If you learn how to let go of things, this year could be the best you’ve ever had.
This could be the year when you accomplish more than you ever imagined and finally feel content and happy.
Maybe this year your relationships are healthy and strong and you finally feel great about yourself.
With every new year, we consider how we can improve.
What new habits do we need to develop? What goals should we set? What should we add to our lives to make them better?
Having goals and developing good habits are valuable endeavors, but sometimes it’s more important to let things go rather than adding more to your life.
What Do I Need to Let Go Of to Be Happy?
You can begin the process of letting go by analyzing the attachments that cause you the most suffering. It could be a mindset, a desire or need, a material thing (or the longing for one), or a relationship.
Buddhist teachings tell us that attachment is the root of suffering. Attachment to our desires are transient and loss is unavoidable. Change is the only constant in life, so accepting the inevitability of change and loss can release us from suffering.
By spending more time savoring the present moment, rather than clinging to our attachments, we become more content and happy. Research supports the practice of non-attachment and mindfulness, showing that it improves mental health.
47 Things to Let Go Of for a Happier Life
Our list of things to let go of in life can help you recognize the attachments and habits that cause you suffering and limit your joy. Find one that impacts your life right now, and work toward releasing in this area.
1. Holding on to excess stuff.
A quick win for things to let go is your stuff. Are your closets are crammed full of clothes you don’t wear? Is your house bursting at the seams with years of accumulated items and furnishings?
Letting go of materials things is an excellent way to practice non-attachment. Too much unnecessary stuff weighs you down and can even make you feel depressed and overwhelmed.
2. Accumulating more stuff.
Along with letting go of material things, work to tamp down the desire to buy more.
It’s hard when you are bombarded daily with ads for the next new shiny thing. Buying something new gives us a rush of dopamine at first. But the good feelings fade quickly, and you’re on to the next purchase.
Your pocketbook and your psyche will thank you for releasing the need to accumulate.
3. Having expectations of others.
Having expectations of how others should think or behave can cause deep suffering. We can’t control other people, even if we have some authority or power over them.
When you let go of expectations, you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. You also learn to accept and appreciate the authentic person rather than the facsimile you want them to be.
4. Holding grudges.
Nothing is more toxic to your mental health than anger and resentment. These are poisons that steal the joy from your life and mire you in pain.
Even if you’re holding out for revenge, remember that the satisfaction of revenge doesn’t bring the relief you’re seeking. The only relief comes in releasing the grudge and moving on with your life.
5. Desiring recognition, power, or prestige.
Of course, we all want to be successful and acknowledged for our accomplishments. But when that wish morphs into a need and longing for recognition and power, you are riding a slippery slope.
Rather than seeking constant reinforcement and accolades from others, put that energy into appreciating every step of the path. Allow the joy to come from the experiences rather than attention you might receive.
6. Keeping unhealthy relationships.
Are there people in your life who keep you stirred up? Do they treat you poorly or neglect you? Are they critical or demanding?
How would it feel if you didn’t have to cope with those people and their behaviors? Let go of people who cause you suffering, and if you can’t let them go completely, manage the amount of time you spend with them.
7. Overindulging with food and alcohol.
Make a mindful decision about how you want to nourish your body to maintain your eating or fitness goals. Overindulging is physically unhealthy and contributes to poor mental health.
You may feel attached to certain foods you think you can’t give up, like bread or your nightly cocktail. Change your mindset and embrace that you don’t have to remain attached to unhealthy habits.
Keep a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables available so you always have a choice. Also, keep some bottles of sparkling water and limes handy to have instead of a cocktail.
8. Cramming too much in your schedule.
Try to cut back on the number of events and obligations you commit to each week. If you’re stressed or overwhelmed by all you have on your plate, take some things off of it.
You can’t do it all, so pick and choose the most meaningful events carefully. Spend more time with friends and family and relaxing in the comfort of your home.
9. Ruminating on the past.
Everyone has painful memories from the past. We get stuck on our regrets, old wounds, and anger. But the past is dead, and no amount of thinking about it will change anything.
When you find yourself ruminating on the past, interrupt this pattern. Take action and do something fun or productive in the present moment.
If you have trauma from the past that isn’t resolved, go to a professional counselor and work on it. Do this for yourself and those who love you.
10. Taking things personally.
People can have short tempers and irritable demeanors. Some people have these problems and take them out on you.
But remind yourself that it isn’t you. You aren’t the cause of their behavior, so try to let it go and move on. Don’t waste too much thought on wondering what you might have done.
11. Practicing people pleasing.
We want our family and friends to be happy, but when you try to please others at the expense of your needs, your actions are based on a desire for approval and acceptance.
Those you are pleasing ultimately will take advantage of you and perhaps lose respect for you.
Your sense of self-worth shouldn’t be based on the approval of others. Please others because you want to — not because you fear they won’t love you if you don’t.
12. Having self-critical thinking.
One of the most damaging triggers for low self-esteem is indulging in self-critical thinking.
