How to Let Go of Little Things

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Ah, the little things.

Your husband loses his keys for the 37th time. A driver cuts you off. A nasty neighbor complains about your disruptive children. A restaurant serves you the wrong entree. And it’s cold.

Things happen. Things that make us angry, upset and annoyed. Things we wish we could shake but can’t because it’s our nature to hang onto them. So we stew on them. We argue, complain, mope or yell. Some of us toss and turn in our beds at night because, in spite of our efforts, we cannot let them go.

Our reactions to the things that happen to us are programmed, from the way we snap at our spouse when we are running late to a party, to the way we roll our eyes when a certain colleague rambles in a meeting. So if we want to get better at letting go of the little things, we have to do a little reprogramming. We have to train ourselves to accept the things that happen to us. We don’t have to agree with it, we simply have to accept that it’s there, so that we can respond and move on, and not get weighed down by the negative energy.

Here are some tips to consider the next time you find yourself in an unpleasant situation:

1. Breathe slowly.
You can change your state with just a few, slow deep breaths. When we’re upset or panicked, we tend to take short, shallow breaths, which is why the simple act of intentional breathing is so powerful in bringing the body to a state of calm.

2. Acknowledge your emotion.
Give it a name: Frustration. Anger. Disappointment. You feel how you feel and you’re entitled to that. But take it a step further and observe the feeling, mentally and physically, with no judgement or analysis. This is the first step in bringing some awareness to whatever problem you are facing.

3. Remind yourself of the smallness of the situation.
The little things are exactly that. Little. Someone cutting in line or answering their phone in the middle of a movie can be particularly infuriating, but it’s not a big deal. A great way to handle situations like these is by asking yourself questions like:
▪ “Do I need to make a big deal over this?”
▪ “Do I need to freak out?”
▪ “Will this matter in 5 days? 5 months? 5 years?”
More often than not, the answer will be the same: No. And this brief moment of reflection is so important because it not only puts your problem in perspective, but it also interrupts your old programmed reactions, giving you time to respond in a more positive way.

4. Focus on solutions.
What needs to happen now? Can you let it go? Or do you need to take action? If action is required, can you think of a few healthy ways to respond? What is one thing you can do – maybe even right now – to make the situation better? Your emotions, while justified, aren’t going to fix the situation, so shift into solution mode, focus on answers and don’t leave room for worry negativity.

5. Find the good in the situation.
The strongest people are the ones who are able to find the gift in any situation because they choose to make the best of what life throws at them. There is a positive in everything you encounter whether it’s a lesson or an opportunity, so choose to find it. It’s hard, especially if you’re dealing with unfair, inconsiderate and selfish people, so start with asking yourself: “What can I take away from this?” At the very least, you can appreciate the satisfaction of having reacted with integrity and strength, and move on.

We all have people and things in our lives that can make us a little crazy. That will never change. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to remember that we get to choose how to respond. It’s difficult, and it takes practice, but it is so powerful. And we can do it.

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Author: Rosanna Casper

Rosanna Casper is on a quest to improve health, happiness and performance, chronicling her journey at www.hackerella.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Rosanna,

    Your post has got me thinking.

    Life is in the little things and how we handle them is a going to make a big difference so can I add a little to your ideas?

    Firstly, to ask why we're getting irritated. It's often just a learned trait or habit (as you say old programmed reactions) and sometimes based on an unhelpful belief. We react as that's what we picked up from those around us. We can decide to change and not react if we now believe we don't need to.

    Secondly, as you say find the good in the situation. If we feel others have been inconsiderate or careless then it should motivate and remind us not to do the same. Often there's an opportunity to learn something new or help someone. An example is I had some difficulties with a website this morning not loading in the browser I use. In the end I learnt a lot about certificates, how to test them, installed a secondary browser and was able to provide the website owner with some clear and helpful information. That was much better then some of the angry posts I saw on some forums.

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