How to let go of things that are outside your control

How to let go of things that are outside your control

We all worry some of the time – we worry about the extra weight we carry; that no one will love us; that there are too many chemicals in our food; that we may get ill (really ill); that our project won’t be successful; that we may lose our job; and on and on. Some of the things we worry about are under our control and we can put plans in place to either prevent them from happening or at least to minimise their impact. But there are many aspects of our worries that are outside our control.

When things are out of our hands, the most sensible course of action is to let go and instead focus on the things that we can change or influence. But exactly how do we let something go?

I was having trouble with this question, so explored a few options. Here’s what has helped me.

To let go of things outside your control

Take a broader perspective 

Sometimes our worries can be all consuming; they feel huge and the possibility of them coming true can feel life-threatening. But in most instances, things aren’t really that bad. In the past, I have found that when a worry feels overwhelming, it is helpful to look at it in a broader context. I love reading memoirs written by those who have overcome insurmountable odds or who have faced life threatening situations with grace and spirit. In the context of these memoirs, my worries seemed to shrink. I realised that I could choose to hold on to a worry or let go of it and feel gratitude for what I do have. Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed with worry it is useful to look for examples of those who are worse off. This may not work for everyone but it is worth a try.

Make it concrete 

Worries can be a little ephemeral – they hang around because we do not take the time to state them clearly and really examine the consequences of holding on to them. Writing about our worries is one way to make them concrete. Take a loose piece of paper and write your worry on it. State it clearly and describe it in detail. Write about your most feared outcome. Now write about what holding on to the worry is costing you. Is it affecting your relationships? Is it preventing you from working effectively? Is it stopping you from loving, or feeling joyful, grateful, or any of the other positive emotions? Is it stopping you from enjoying the good things in your life? Is the cost of worrying worth it? Off course not! When you are ready, burn the piece of paper; let the worry float away as you watch the smoke drift upwards. Feel the relief, freedom, and lightness of no longer needing to carry this around with you.

Invite in good things 

Once you have let the worry go, immediately invite some good things into your life to fill the space. Invite in selfcare, love, creativity, peace, energy, joy, laughter, freedom, healthy food, exercise, breath. Spend some time doing an activity that will give you the support you need (take a bath, listen to soothing music, paint, prepare a healthy meal, take a yoga class or go for a run, watch a sunset, spend time with your family or friends, watch a comedy, snuggle with a loved one).

If you would like to learn more ways to increase daily happiness, join our online course: Flourish: Experiments in Happiness or check out our FREE course Paths to Happiness: Live Your Best Life Story (this course is now permanently open for you to join anytime and work through at your own pace).

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