You might assume you are self-critical because you have low self-esteem, but it’s the critical thoughts that make it so difficult to boost your feelings of worthiness.
Start by changing your thoughts, even if it feels false at first. Catch yourself when you are self-critical, and say something positive about yourself instead. Choose to focus on what you know is positive and good about yourself.
13. Putting things over people or experiences.
We all know that stuff doesn’t bring happiness, yet we all fall in the trap of buying things to make us feel better.
Time with people we care about and meaningful experiences foster long-term positive memories that increase our overall happiness. Spend your money there first.
14. Comparing yourself to others.
Feelings of jealousy and inferiority make us feel bitter, resentful, and unhappy. Make a vow to yourself to end comparisons. Look to your own measuring stick for success and happiness.
Hang around people who are supportive, encouraging, and uplifting rather than those who attempt to make you look or feel bad.
15. Making excuses.
Making excuses is simply a lie we tell ourselves and others to cover our mistakes or neglect.
They rarely fool people, and they only serve to distance you from what you need to do to accomplish what you want. You can offer real and valid reasons but never excuses.
16. Assuming you can’t.
Have there been endeavors in your life that you assumed you couldn’t master? Let go of assuming and start trying instead.
Assuming is just a barrier between you and what you CAN achieve if you try. Assume you can do something, and let your repeated efforts prove it to you.
17. Letting someone else define you.
Release the need to give up your self-empowerment because it may be easier.
Don’t give away your power and authentic self to someone else. No matter how close a person is to you, they can never know your genuine feelings, beliefs, and motivations. These are yours alone and define who you are.
If you don’t know these feelings, beliefs, and motivations, start asking yourself and discover who you are.
18. Taking your partner for granted.
Release any excuses for neglecting your spouse or partner. If you’re in a relationship with someone you love, make them the centerpiece of your life. Really.
Do something every day to show them how much you love them. Put the relationship first and let everything else fall behind it. If your relationship is empty or unhappy, your life will be as well.
19. Feeling guilt or shame.
If you need to apologize to yourself or another person for something you’ve said or done, do so.
Then release yourself from the burden of guilt and shame. Forgive yourself and try to do better going forward.
20. Neglecting your physical health.
Poor health will undermine everything else in your life. Let go of your resistance to giving your body the time and attention it needs and deserves.
Let go of assumptions and excuses that hold you back. Eat well, get daily exercise, and go to your check-ups.
21. Avoiding a difficult conversation.
Are you procrastinating on a difficult conversation or resolving a conflict? Let that go and handle it immediately and directly.
Don’t let the situation fester to the point that it causes anxiety. If it already causes stress, it won’t get better by dragging it out.
22. Gossiping about others.
Gossip may be fun for the moment, but it’s hurtful to others and demeans you. People gossip because it gives them a sense of power. It also can be a cover for low self-esteem and jealousy.
Work on letting go of the emotions that entice you to gossip. If you feel insecure or jealous, learn to release these feelings to not cause pain to yourself or others.
23. Letting fear rule you.
How many actions or decisions have you avoided because you were too afraid? Fear is a feeling that’s rarely based in reality.
It’s like allowing a toddler to make your decisions for you. Use your sound judgment and wisdom, rather than fear and anxiety, when making choices for your life.
24. Assuming you’re always right.
We tend to operate from the assumption that we know everything. We believe our opinions and beliefs are the best. But that’s not true.
Challenge your beliefs and assumptions and stay open to new ideas. This makes you more approachable and interesting. Release the need to be right all the time.
25. Procrastinating on an important project.
Procrastination is like a thorn in your side, irritating you and making life uncomfortable. Decide that procrastination is no longer welcome in your life.
You may think you’re too busy right now, but just get started. Once you take the first step, the rest is far easier than you think.
26. Trying to control other people.
When you try to control others, it’s a way of revealing your own insecurities. Accept others for who they are and allow them to do as they wish.
Your efforts at control only create resentment, and you have no real control anyway. Just let it go.
27. Taking out your inner pain on others.
If you are angry, wounded, or resentful, taking it out on other people pushes them away from you. You may not be able to let go of the pain, but you can relinquish the way you handle it.
Find a healthy outlet for your feelings (by journaling, talking to a counselor, or sharing with a friend), so your inner pain doesn’t hurt others.
28. Holding on to your issues.
If you have inner pain, find out its cause, so you don’t continue to harbor it and take it out on others.
Whatever the issue or problem, you need to acknowledge it and address it forthrightly so you can release the pain. A therapist can help you with this.
29. Pretending it’s ok to be overweight.
The #1 New Year’s resolution is losing weight. It’s also the #1 failed resolution. Don’t accept being overweight as inevitable or acceptable.
Take care of your health and let go of any excuses or ambivalence you feel about being overweight. Be determined to address it, even if it takes a while.
