The most common resolutions—things like making more money and starting a regular exercise routine—are all about adding something positive to your life. While these are certainly worthwhile goals, sometimes living your best life is more about subtraction than addition.
So before making New Years resolutions, consider what’s weighing us down or holding us back—consider what we need to release from our lives.
Stumped? Here, 11 experts on well being share their seven best tips for letting go so we can truly live.
Seven Things to Let Go of in the New Year
Too many of us set our own standards unreachably high, which inevitably leads to burnout, disappointment, and debilitating self-judgment. This year, give ourselves the leniency to mess up and make mistakes—basically, to be human.
Our imperfections—whether they’re with our bodies, our careers, or our bank accounts—are worth embracing.
“It’s time to let [perfectionism] go. To be human is to be rather charming, quirky and imperfect.” ~ Marc Jacob, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating
“I have been allowing myself to be perfectly imperfect rather than aggressively trying to attain some ideal. Something about that lets me smile to myself when I start to get too uptight.” ~Annelise Pendleton, founder of YogaFace.
2. Our Perception of How Life Should Be
We have a vision for what we think our life should look like. Maybe it involves being married or having children by a certain age, or climbing the career ladder at a particular pace. It probably includes some very positive things, like a plethora of good friends or a really healthy body.
Obsessing over our perception of how life should be can get in the way of truly living.
“Practice letting go of all of your ideas of things—all your ideas of love, of compassion, of peace, of wellness. Commit yourself to living more directly so that you have the chance to experience life as it is, not as you want it to be.” ~ Claude Anshin
Easier said than done?
One way to make it happen is by committing to a period of quiet meditation at the beginning and end of each day.
“Sit in silence, focused on the breath, because it is in the silence that you become available to learn.”
~ Claude Anshin
3. Poor Eating Habits
There’s no denying the strong connection between what we eat and the way we feel—both physically and emotionally. If we’re feeling weighed down because of food choices that aren’t nourishing, consider changing our habits.
“The key to knowing how to cook, eat, and thrive is in honoring your natural rhythm. Engage your senses to discover what you really like. Stock your home with seasonal, organic, sustainable, nourishing, and luscious farm-raised foods. With an awareness of our interrelationship to the earth and the farmers, the recipe possibilities are endless. Cooking becomes fun and pleasurable.”
~ Leslie Cerier, “The Organic Gourmet”
There is nothing as debilitating and encumbering as a guilty conscious. Going through life carrying the heavy burden of shame and remorse is downright exhausting and makes every step forward that much harder.
“Guilt is a holding onto the past instead of learning from our mistakes, valuing them and then using that information as guidance to move ahead with more strength and joy.” ~ Bobbie Martin
When we learn from our choices instead of dwelling on our mistakes, we can take pleasure in being more knowledgeable the next time around.
“That seems like a much more joyful way to experience my life.” ~ Bobbie Martin
Unfortunately, much of our culture today has become defined by “stuff.” We spend hours at the mall and hundreds of dollars on online shopping, only to look around and find a house full of stuff but a heart that feels empty.
The problem isn’t just that our lives are cluttered with stuff, but that much of that stuff isn’t even a reflection of our values, our priorities and ourselves.
“When you feel stuck in your life and are surrounded by an environment that is cluttered with an excess of belongings that no longer reflect who you are, it can have a profound effect on your mental state and quality of life.” ~ Kim Colwell of the Shambhalla Institute
Combing our living and working spaces and removing even small items that might be having a negative impact on you.
That could mean “a vase that your college best friend gave you before a falling out, a piece of art that was around during a time in your life when you were depressed, or a stack of paperwork that represents a stressful, incomplete deadline.” ~ Kim Cowell
Replacing these things with items we love—items that leave us feeling peaceful, confident and inspired—can make all the difference in our mental and emotional state.
6. The Need to Control
“So much of the suffering in life comes from our inability to let go of the control.”
~ Jean Koerner, renowned teacher of ISHTA Yoga
What stands between us and true joy is a mistaken belief that we can fully control the circumstances of our lives.
Letting go of control, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask for and pursue what we want in life; it just means we should be open to what else might be in store for us.
“Affirm the things you desire, but let the Universe deliver it in ways that may be better than you could even imagine.” ~ Barbara Biziou
“It is important to learn to know what you want, ask for it, reach for it, bring it in, move toward it…yet, once the Universe knows your desire, you must let go and get out of the way.” ~ Maureen St. Germain
Show gratitude no matter what happens in our lives.
“Ask for what you want and work towards it,” he says, “but no matter how life is going in relation to your preferences, be thankful. Whatever comes or does not come is a gift.”
~ Bart Marshall of the Self Inquiry Group
7. Barriers to Joy
As 2015 draws near, take some time to search our heart and identify what is that’s living there that’s keeping us from experiencing true joy in our lives.
This could be anything from fear to animosity to self-deprivation.
Once you’ve identified your particular obstacles, we can let them go.
“By working with your body in areas that allow you to gain access to the light that shines within. For example, working with the hara, or abdominal region, through yoga asanas [allows you] to gain access to your inner light. It assists in moving out the old stored impressions that keep us from experiencing total illumination—in other words, joy.” ~ Susan Taylor, Ph.D.
Author: Katie Markey McLaughlin, M.S. and Yvette Badack
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: courtesy of the author
Published in Elephant Journal December 19, 2014