December 31, 2016

Breaking News: Letting Go is Good for Your Heart… And a whole lot of other things

By Bradley Francis, MSW, CSW

As each new year approaches, we often think of new ways to reduce debt, to reduce unhealthy practices, or to reduce the amount of things cluttering our homes. Letting go of things that no longer serve us well frees up space for those that do. Often it is relieving to let go of things and just enjoy the space that remains.

Much like spring cleaning our homes, apartments, or other living or working space, we can let go of emotional excess. It takes meaningful meditation, introspection, and thoughtful consideration of personal issues to decide which issues or conflicts are holding us down.

Letting go of emotional conflict is not easy. It is not something that we can tell our brain to just do. Sometimes it takes a change of scenery. Sometimes it takes changing our perspective, and sometimes even confrontation, if the issue involves someone else. Even if the other person does not change, apologize, or understand, it is still worth stating your opinion.

There is catharsis in sticking up for yourself in a healthy way. There is catharsis in apologizing for your part in the conflict. There can be catharsis in “moving on”, whether it be changing employment, changing who you spend your time with, or lessening the amount of time you spend on things that are fleeting. Just like eating iceberg lettuce or white bread are empty calories, void of substance, we often spend a lot of time doing things or seeking things that might give us instant gratification but are not edifying or long lasting.

So, while pondering on the new year and making positive changes, look to the past for thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, philosophies, opinions, judgments, or conflicts that wear you out. In addition to getting rid of things in your house that are in the way or are empty clutter, seek to let go of emotional clutter. In addition to reconsidering your budget and reducing debt by prioritizing the most important needs, reconsider what you spend your time on and make your family a priority.

I am a collector by nature. I was born a collector. It started at a young age with rocks, then coins, then baseball cards, then amassing large amounts of antiques and collectables, then back to baseball cards, and recently full circle back to rocks. I have come to the conclusion that I would rather do things than have things. At first when I thought about selling certain things, I would get separation anxiety over parting with them. However, once I actually let an item go, I never worried about it one bit. I often forget about it completely.

It is well known that emotional stress and anxiety can have disastrous consequences on our physical health. Yet, we still hold on tight to our stresses and conflicts. We resist letting go of conflict because it requires us to exercise humility, and can often feel like we have given up on something we felt was important. It can even feel like a severe blow to our dignity. But ask yourself this: Is this issue solvable? Is winning at all cost more important than peace of mind?

Once you let go and move on you will be pleasantly surprised. You will not care as much as you thought you would. You may even quickly forget about it. You may discover that the person you were worrying about has moved on long ago. I remember the moment I realized that people do not judge me or think about me as much as I think they do. Very humbling.

So find a way, any way, to let go. Your brain, your heart, your muscles, your lungs, and your fists will thank you. And ultimately, your spirit, soul, and family will thank you. Good luck in the new year, as you prepare for your emotional spring cleaning!

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About Bradley J. Francis, MSW, CSW'

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