Have you read Letting Go Part 1… what does it mean to you? Maybe you tried out the idea that when you are in the moment of a stressful situation, you look for the good, just for a moment. Maybe in that moment, an idea came to you about how you could lessen the stress or resolve the situation.
Now, I’d like to share three tools or practices that I’ve used to lessen my grip on my ropes and release some of them altogether. These three tools have helped me become someone that people constantly ask how I stay happy all the time. Well, I’m not happy all the time. I get sad. I get mad. I mess up. But I do always look for the good in even those sad and mad times; I do keep my positive outlook even when I mess up.
I practice the following tools because they make me feel good overall and feeling good helps me let go of not only old stuff, but helps me not collect new stuff!
That may sound funny, but how many of us go through life holding on to the old hurts, habits, fears, etc. AND collect some new ones along the way. For example, if we’ve never let go of a hurt that was done to us, then we might keep feeling hurt by new people over and over and over… even when hurting us was never the intention of the accused “new doer of the hurting.” We simply received it in a hurting way because we’re still holding onto an old experience, belief, and maybe habit. OR maybe we continue to attract those same situations into our life, because even if we are not happy, we know what to expect in that situation. Maybe it’s all we really know, so we are uncomfortably, unhappily, “comfortable” with it.
It might sound weird, right? Why would anyone do that?
BUT, it’s not really weird. I believe we each do the best we can with what we’ve got, with what we believe, with what we’ve learned from our experiences and what we may learn from well-meaning friends, family, therapists, spiritual counselors and more. Sometimes though, it just doesn’t seem to work or it doesn’t seem to make sense. Sometimes it feels really hard to let go of any of it.
One practice that I use every day is something that takes just 2 minutes a day!
Yes, just 2 minutes – it’s a combination of tools put into a simple daily practice. It can be done anywhere, anytime. It’s my 40 Day LoveFest practice of self-love and reflection. I’ve written a couple of books on this practice and it’s the foundation of all the work I do through coaching, workshops, even training of others to share this practice of self-love.
There are 3 steps to the LoveFest practice:
Step 1 – In the morning (or anytime) take 1 minute to identify three things you are grateful for. Day 1 might be easy, probably even on our worst days, we are grateful for something. So, as you do this every day, try not to repeat the exact same things. Instead, dig a little deeper in your gratitude. For example if today you are grateful for your child, tomorrow think of why you are grateful for that child, maybe they have a cute sneeze, or they make the best funny face, or that you are grateful for your reading time together. If you are grateful for the sun, why, what about it do you enjoy? When you practice this daily, you begin to look for more good in your life and your hold on the negative stuff lessens.
Step 2 – Throughout the day, most of us look into a mirror many times, when we wash our hands brush our hair, get dressed, etc. At least once during the day, when you are already looking into a mirror (so this takes no extra time), say something nice to yourself. If you can, tell yourself, “I like you” or “I love you” or “Nice sweater.” It doesn’t have to be deep and soulful, it can be simple, but say something positive. If you really have a tough time with this, try telling yourself “you have possibilities” or just remind yourself of something nice you’ve done for someone like “that was nice of you to hold the door for the woman struggling with her bags at the mall.” After practicing this once a day, you’ll begin to look for nice things to say multiple times a day!
3 – In the evening (or anytime), take 1 minute to acknowledge yourself for three things you accomplished that day, big or small. I like to call them my Daily Triumphs, because even the little things we do lead us to our bigger goals. For example, a student celebrates graduation, we have a party, and it’s a big triumph, right? But each day, that student might study, write a paper, study for a test, get tutoring, do research, meet with a study group, etc. Each of those things is important to acknowledge.
It’s the practice of the above three steps that makes them powerful. Doing them one time might feel good in the moment, but doesn’t really help us let go of anything. By practicing focusing on the good for just those 2 minutes a day, we’re practicing letting go of the focus on the not so good.
For example, let’s say you hate your job and you drudge through it every day, feeling bad that you can’t quit because you rely on the income. What if every day on the way to work, you thought about 1 thing you’re grateful for about the job, even if only the paycheck. Maybe tomorrow, you remember that you’re grateful for friends you’ve made, then the next day, you remember that you have a favorite client at that job and pretty soon you’re not dreading going to work and maybe you even begin to like the job a little… in part because you’re letting go of that rope that you held onto so tightly – the belief that you hated your job.