30. Putting down those who don’t share your beliefs.
It can be intimidating to be around others who believe or think differently from us. Just look on Facebook, and you’ll see how quickly people turn to criticism and belittling of those who hold differing opinions.
A healthy disagreement is positive, but name-calling, put-downs, and shaming only make you look petty. This behavior speaks to the need to be right, so work on releasing that need.
31. Assuming you know best for other people.
This is part of controlling behavior — thinking your way is the best way for those around you.
You may have good ideas and opinions, but wait for others to ask you before you assume they want to hear them. You may be surprised to learn that what you think is best really isn’t what someone else wants at all.
32. Treating your children disrespectfully.
Even though they are small, young, and inexperienced, they deserve to be treated respectfully.
You can train and discipline your children with love and kindness, even when you need to be firm. It’s easier to do this when you let go of some of the other items on this list, like over-scheduling and neglecting your health.
33. Treating your parents disrespectfully.
Just because they’re your parents doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. Show them love, respect, attention, and kindness.
Work on releasing any resentments or past pain you may cling to related to your mom or dad. Focus on the love and history you share and the joyous moments you can share in the future.
34. Treating yourself disrespectfully.
You deserve as much love and respect as anyone around you. Even if you don’t feel worthy, start treating yourself as someone who is. Over time, your respectful actions may convince you it’s true.
Talking down to yourself and not practicing self-care can become bad habits. Release these behaviors before they do.
35. Allowing your home to get cluttered and disorganized.
Clutter drains your energy and creates anxiety. It’s especially easy to let things get out of hand if your life is busy and over-scheduled.
Take just ten minutes a day to tackle the clutter and keep things tidy. This one small habit can make you feel remarkably better about yourself.
36. Seeking happiness outside of yourself.
No one person or situation can make you happy, so let go of seeking it in those places. Happiness is a mindset.
There will always be times of pain and hardship, but a positive mindset helps you move through those times more quickly and easily.
37. Holding on to small lies you tell yourself (and others).
We all have little lies we tell ourselves and others to feel better. Those small lies are roadblocks to your personal growth.
Stare them down and face the truth, even though it’s uncomfortable. The truth sets you free.
38. Grasping at “magical” thinking and wishing.
Wishful thinking and magical “laws of attraction” don’t create real and lasting change. The only way to make things happen is by taking daily action.
If you want something, you have to go for it — not just with your mind but also with your hands and feet.
39. Not taking personal responsibility.
When things go wrong in life, it’s tempting to point to others as the cause of the problem. Let that go.
More often than not, the cause is some choice or action that we’ve taken. Personal responsibility gives you the freedom to manage and control your own life.
40. Clutching a victim mentality.
You may have had tragic and difficult events in your life. Someone may have treated you terribly or taken advantage of you.
But if you allow these events to make you a victim, you’ll never escape the pain or find the happiness you want. How are you hanging on to a victim mentality? Isn’t it time to let go so you can move on?
41. Basing self-worth on your appearance.
When you don’t feel attractive or desirable, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. But if you look around you, you’ll see that most people in the world aren’t physically beautiful as our culture defines beauty.
Your value rests in your unique self. Try to practice acceptance of your appearance, flaws and all, and focus your attention on your internal qualities.
43. Indulging in self-sabotaging behaviors.
Are you behaving in ways that undermine your happiness and success? You may not be conscious of it, but sometimes we sabotage ourselves because we fear success or fear that we are destined to fail, so we might as well prove it to everyone up front.
Notice how you might be doing this, and begin to let go of this tendency. Don’t be your own worst enemy.
44. Using passive aggression to manipulate others.
When we’re too uncomfortable or afraid to be straightforward and honest, we can resort to passive aggressiveness.
These “back door” behaviors are manipulative and weak and create resentment in your relationships. Release the fear behind manipulation and learn to be authentic instead.
45. Assuming self-reflection is a waste of time.
Your self-development is a life long endeavor. We always have something to learn and transitions in life that can be wonderful opportunities for positive change.
But it requires active awareness and effort and the desire to become a more evolved and emotionally intelligent person. Release assumptions and keep growing.
46. Avoiding help when you need it.
Far too many people believe asking for help is weak. If this is you, let go of this false assumption. Asking for help is a sign of strength, courage, and determination.
We all need support and help when going through difficult situations. We are not meant to cope with these challenges alone.
47. Believing you can never change.
One of the main reasons people don’t make the effort to change is because they don’t believe they can. They falsely assume that life is stagnant and that they are destined to repeat the same problems and patterns forever.
Science has proven again and again that change is possible, and it begins with the belief that it is. Belief fosters hope. Hope fosters action. Action can move mountains.
How Will You Use These Letting Go Ideas?
The year sits before you like a big, blank canvas.
Before you begin painting on that canvas, make sure your mind is clear, your heart is ready, and you have nothing holding you back from achieving your goals and dreams.
Learning how to let things go in life is the first step in self-creation. Which one of these ideas will you tackle first?