The Secret to Letting Go

letting-go

“I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep…. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.” – May Sarton

I went through a very difficult period a few years ago.

Well intentioned people around me would just tell me – you just need to let it go. Let it go!

This advice was useless to me.

I couldn’t let it go because letting go felt like giving up. It felt like telling myself it didn’t matter to me when it was all I could think of. The mere thought of letting go filled me with dread.

So I kept soldering on. I tried convincing myself that everything was OK. I tried positive thinking. I tried positive affirmations.

None of it worked. It only made me feel like a failure because there was a disconnect between what I felt and what I kept telling myself.
It was only when I allowed myself to feel sadness that I was able to let go of a situation that wasn’t working anyway and to start living in a much healthier way.

Sounds strange, right? Why would connecting to sadness actually help in letting go?

Because that is the role of sadness.

All emotions have a message they want to convey, a role they play in our internal village. 

The word emotions comes from the latin ‘movere’ or to move and that is what emotions want us to do – they want to move us to do something.

Sadness wants us to let go.

I see sadness is the street sweeper of our internal village. 

When sadness shows up, it helps us:

♥ To recognize that something is no longer needed or working for us

♥ It helps us release it

♥ And in doing so, it helps us make room for the new – to rejuvenate

Like the autumn trees letting go of dead leaves in order to rest in the winter and rejuvenate in the spring, we too are cyclical.

And when sadness shows up, it asks the question:

What no longer works for me and needs to be let go of? What needs to be rejuvenated? 

As Karla McLaren writes, “Sadness helps you slow down, feel your losses, and release that which needs to be released – to soften into the flow of life instead of holding yourself rigidly and pushing ever onward.” 

Every emotion shows up first as a physical sensation in our body.

We don’t just feel emotions as mental states but as body states first. And with sadness, when we allow it to be without resisting or fighting or numbing it – it helps us let go. Healthy sadness is a physical release, a relaxation, – and tears are also a way of letting go, of physically eliminating toxins and restoring flow.

Like the leaves of a tree, everything in life has its own time or cycle. 

What might have served at one point, worked well even, now no longer does. Sadness signals to us that it is time to let go.

Let go of things that aren’t working for us…

♥ like tension

♥ muscle tightness

But also 

♥ anxiety

♥ soldiering on behaviors

♥ thoughts, behaviors or beliefs that we are no longer working for us but that we are still holding on to

♥ a relationship or certain dynamics in a relationship

♥ a situation

Letting go restores flow. It allows us to make space for new ideas and needs and desires that are more connected to who we are right now – rather than holding on to outdated ideas or needs or beliefs or relationships.

So what happens in our village if we don’t feel sadness – if we try to not feel it or never allow ourselves to physically relax? Our village gets overrun with garbage. And who wants to live in a cluttered village that is overflowing with garbage? This can even lead to burn out or depression.

When you allow yourself to welcome your sadness instead of fighting it, trying to suppress it or distracting yourself from it, you allow it to sweep away what no longer works for you.

We think sadness wants to steal something from us or to hurt us and that we have to fight it or protect ourselves from it. Yet the willingness to feel sadness is the secret to being able to let go. And it is only when we let go that we can rejuvenate, that we can make room for new, vibrant, beautiful leaves – leaves that reflect who we are today.

So as much as possible, can you stay open to your sadness and simply notice:

What must be released?

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What must be rejuvenated?

And next time you feel sadness instead of resisting it or trying not to feel it, see if you can breathe in deeply and let go of tension as you exhale. Let your body help you work with your sadness and notice how much more flowing and vital life becomes.

Allow your street sweeper to do their job.

In the hero stories, the call to go on a journey takes the form of a loss, an error, a wound, an unexplainable longing, or a sense of a mission. When any of these happens to us, we are being summoned to make a transition. It will always mean leaving something behind…The paradox here is that loss is a path to gain. – David Richo

Inspired by The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren + Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Below are some photos of the recent yoga + psychology event in the park with Marisa of Wild.Happy.Heart.

yoga-letting-go

Do you mix food and feelings?

Food & feelings

When you are feeling stressed, bored or depressed, do you find yourself reaching for food?

As emotional beings, our relationship to food IS emotional. We take pleasure in eating. Food is not just fuel to us. But if you find yourself regularly using food to numb emotions or stress, its time to take a deeper look at what’s really going on.

Here are some steps you can take to bring a level of awareness to help you cope with emotional eating.