Now, what if you also on the way home thought about 1 thing you accomplished at work that day, maybe making a customer smile, or finishing a report on time, or making a sale. You can end your work day on a positive note and go home to enjoy your evening… you could even think about 1 thing you’re grateful for that the workday is ended!
You might still want to look for a new job, or learn a new skill to get promoted, but while you’re doing that, at least you’ll feel better. When you feel better, you’ll see more possibilities for solutions.
The next tool I want to share is a practice of forgiveness.
For many of us, forgiveness is very important in letting go or beginning to love ourselves. This practice is something you can use as a step to forgive yourself or others, but let’s just start with forgiving yourself today. I invite you to think about just one thing you want to forgive yourself for – what is the first thing that pops into your mind?
It could be something from 10 min ago or 10 years ago. For this you’ll need a notecard or small piece of paper, like a Post-It™ and a pen. It’s important to have something small because we want to keep this very simple and short.
In this practice of forgiveness, we don’t want to get bogged down with how it happened or why or will it happen again. In this exercise, we simply want to forgive. Of course it’s good to be conscious of how it happened and not wanting it to happen again and there are all kinds of exercises, therapy, coaching, etc. that you can do around that. But in just the act of forgiveness, in just this one special piece, the details aren’t important. This is true when we’re forgiving ourselves AND when we forgive others. It’s this simplicity that allows us to forgive and begin to let go.
Using the following format and choosing or creating the wording that best fits for you, write your note of forgiveness to you!
I forgive you for ________________________. (keep this simple – just the act, no long details)
You’re okay anyway OR I like you anyway OR I love you anyway OR I’m going to practice forgiving you until I like you OR something that feels right for you.
Hugs, sincerely, love, warmly, OR whatever feels right to you,
If we don’t take the extra step of saying something like, “you’re okay anyway” (regardless of what we did), then sometimes we still want to beat ourselves up. Even if we say the words I forgive you or someone else forgives us, we still punish ourselves. The idea that we can like ourselves anyway, that we’re okay anyway takes us in the direction of letting go of the need to hold onto the guilt, shame, and negativity around it.
It’s a simple letter and if you don’t want anyone to ever see it, tear it up or burn it! If this is something that you’ve been holding onto tightly or for a while, this one time of writing the note is just the beginning. You may want to repeat this, every day if you need to, until you begin to really feel that you’re forgiving yourself and meaning it.
If you do keep the note, don’t just read it every day, but write it again. The physical act of writing it over and over will help it go deeper, so that you believe it and it’s not just words, not just another exercise you do. It also only takes 30 seconds after you’ve done it the first day, so it’s simple, takes very little time and no soul-searching work because you are just repeating the same words you wrote the day before.
Lastly, this third tool is something that we can do to help us feel better about ourselves in the process of forgiveness, loving and letting go.
Sometimes when we forgive ourselves, we still feel like it’s not enough. So, IF it makes you feel better, find something you can do to help someone else through a similar situation, share your story, volunteer somewhere, or give to a charity that makes you feel good.
And even though you might be giving to others, it’s a forgiveness gift to you. I use this practice! Sunday mornings, I spend an hour at my local juvenile detention center. I simply hang out with them sharing love. We do activities, I give them 40 Day LoveFest journals, I share with them everything I share with clients, but I do so as a volunteer. I’d like to see every detention center have someone like me come in and share love, and that may be a new goal in my future. But for now, I simply go and share my story and teach them tools about loving and letting go.
What could you do to make yourself feel better in this process?
This isn’t about paying back, retribution, penance, etc. it’s about taking action to feel better. It’s not a requirement to forgiveness, but because we often feel guilt and shame, this can help you feel better so you can practice loving and letting go.
These are just a few simple, but extremely powerful tools you can use in your journey of letting go. I’d love to hear back if you have tried some of these things in the past or if you are going to try them now! What I suggest if you do give one a try, go into with the intention of making it a practice, not something you do once because you read this article. The first time might not seem like much, but with practice, you’ll feel your grip on your rope loosen and maybe even fall away.
In part 3, we’ll talk about how we can “keep letting go.”