Want to Be Happier? Letting Go of These Will Make it Happen

Want to Be Happier? Letting Go of These Will Make it Happen

Happiness is as much about what we do as it is about what we don’t do.

We were born to set the world on fire. To live, love, learn, fall down, haul ourselves back up and do it all over again. Above all else, we were born to be happy. Everything we need to do that, is in us. 

There’s a trap we humans fall into a little bit. Actually a lot. I’ve done it myself once or a thousand times. We make the mistake of thinking the things that are completely within our control, aren’t. We fall under the spell of these ‘things’ and they become automatic, unnoticed and powerful. We don’t realise the damage they do – or that we can put an end to that damage as soon as we make the decision to.

When times get tough, it’s human nature to hang on harder to what’s familiar, even if it’s something that’s doing damage. We don’t realise it’s a choice. But it is. Here is a list of the things that hold us back. The more you let go of, the more things will change, and the more you – for the better:

  1. Other people’s opinions.

    You’re enough. You’ve always been enough. Good enough. Wise enough. Strong enough. Brave enough. Enough to decide who’s right for you, what’s right for you, the best way to be, the best way to live. Your wisdom gets lost when you listen too much to other people and not enough to yourself. People will doubt you, criticize and try to change your mind. Often that has more to do with them than you. Bend and flex when it feels right – if you feel like you’re doing it to keep someone else happy, leave it alone. 

  2. Having to please other people. (Oh those expectations!)

    This life is yours to live and it’s up to you to cherish the opportunity that comes with that. It’s the space you’ve been given to learn in, to love, be loved, flourish and sometimes, to fall. Don’t let anybody take that away by trying to control what you do with it. 

    You will disappoint people. And they’ll disappoint you. But live to please everyone and the person you’ll be hurting time after time is you. Let your decisions be guided by your truth and your wisdom and not someone else’s conditions of acceptance of you. If those conditions are designed to suit anyone else but you, then it’s not acceptance, it’s manipulation. Every time you change for someone you move a little bit more away from your authentic self and that wild open heart of yours becomes a little more tamed, a little more contained and you become a little more removed from your true self – that one that was born to set the world on fire.

  3. Saying yes to everyone. And their cousin’s neighbour’s mother.

    If you’re saying yes just to avoid saying no, it’s probably not the right thing to say yes to. The more things you say yes to the things you don’t want, the less room you’ll have to say yes to the things that actually matter.

  4. Anything that stops you asking for clarification, time, help, patience, understanding, space. 

    You’re human. You’ll need all of these things at some time or another. Sometimes you’ll need all of them at once – and you’re entitled them. Remember that. If there is shame around asking for it, whose voice is telling you that you shouldn’t need it? A parent’s? Someone you’re comparing yourself to? Someone you’ve been compared to? Who? It doesn’t matter if you can’t figure it out, what matters is that you recognise it as not being your own. Let it go. It is a sign of great strength – and wisdom – to be able to ask for what you need when you need it. If you’re not used to it, it will feel awkward at first, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right. And the more you ask, the easier it will get.

  5. Judging, criticizing, complaining. (And if you’re about to skip this because ‘you’d never do that to anyone, it includes doing it to yourself, too!)

    We all get it wrong sometimes. You don’t want to be one of those righteous, jugdementals who criticize and condemn someone because their faults are different to yours. If the urge is there, and at times it will be, check in and see where it’s coming from. Are you comparing, feeling insecure, jealous? All of those are okay to feel, but be careful how you act on them.

    We’ve all lost, loved, wanted and been bent over with grief. We’ve all been hurt, misunderstood and rejected. For some people, it’s been too many times and it’s changed them. That doesn’t mean you have to like them or accept them, but don’t add to the punches. Step quietly around and remember that we all want to be accepted, understood and loved. And if that someone you’re criticising and judging is you, then this all goes double. You can’t expect to set your world on fire when you’re smothering your spark with trash talk.

  6. Excuses.

    It’s our right as humans to stuff it up, fall apart and get it wrong sometimes – you don’t need to make excuses. An apology perhaps. Maybe an explanation. But never an excuse. You’re better than that. Don’t shy away from your own humanity, by pretending you don’t struggle with the same things we all struggle with. 

  7. Letting idiots, jerks and toxics change who you are.

    There will always be those who will try to dim you – and that will have nothing to do with you. If you find there’s someone in your life whose words or actions lead you to doubt that you’re good enough, smart enough, capable enough, beautiful enough, then it’s time to let go – of them, what they think, and what they mean to you. Don’t feel you have to justify or apologise cutting anyone from your life if they’ve handed you the scissors. 

  8. Thinking only the big things should be celebrated.

    Life happens in moments. It’s never about the big things, but about the small things that add up to something extraordinary. Celebrate those moments, however small. You’ll know them because they’ll leave you feeling inspired, hopeful, excited, brave or strong. You won’t always see the importance straight away, but you don’t need to see the final picture in its splendid completion to appreciate the parts that add up to make it happen.

  9. Talking, shutting down or getting busy – when it would be best to listen.

    Every single person you meet knows something you don’t. Even the idiots who would sooner see you fall. Listen to everything before you decide that none of it’s worth knowing. You’ve got nothing to prove – you don’t need to be smarter than, better than, bigger than, funner than, wiser than. You just need to listen. The rest will take care of itself. You’ll always have more influence with people if they feel as though you’e heard them. That alone is a good reason to pause and listen before you decide what to do with what you’ve heard.

  10. The need to be right.

    There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. Who had us believing there was anyway? Sometimes it’s the only way you can know what’s right. Better to put it out there and test it out than believe in the nonsense long term. Have faith that even if you’re wrong, you had a good reason for believing it in the first place. Then, be comforted by the fact that you were brave enough to let it go. It’s the fear of making a mistake that keeps us stuck in bad jobs, bad relationships, and around people who are bad for us. Don’t worry about being wrong. Worry that you’ll hang to ‘wrong’ for so long that you’ll never realise how ‘right’ things can be.

