6 Ways to Practice Letting Go



Many people struggle with the notion of “letting go,” whether it’s letting go of a person, an idea, a memory, or something else. In a recent one-on-one session, my client said to me, “I know intellectually that it doesn’t make sense, but I still feel it, so how exactly can I let it go?” Her question is one that many other clients have asked me, so I felt it would be beneficial to more than just her to share a few approaches to letting go.


Rather than launching into why we hang on to certain things, I’ll go straight into 6 different ways to let go.

1. Cognitive Reframing

The first is a technique that I often take my clients through at the start of their journey, and it’s how we got to the point where my client asked that question. From early on, we form beliefs about the way things are, who we are, what others are like, and how the world works. We build our perception of life as well as our own identity around these beliefs, many of which get buried underneath new beliefs that are formed as we continue to have new experiences. By becoming aware of what those beliefs are we can reassess whether or not those beliefs still make sense.

For example, if you heard over and over again as a child that there isn’t enough money and you have to save every penny, then as an adult you might continue to hang onto this mindset, despite the fact that you may actually have many opportunities available to you to create financial abundance. Suppose you desire to tap into that abundance, but you feel scared to let go of this old belief because to some degree it could be keeping you “safe” from winding up on the street.


To let go of this belief so that you can stop fearing what might happen, you can begin by invalidating your perception that there isn’t enough money and that the only way to financial abundance is to save every last penny. Once the belief no longer makes sense intellectually, you can replace it with a new, more empowering belief.


That is “letting go.” Invalidating and reframing.

You can see that in this case letting go actually just means shifting, or replacing. When you change the thought process, the emotion usually changes with it. In this case the emotion is fear or insecurity which has been replaced by something more empowering.

However, as you saw with my client, sometimes you can rationally understand something, but still feel that emotion. For that reason, there are several other ways to practice letting go that are not so cognitive.

2. Bodily Tension Release

When the emotional response is so strong that your body still feels it, despite the fact that in your mind you know it’s not true, it can be beneficial to explore the feeling of letting go through the body. In its natural state the body is calm and tension-free. In elevated emotional states such as joy or love, the body tends to feel light. In negative emotional states such as fear or anxiety, the body tenses and feels heavy. When you practice softening the body, you are letting go of the physiological response to whatever emotion is weighing on you.

There are many ways to soften the body. One is to simply become aware of how you are holding your muscles or your body in a particular shape and to consciously relax bit by bit. If that feels inaccessible, usually from so much accumulated tension that the body doesn’t know how to do this, massage, myofascial release, or energy practices such as reiki or acupuncture can be a very effective way to shift dense energy. Meditation and coming into alpha states can be incredibly useful as well. My personal favorite way is through yin yoga, which is essentially a passive and meditative form of stretching that creates softening in the fascia and connective tissues, and brings the body back into harmony.

When your body is used to responding to emotions in a particular way, even if it has already disconnected from the thought process around that, it will need a little bit of re-training to have a different response. It’s important that you give yourself time to practice this and not expect that just by having one massage you will never feel that emotion again.

3. Radical Acceptance

Sometimes the practice of letting go is simply about releasing resistance or that feeling of always fighting against what is and to allow yourself to experience acceptance instead. Acceptance is essentially recognizing that this is how you feel and not trying to change it. It’s another form of “softening” as it’s basically deciding to become amicable or at the very least more neutral towards what you are feeling. A lot of the stress or anxiety we experience around unwanted states of being comes from fighting against them, wanting to control them, or just not wanting to see that the current is taking you elsewhere.

To experience acceptance let yourself stop resisting what is for just a few breaths. Notice what shifts in your state of being. Pay close attention to tension in the body, sensations, and any changing thoughts that come with taking a break from all the fighting against.

Just as with the bodily tension release I described above, acceptance is not something that you come into just once and you are done. Acceptance is a state you shift into every time you experience the unwanted emotion surfacing.

For example, let’s say that the death of a loved one burdens you with grief. When you feel that you are ready to let go of your grieving, it is not that grief will never surface again. For sure when you think of this loved one from time to time that feeling of grief will surface. But through acceptance you can soften the weight that this feeling of grief creates in your body and mind, and in that way practice letting go.

4. Aparigraha (Detachment / Non-Possiveness)

Aparigraha is a yogic practice that translates from Sanskrit to mean detachment or non-possessiveness. It is one of the 5 “Yamas” or observances from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an ancient yoga text that describes the 8-limb path to “yoga.” To observe Aparigraha is to practice non-attachment to people, places, ideas, things, or anything else that we tend to cling to in our physical, material world.

