Do you have trouble coping with your emotions, or do you simply wish to work on achieving inner peace? Letting go, a concept that often seems abstract, may help. In fact, it is one of the paths that leads to inner peace, an essential part of a well-balanced existence.
Accept That You Can’t Control Everything
The first step toward learning to let go is realizing that life is unpredictable, and that you often don’t have control over it. Regardless of your current situation, try to identify which aspects are possible to control, and which you have no power over. Letting go means stopping to resist elements that are out of your control. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines letting go in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life: “To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.”
If you cannot change your current situation, there is no point in resisting it. Rather, you should welcome and learn to live with it, as it is part of your reality. It is counterproductive to accumulate frustration and stress due to elements which are out of your control.
With this in mind, it’s important to first identify and accept your emotions. Then, try filling out Beck’s self-evaluation form, whose aim is to help you identify any automatic thoughts. As you become conscious of these thoughts and start to respond to them in a more rational way, you’ll slowly start eliminating emotions that drain your energy, all the while getting closer to achieving inner peace.
Strive for Peace in Your Daily Life
Letting go can also be applied in many situations of daily life. For example: do you find yourself regularly stuck in traffic? If so, do you often experience impatience and anger?
This is a good opportunity to try tweaking your attitude in these types of situations. Take the time to stop and think about things in a rational way. No matter what you do, the situation will unfortunately stay the same: you’ll still be stuck in traffic.
Here are a few solutions which might help:
- Take deep breaths, and put on your favourite song. Or why not listen to a podcast on a topic of your choice? Try to transform this moment, which you have little control over, into a more pleasant one.
- Take advantage of moments by yourself to practice gratitude. For example, you could try naming three elements of your day for which you are grateful, or maybe think of things that brought you happiness this week.
- Live in the moment by identifying what you see and what you’re feeling. For example: a man is walking on the sidewalk, a bird is flying, my feet are cold, there is tension in my neck, etc. Continue this full consciousness exercise by naming at least 10 elements that are part of the current moment.
- Practice cardiac coherence to help you feel calmer. The idea is to inhale for five seconds, exhale for another five seconds, and then repeat the exercise for a duration of five minutes. There are apps you can download, like RespiRelax for example, to help you. By activating the sound on your device, you’ll hear a notification when it’s time to inhale or exhale, making it safe to use in the car.
And if despite all your efforts, you’re still struggling to find inner peace while driving, there are alternative, sustainable modes of transportation you can try.
Another Element of Daily Life Which Often Requires Letting Go Is Work:
- Do you feel responsible for your department’s performance as a whole?
- When an unpleasant situation arises in your work place, does it sometimes ruin your day? Does it cause you to come home with an added element of stress?
- When a coworker addresses you in an unpleasant tone, do you tend to think they are holding something against you? Do these thoughts stay with you for a long time?
Know that these automatic thoughts can be explained by the concept of cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortion is like a pair of glasses which causes you to interpret reality in a distorted or inaccurate way. To let go when faced with unpleasant situations and gradually eliminate these distortions, it’s crucial to learn to identify them. The Beck worksheet can then help you control your automatic thoughts: “You must act as the devil’s advocate and formulate arguments that demonstrate the falseness of this belief”.
You can also try a technique to help create a boundary between your work and personal life. The idea is to meditate daily (even just for five minutes!) or do a sun salutation as soon as you get home. This will help you disconnect, and fully enjoy the present moment.
As a complement to identifying cognitive distortions, art therapy can also be a good way to disconnect. In her book Créer le meilleur de soi (“Creating your best self”), Manon Lavoie suggests a carefree creation exercise. Let your hands do their thing, and don’t overthink!
Free yourself from false obligations
Another way of working toward inner peace is to stop hanging on to the idea that everything must be done right away. Pay attention to how often you say “I have to” in your inner speech. Do you have a strong tendency to use the expression in your personal or professional life?
Think about your daily life. Does a series of responsibilities and obligations spring to mind? I have to go grocery shopping for the week, cook healthy and economical meals every night, clean the house, go to bed at a reasonable hour, reply to my friends so they know they’re important to me, call my parents to see how they’re doing…
If these thoughts seem familiar, you might have trouble feeling relaxed on a daily basis, and may even experience anxiety, which is completely normal. To free yourself from the mental load created by your responsibilities and duties, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Are these tasks really obligations? For example, do you absolutely have to go grocery shopping for the week? Of course, eating is essential, but there are other possibilities, like buying fewer groceries at a time, or ordering food once in a while to give yourself more time to relax.
- If the tasks really are vital, do they absolutely have to be done right away? For example: when you come home and prepare a meal, do you really need to do the dishes right after finishing eating when you’re tired and don’t feel like it? Consider what will happen if you don’t do the dishes right away. You’ll realize that the feeling of urgency is an illusion, because you can always do the dishes later. Why not take a little break and spend some time alone reading a good book, or with your family playing with the kids?
Here are some challenges to try:
- Pay attention to how many times you use “I have to” in your inner speech, and try to replace it with “I would like to” (ex.: I have to go grocery shopping for the week becomes I would like to go grocery shopping for the week). This exercise will help change your perception of “obligations”, making the tasks lighter and more pleasant.
- Let go of a daily task at least once a week. The more you eliminate the pressure you feel due to various responsibilities and obligations, the calmer and more in control of your existence you’re likely to be.
In other words,
letting go means giving yourself peace of mind and being a little more detached
in your everyday life. To do this, it’s important to live in the present and
put judgements and spontaneous thoughts related to daily life into perspective.
It’s an exercise which requires time and effort, but in the end, it should help
you feel lighter and achieve a feeling of inner calm that is essential to your
 Translation from the french version; Kabat-Zinn, Jon. 1994. Où tu vas, tu es. Éditions J’ai lu, Paris, p. 69.
 Ladouceur, Robert, Lynda Bélanger et Éliane Léger. 2003. Arrêtez de vous faire du souci pour tout et pour rien. Éditions Odile Jacob, Paris, p. 109.
 Lavoie, Manon. 2017. Créer le meilleur de soi. Éditions Druide, Montréal, p. 136-137.