Photo credit: OnceUponaLife
Have you ever had a thought that stressed you out, rattled around in your brain, and just wouldn’t go away? I’m sure it has; it happens to everyone. The problem is that when non-useful thoughts get stuck in our heads, they destroy our focus, creativity, and productivity. One simple nagging thought can throw off an hour, a day, or even an entire week. If you want to avoid losing those precious hours and days, then you need to let go of those thoughts…
“Letting go” doesn’t mean ignoring the problem. It simply means that you realize that there is nothing you can do about the issue right now, and rather than having it consume your life with stress and anxiety you are going to put it aside until you are in a position where you can deal with it.
Distracting thoughts suck up time, energy, and attention. By letting them go you free up all those resources to solve your problems, tackle your day, and pursue your dreams. Not only will your work get done faster, but it will also be of higher quality.
Obviously, your best bet is to just deal with what’s bothering you. Do the project, have the conversation, go deal with the overdue bill, etc. But if you can’t address the issue right away (or if it’s not something you can or want to ever address), you are much better off letting it go than letting it stew and fester in your mind.
Here are 7 ways to let go when something is bothering you:
It is amazing what a few simple deep breathes can do for you. When you find stress rising, close your eyes (if you’re not driving!) and breath in as deeply as you can. Fill yourself with air from the bottom of your belly to the top of your chest, hold the air in for a few seconds, and then let it out. Repeat four or five times, or until you find yourself coming to peace with your troubles. For added impact, imagine that with each breath out your are letting your troubles and negative energy go.
This is the simplest and fastest way to let go and re-center your mind. It won’t last forever, but it will last long enough for you to get into a good flow state on another, more productive activity.
Empty Your Mind
Sometimes you may forget that you are the one in charge of your thoughts. When something is bothering you, you let it run amok all through your head. One of the best things you can do to let go of your troubles is to calm your mind by emptying it of thoughts.
This is very much like meditation, only our goal here is not to reach a higher consciousness or stay in a Zen state for an hour. Our goal is to become adept at removing all thoughts from our mind and be still. When you empty your mind, you remove all the negative thoughts and can exert a certain amount of control over what you let back in.
If you have not done this before, it won’t be easy, especially when you have stressful thoughts bouncing around your head. It’s a good idea to practice emptying your mind when you are not stressed, just to develop the skill. That will make it much easier when you need to let go of much bigger, badder thoughts.
There are many great visualization techniques to help you let go of your troubles. Here are a few:
- Imagine the thing that is bothering you, and then visualize placing it in a balloon and watching it float away
- In your head, write down the issue and then imagine yourself crumpling it up and throwing it away
- Picture the thing that is bothering you, then change the color in your mind to black and white. Then shrink it down so it is very small. Then imagine it very far away.
Some of these ideas may sound odd, but they can do wonders for helping you to put troubling thoughts aside.
Writing is a powerful way of getting thoughts out of your head. The simplest way to do this is to take out some paper and let whatever is in your head flow out. Don’t edit, don’t beat yourself up for what you are feeling, and don’t try to be correct. Just write. In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron refers to this as “Morning Pages,” and it is one of the best ways to clear all the gunk out of your head.
Another method is to write an in-depth letter to the person or situation that is troubling you (yes, you can write a letter to abstract concepts or inanimate objects). You never have to send the letter! In fact, you probably shouldn’t; it will just add another layer of stress to your mind. Instead, put it in a drawer or throw it away. The act of writing your thoughts will be cathartic in and of itself.
Not the best solution, but let’s face it: most of our stress will diminish with a little time and distance. Sometimes you just need to get your mind off of things for a little while. Go out with friends, exercise, engage in a hobby you love. The key is that you do something that truly engages your mind. Watching a movie could be good, or it could just leave you sitting in a dark theater festering over your problems for two hours.
You can physicalize the letting go process by performing a ritual. Don’t be put off by the word “ritual,” there is nothing spiritual or cultish about it. A ritual is just a consistent procedure you regularly follow. By turning your letting go process into a ritual, you can train your mind to automatically let things go once the ritual starts.
For example, you can write down the thing that is bothering you on a piece of paper and then burn it in a bowl or fireplace (be careful!). Some people use chants, mantras, or affirmations to let things go. I know a person who takes a picture that represents their thought, takes a short walk, and throws away the picture in a public garbage can a few blocks away. Not only have they thrown it away, but they also got it out of their house first!
The act of doing something physical represent letting something go is very powerful. Using rituals may sound strange, but don’t knock it until you try it!
This is probably the least effective method, but worth a shot, especially if you are a logical person. Keep explaining to yourself all the logical reasons why you should stop worrying. Yes, we as humans are emotional creatures, and logic very rarely wins out over emotion, but repeated logical reasoning can eventually engage the emotional part of your brain. If nothing else, by using logic you can force your attention off of what is bothering you and onto where you want it to go.
Troubling thoughts are dangerous, insidious things that can take hold, grow, and completely derail both our small and grand plans. The next time a nagging thought takes hold in your head, try applying one or more of these seven techniques and get back on track!
Avish Parashar is the Motivational Smart Ass. As a speaker and on his blog, Avish makes people laugh while sharing with them simple ideas to make their lives easier and more successful. To read more of his ridiculous rantings on self improvement, watch videos of him in action, and download the free “How to Think Quick” MP3, visit his Motivational Humor Blog at http://www.MotivationalSmartAss.com