How often do we feel like we need to control something — everything — that is happening? And how often do we feel stressed during these times? Imagine a state of being that is relaxed where you are able to ‘go with the flow.’ Wouldn’t that be nice?! It is possible for all of us by practicing LETTING GO. It not only helps us feel better but has a strong correlation with being healthy on multiple levels. Letting go is simply a great way to care for the well-being for yourself and others.
Control = Stress, Flexibility = Calm
Insisting on controlling situations promotes a high level of stress. There are many studies that show this correlation. The inverse is true as well. When we adopt a flexible mental state, we feel more calm. We can all agree that less stress is good for our health. Letting go is a healthy thing to do.
An example of letting go to promote better health is forgiveness. When we are in an unforgiving state of mind, we might be prone to more anger. This can color our perception of the world with bitterness. “ [We] become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present…Become depressed or anxious…Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692) If we begin to embrace forgiveness in our lives we begin to have healthier relationships with ourselves and others. The physical health benefits are incredible as well! Our physical health improves by lower blood pressure, improved heart health and an overall stronger immune system. All of these and more help improve our self-esteem.
Tips and Tricks for Letting Go
How can we begin a self-care journey with letting go? Of the many ways we can begin to learn about letting go we can look at practices like yoga or meditation. In short, during these activities your mind is allowed to relax and let go of thoughts, which then promotes a sense of calm. (To read more about meditation to improve your well-being, read our blog: Meditation: A Tool for Self-Care.) Unified Caring Association has some additional tools to help learn about what to let go in your life. There are Self Assessments on UCA site that help members sort through and make a self-care plan which can help us decide on what habits to let go of. If we get stuck or lost, there is a 24-hour counseling hotline available. Sometimes we just need to talk it out with an unbiased person.
Another tip is to use imagery. “When you notice yourself in the [sic.] control mindset imagine trying to climb the steepest mountain there is. Think about the amount of energy, time, and headspace that is consumed with trying to climb this mountain. This is control. Embrace the freedom that comes with letting go and not having the need to climb this mountain.” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-ways-to-let-go-of-the-need-to-control_b_7305102)
This imagery can be in your mind or written down in different forms such as free-writing or lists. These writings can be about what you feel you need to control. Once the thing that you feel you must control is named, it can be let go. If the writing happens more frequently, this could become a form of journaling filled with affirmations to promote well-being, and become a form of grounding. “You are living in the future with the control mindset. You are already attaching yourself to expectations and setting yourself up for disappointments. So focus on grounding yourself. Maybe this means taking a walk in nature, calling a friend, or getting out of your home or office.” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/10-ways-to-let-go-of-the-need-to-control_b_7305102) After grounding ourselves we find that we are more present. When the mind is present, it has the ability to embrace and promote gratitude; these help promote our well-being and a better life.
If a person begins to feel that a situation needs to be controlled, a suggestion is to take a pause. Check yourself. Ask yourself if the situation is worth the stress? Will my thoughts and feelings promote happiness, gratitude or help the well-being of others and myself? “… Forgive…do something kind for that person or friend. Kindness surprises and illuminates the heart…Build a mental picture of joy re-entering your mind and body… let go…[and] do something that makes you smile or laugh.” (https://thekindnesschange.com/2019/03/02/9-ways-to-choose-joy-over-anger/)
Forgive and Grow
An overarching theme that we are seeing as we go through this blog is forgiveness. Ok, so forgiveness is a big part of letting go. Why not follow the old adage, “Forgive and forget?” But this might not be the best path for truly letting go. As we can see through studying almost any history forgetting leads to repeating. It would be better to forgive, remember and grow. According to Alex Pattakos, Ph.D. in his article titled, Why Letting Go is Good for Your Health, “Forgiveness means ‘letting go’ of our suffering. In effect, it has much more to do with our own well-being than that of the person or persons we forgive…Like any muscle, however, it has to be exercised to work well. Forgiveness can be very complicated. Sometimes we think that it equates forgetting, diminishing, or condoning the misdeed, but it really doesn’t. It has much more to do with freeing ourselves from its hold. Our ability to live our lives with love, understanding, and generosity is impeded when we don’t forgive.” (https://medium.com/thrive-global/why-letting-go-is-good-for-your-health-669c42eaaf27) This growing after letting go allows us to improve our lives by not repeating old controlling patterns and strengthening understanding, gratitude, and flexibility. With flexibility we become more able to remain calm and promote overall well-being.