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

Reply
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!

Reply

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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