To practice non-attachment does not mean to become indifferent. It is possible to remain fully present, passionate and involved in all of our relationships and experiences, but at the same time allow them to be transitory. We cannot take any of these things into the grave and so they are not permanent. According to yogic philosophy, the only thing that is impermanent is consciousness. It always was and always will be. It is our consciousness which allows us to perceive our physicality. It is in other words, the witness to all which we choose to “attach” ourselves to.

Practicing detachment comes from recognizing that you are not those things to which you attach yourself to. You may have a role as a mother, a healer, an artist, a banker, or whatever other identities you take on, but you are not that. Others may identify you as a thoughtful person, or a hard-working person, or a talented person, but you are also not that. When you create that distinction you can enjoy each role or characteristic you take on in your lifetime but experience the fluidity and sense of freedom that comes with not clinging to those things.

The beauty in practicing aparigraha is that it also brings to light how attachment creates separation. You are this and I am that. This is mine and that is yours. While this can serve us in creating healthy boundaries or even coming together with those who have similar values, through the practice of non-possessiveness, we can see beyond these descriptions and feel connected even to those who may come from very different backgrounds or have different beliefs and values.

5. Shifting The Sensations of Emotions

Speaking of fluidity, there are times we find ourselves in the opposite feeling, unable to let go or shake off a particular feeling, and so it’s as though the record got stuck and is sending the same feedback to our brains and bodies. Much of the time we perpetuate that state of “stuckness” by continuing to say to ourselves, “I just feel so stuck!” or if someone asks us how we’re doing we might say it again, “I just feel so stuck.” It may not be so obvious, but often that repetition, whether you say it out loud or just in your head, affirms that stuck state. This is why positive affirmations can be so effective for some people, because when used correctly, they are subtly helping to shift your state.

The important thing to realize is that emotions are naturally fluid. Nobody is ever truly stuck in just one emotion. Physiologically it is not possible. However, we often allow our emotional states to be dictated by circumstance. So you may feel as though you are waiting for circumstances to change in order to feel differently, and this can create the perception that you are stuck.

For example, you might be very unhappy in your current relationship or lack of one, and feel like if only you were with someone different or if you found the perfect one, then, and only then, could you finally feel happy and free. Or if your current partner would only behave the way you wished they would, then you could finally feel loved.

The first step to letting go of how you currently feel and allow yourself to shift into a preferred emotion, is to stop waiting for the circumstance to change. The second is to notice what sensation accompanies the thought process and the current emotion you have identified. The next few steps involve disconnecting from that thought process and label, and instead follow the trail of sensation in your body. Notice how it might move from one part of your body to another or shift in intensity. Add in some conscious breathing and the softening or tension release I described earlier and observe as sensation changes. When sensation changes, you will no longer experience the same emotion because each emotion comes with its own set of sensations which tell our minds what that emotion is.

Once you can begin to recognize what sensations accompany more positive or elevated emotions, you can consciously shift your negative states, through moving sensation in the body, into those more preferred emotions, without ever needing to resolve it intellectually or taking some drastic actions.

Think of this like an artist choosing colors on their palette. Choose the emotion you wish to feel from the palette of emotions and practice tuning into it through sensation.

6. Choosing

Many people are extremely stubborn when it comes to letting go. They may do all of the practices that I’ve described or others not included here and still feel like they cannot let go. In this case, become aware of the difference between “I can’t let go” and “I won’t let go.” Letting go is possible for all humans who find the courage to choose it. Often the cost of facing ourselves and our dark truths is so huge that it outweighs the potential freedom on the other side. To choose to let go takes courage, determination, and a hunger for freedom that is so strong it can carry you to the other side despite the challenge. It can be like the pain of taking off a bandaid, but amplified a whole lot more. On the other side you know the wound is already healed and the last step is taking that bandaid off.

Give yourself time to find the courage to choose and try not to compare your timeline to that of others. Everybody’s journey is different. It could be that there are more layers of the onion to peel back before you are truly ready to set this intention. In my own experience, I heard my coach speak of this concept of “choosing” for almost two years and without passing through many experiences first, I felt it was impossible to believe that it might really be as simple as just choosing. When I finally arrived at wholeheartedly feeling as though I could just choose to let go and feel exactly how I wanted to feel, it sent me into a fit of laughter. I mean, it really is that easy.

If you feel inspired to start practicing letting go, grab my free exercise below. It’s a great starting place, similar to what my client started with in order to free her mind. If you’re not sure how to implement these practices and would love to receive guidance for your journey, book a free discovery call.




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