  11. Holding back.

    Vulnerability is the key to great relationships and a wonderful life but too many times we hold back. With people. With ideas. With ambition. With a ‘what if …’. We don’t take enough chances and it’s the fear of shame that holds us back. That fear is a dirty little liar. The truth is this: When it’s that thing or that person you can’t stop thinking about – you know the one – you’ll always have more to lose by staying safe than by taking a chance. By staying safe you’ll never experience shame, but you’ll never experience how great you could have been – and that’s a huge loss. Be daring. Be open. And don’t hold back. You’re here to fly – to love, to be loved, to flourish, to succeed, to grow, to knock this world off its feet with what you have to offer – and none of that comes with holding back.

  12. The need for control.

    I heard something once – don’t know where – and I draw on it often when I need courage or the strength to take a risk – ‘Fall back and let the universe catch you.’ By needing to control things, you’re missing the opportunities that show up spontaneously and unexpectedly. Let go, and see what happens. This has become my mantra is because I’ve seen what happens when I do. Doors open, paths widen. When you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, things open up. They just do.

  13. The Resistance to Change.

    Our paths are never straight. They’ll be sometimes bendy, sometimes smooth and sometimes clear. Sometimes the pot-holes will be so deep that you’ll fall into them in glaring sunshine and hit the bottom in the dark – but there’s always a way up. One thing is for certain, at times the direction of our path will change and sometimes this will be unexpected. If fighting it keeps pushing you backwards, try going with it and see where that takes you. Change is the fuel for growth and flourishing. The scariest part of making a change is that moment just before the leap, but once that leap is taken, you will be surprised with the doors that will open and the opportunities that will find you. I’m not saying that it will always be easy – things that are worth it rarely are – I’m saying that it will be worth it. When the path keeps getting blocked, your heart keeps getting broken, or the things you do keep pushing you down, it’s time to let go of trying to control or change whatever it that’s hurting you. You can always change direction – or change the path you’re on.

  14. Regret

    At some point in time, every decision you made felt like the right one to be making based on the balance of the information that was available to you. That doesn’t always mean it was the right one, so learn from it, move on from it and decide not to go back there. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in it by regret – it will chew you from the inside out.

  15. Blame

    Sometimes people do awful things, but they can’t control what you do from here on. Forgiveness isn’t about making everything okay but about letting go of someone’s control over you. Still despise them, what they did, and shut them out of your life – absolutely, but just don’t have them standing there by your side while you keep moving forward.

Letting go of those things can be hard, and there’s no need to let go of all them all at once. Start with one. Just one. And see what happens. Only good things can happen when you kick the stuff that weighs you down, not the least of which is freeing up energy and options for the things that will flourish you – and there are plenty of those waiting to take hold as soon as there’s space. 

What would you add to the list? 

9 Comments

anonymous

These articles are no doubt helpful and eye opening but one big thing you could add as you tell people don’t hold back, take a chance because you don’t know what else is out there for you is to never ever ever hurt anyone to do this, never take advantage of anyone, use anyone, manipulate anyone, con anyone to get what else might be out there for you. Having been on the receiving end of that kind of person I was in a relationshio with for over ten years, such inhumane treatment is life destroying. Yes the average good person should know this already but those who abuse a person’s goodwill need to hear this. Then again those people would probably never read this type of writings.

Reply
Brigitte

I subscribed to Hey Sigmund because I have a son, who is incredibly anxious due to a lot of awful things happening in his life, totally out of his control. It is very hard being the parent of a child like this because when he is happy, he is a real charmer but that doesn’t happen much any more and he’s only 11. I always find something relevant in your articles to think about and try to apply to him. I also send them through to his teachers so that they can have a better understanding of why he is the way he is. He is severely dyslexic and incredibly intelligent. Just those two combined are frustrating enough. Throw in a dead father, a mother with cancer and an anorexic sister and life is just very very tough.

Thanks for your articles. They are the first I’ve found in 9 years of searching that make sense to me for him.

Brigitte

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Hey Sigmund

Hi Brigitte. I’m so sorry to hear that your family is going through such a touch time. I will never understand why some people get hit with so much all at once. Your little man will get through because of you and because of how much you believe in him and love him and support him. You sound like you’re their rock and I hope there is someone looking after you too. I’m pleased the articles are able to help you. Much love and strength to you.

Reply
Wendy

This goes straight to my core. I need to do all these things. From what source should I seek professional help? What sort of doctor? My brain is exhausted and it’s difficult to recognize truth and when I do, I feel like I don’t have the courage to make the necessary changes. I wish I had a monitor in my thoughts to help guide me, to learn from by example. Oh well…thank you for spelling out such clear truth.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Hi Wendy. Everything you need to make the changes is in you. The courage, the strength, the resilience – it’s all there. It might be buried under your struggles and history and heartache, but it’s all there. When it’s buried too deep, you might need support to reach it, in which case a counsellor will certainly be able to help you. The other thing is that you don’t have to do it all at once. When you change one thing, you would be surprised with what else will fall into place. Changing too many things at once would be overwhelming for anyone and would likely send you straight back to old habits, so if you can, start with something easy. With regards to finding a counsellor, a doctor can help put you on to one, otherwise ask friends if they know of anyone. I’m not sure what country you’re in, but you’ll probably find that for a counsellor or psychologist you won’t need a referral. I hope this helps.

Reply
Alex Schiavo

Ideas presented here are remarkable in their
similarity to Buddhist teachings!

Reply
Allie

These articles always have a way of finding me when I need them. Thank you!

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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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