1. Identify your true need

Ask yourself whether you are hungry. If you are not actually hungry for food, ask yourself what you are hungry for – this could be love or connection or stimulation. According to Linda Spangle, when we are feeling angry, aggressive or stressed, we tend to crave more crunchy foods such as chips, cookies or crackers. When we are feeling more sadness, loneliness, fatigue or comfort we crave more mushy and smooth foods like chocolate, ice-cream or pasta. Often, craving something sweet means we are looking for more sweetness and pleasure in our lives – perhaps as a resulting from too much work and not having enough me-time. You can use your craving as a clue to help decipher your true need.

2. Find non-food ways of meeting your true hunger

Once you have identified WHY you are craving food without being hungry, realize that eating is not going to do the trick. Your cravings or binges are not actually the problem – the problem is what you are avoiding by eating. Try instead to identity what’s going on before you are tempted to eat and make a list of alternative ways you can address this need, such as talking to a friend or going out more if you are bored or doing things that bring you pleasure if you are craving more sweetness in your life.

3. Feel it, don’t fix it

If you just feel overwhelming feelings and can’t stop to ask yourself what you’re really hungry for, try to just feel what you are feeling for 30 seconds without judgment and without trying to fix it. Even if it feels like your emotions are going to swallow you whole, when you stop and just tune into your body to feel what is happening and where the emotion is within you, you are taking a first step towards bringing awareness to emotional eating. All emotions actually have a physical root, so trying to identify in your body what you are feeling is a very powerful tool to helping you cope with emotions.

4. Bring more satisfaction to your meals…and your life

Eating meals that truly satisfy you actually decreases the risk that you crave or binge on certain foods. According to Marc David, if your body does not register satisfaction when eating because you are eating food you don’t actually like or are not taking time to enjoy it, your body’s signal will be for MORE food which leads to binges or cravings.

Are your meals truly satisfying, do you take time to enjoy them and get the most out of them? Are you truly honoring your hunger and eating when your body tells you it needs food or are you waiting so long that you lose all control when you see food? Do you restrict yourself when it comes to ‘bad’ foods? Restriction actually leads to rebellion and loss of control, so try eating your ‘bad’ foods in moderation to avoid reaching this stage.

5. Be gentle with yourself

Above all, be gentle with yourself. If you are using emotional eating as a coping mechanism, there is a perfectly good reason for this. Change takes time and you can choose to focus on every tiny victory along the way instead of lamenting what isn’t working.

Apply an attitude of nonjudgmental curiosity and start investigating what is REALLY going on in your life. And if you need help with this, don’t hesitate to book a free chat with me to discuss how I can support you on this journey.

 

The Emotions of Weight Loss

I came across a very interesting article on the emotional obstacles to weight loss.More and more studies are showing that for weight loss and lifestyle changes to be sustainable, the emotional aspect also needs to be taken into account.

An excerpt:

From my own perspective, I’ve worked with many people who honestly felt they didn’t deserve to be healthy, to be beautiful, to be happy. Every effort they’d made in the past to lose weight and improve their wellbeing had been sabotaged by psychological ghosts. Negative self-talk got the better of them even after they’d experienced substantial success in losing weight and/or achieving other health and fitness goals. When a number of these folks combined emotional work with their lifestyle changes, it was like the air cleared. Not overnight, but over time.

Ways of addressing emotions linked to weight loss:

Self-awareness through journaling & being conscious of your self-talk.

Social support through friends and family or online forums.

Replace food with self-care by identifying the triggers to emotional eating. For example, if food is used as a means of comfort, take care of yourself in other ways, such as getting a massage or taking a bubble bath. If food is being used as a way of adding sweetness or pleasure to life, learn to be gentler with yourself and seek other sources of pleasure.

Feeling emotions rather than numbing them with food is an essential part of the process – this can be done through a relaxation technique, journaling or by talking to someone.

In order to let go of excess weight, letting go of what is no longer needed is essential. This can include old habits and ways of nourishing oneself (on a physical and emotional level), outdated, negative beliefs (ex. ‘I don’t deserve to be thin’), the need for protection (ex. ‘If I lose weight I will get attention from the wrong men’).

Finally, losing weight implies shedding an old identity. And even if this is an unwanted identity, humans are naturally loss-averse, and what we risk losing feels more tangible than the seemingly distant identity we have to gain. Losing weight implies trust and faith in the new identity being created.