
Quick, don’t think about a pink elephant.
What did you mind picture when you read those words? A pink elephant, of course.
Knowing what to focus on instead is more helpful that telling yourself over and over what not to think of. Elle Sommer gives 5 key steps for moving forward instead of dwelling on the past.
James Clear explains letting go through a baseball analogy. He says most coaches repeat what their coaches did, who repeat what their coaches did, and back on down the line.
We approach the rest of life the same way—experiencing new things through old habits and expectations.
Clear says letting go isn’t just moving on from a bad relationship or an old job. It’s developing what Buddhists call shoshin, or beginner’s mind. It’s learning to see with fresh eyes instead of constantly recycling our old experiences.
Until you see and think differently, you live the same patterns over and over.
This guest post at Pick the Brain explores how focusing too much on your goal can sabotage your success. Matt Schmoldt describes how he improved his basketball shot when he tuned into the process instead of waiting for the result. He explores other applications for this principle.
Dr. Melanie Greenberg says listening to negative inner voices makes your life feel like the movie Groundhog Day. Fear and discouragement lead you to repeat the same old patterns again and again. She explains her two-part plan to help you break the cycle.
Mindfulness can help you let go.
David Cain invites you to tune into all the beginnings and endings, the comings and goings of daily life.
Start with the easy stuff. Closing the shower faucet and noticing the warm-water sensations cease. Putting your fork down when you’re finished eating. Turning the reading lamp off for the evening.
As you make a mental shift to accept that change happens, it becomes easier to see the beauty in larger and more difficult transitions.
Need a reminder? Check out Karen Salmonsohn’s collection of inspiring quotes. She focuses on letting go of overthinking and worry, as well as being at peace in difficult circumstances. Bonus: They already have beautiful backgrounds, so you can use one for a screensaver or share it to social media.
Moving into Your Future
Picture a life where your past doesn’t define you.
You aren’t consumed by regrets, pain, or anger.
You have learned from past experiences, and you have moved on.
Free to focus on the goodness and the beauty and potential all around you right now.
Your new reality came because you chose to put down the weight you were carrying.
You let go.
Need help forgiving? Read this.