The Art of Letting Go
DECEMBER 13, 2016
How to Experience More Joy, Less Stress
The holiday season tends to bring on more stress than other times throughout the year. There are gifts to buy, parties to plan or attend, food to cook — all on top of our already busy schedules. We often put so much pressure on ourselves that sometimes we forget how to take a step back, a deep breath and let go.
Integrative medicine specialist Aditi Nerurkar, MD, Medical Director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Cheng-Tsui Integrated Health Center, agrees that stress not only compromises our ability to experience joy, it can take a real toll on our physical and emotional well-being.
“Stress has been associated with overeating and relationship problems,” Nerurkar says. “It has also been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, anxiety and depression, and other physical ailments like migraines and insomnia.”
Letting Go is the Wise Way
The art of letting go is very much associated with forgiveness and, like forgiveness, it can be a source of peace.
“If you are angry with somebody, thinking and believing that your depression or anxieties are caused by that person, your anger and resentment toward that person doesn’t really mean anything,” says Tsering Yodsampa (right), a Tibetan Lama and chaplain at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “If you let go, you are the one who is getting free from that. Letting go is for your own benefit. It gives you more peace than somebody who is forgiven. It is the highest wisdom.”
Gaining Insight Bit by Bit
Freeing yourself from attachments and aversions takes time and compassion for others and yourself along the journey. Lama Tsering recommends developing a meditation practice.
“The place to start is an emotional mindset where you truly see the disadvantages and the obstacles that are there, the things that make you feel trapped,” he says. “That seeing is called insight and insight can be only obtained when you are calm and settled. This contemplation is the practice of meditation.”
Even five minutes of daily meditation can help us begin to examine the beliefs we’re attached to and start to let go of the ones that are holding us back from happiness.
If meditation doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, there are other ways to examine your patterns of interactions with others as well as within yourself.
“When someone finds that they are reacting more strongly to a situation than one would usually presume, it’s likely because it is reminiscent on an emotional level of situations that have prompted a similar emotional response," says BIDMC mental health therapist Stephen O’Neill, LICSW, BCD, JD. "It’s important to then step back and examine not just the situation at hand but also what associations have been triggered by this. Meditation, as well as psychotherapy, can provide just such a forum for self-reflection and learning to ‘let go.’”
Nerurkar, O’Neill and Lama Tsering all agree that in whatever form, engaging in self-reflection is an endeavor well worth the time and effort. And even incremental changes in the way we think and behave can help us feel better.
“There is no way you can jump to the roof without even taking the first step on the first floor," says Lama Tsering. "So take things slowly. Gradually, through the practice you can start to loosen the grip of the afflictions that are binding you. I’m not saying surrender. I’m saying develop the ability to accept the flow of life, of course with some determination and willpower to go forward. In this way, letting go will help you become less defensive and experience more joy.”
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.