23 Things To Let Go of to Be Happy in 2019
Start the new year with less weight on your shoulders.
New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, and if your goal for 2019 is to have your happiest year yet, it’s time to bid some of those burdens from the previous year farewell. As you decide on your resolutions in the coming weeks, you’re going to need to dive deeper than eating well, exercising, and calling Grandma more often. (Though you should do those things, too!)
Whether you’ve fallen prey to a toxic relationship, you’re addicted to your phone, you’re hung up on your ex, or you’re a chronic over-committer, this is the year to let your worst habits die out with the last fizzle of fireworks.
The Wrong Priorities
As reported by The Harvard Gazette, an 80-year study from a team of Harvard researchers has confirmed what many of us already knew: One of the most important keys to happiness is prioritizing time with the people closest to you. Though, of course, you live in the real world and need to juggle other commitments, it’s time to let go of the idea that chasing achievements, fame, or fortune will make you any happier than a solid community of friends and family.
Just as good relationships can send your happiness soaring, toxic relationships can quickly bring you down. According to Brandi Lewis, licensed counselor and owner of Lead Counseling Solutions in Charlotte, NC, “People in toxic relationships often develop co-dependency and, as a result, learn to dismiss their own thoughts and needs to care for the needs of other people.”
Look out for red flags in your own relationships, including patterns of disrespect, undermining, a lack of support, or other dynamics that regularly leave you feeling drained or unhappy. It’s time to let go of those unhealthy relationships and start making space for people that uplift and support you instead.
Hating Your Body
By the time the new year rolls around, most of us are wearing a few extra holiday pounds, and it’s considered a societal given that we’ll renounce how we currently look as our “before” picture. But letting go of extreme beauty standards, poor body image, and self-loathing is one of the best ways to practice self-care and self-acceptance, two necessary ingredients for happiness. Focus on eating healthy foods and finding workouts that enrich your life, rather than zeroing in on all the things you view as “wrong” with your body as it is now.
If you’re hung up on an ex, this one’s for you: 2019 is a fresh start, and holding onto a non-viable relationship will do nothing but hold you back. As explained by clinical psychologist Dr. Alyssa Adams, “In order to let go of past painful relationships, be sure to allow yourself to fully move on. Be clear on how much mental energy and space a past romantic relationship is taking up for you.”
Adams suggests being honest about the role your past relationship plays in your life, and confronting any unhealthy habits you may have surrounding the relationship. “For example,” she says, “don’t check the social media accounts of your ex-partner and try not to reminisce too much about events from a past relationship. It can be helpful to work with a coach or therapist to set specific goals that will focus you on the future and what type of relationship you want to create.”
Caring What The Wrong People Think
“You shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks!”
“Yours is the only opinion that matters!”
You’ve likely heard this type of well-meaning advice from friends, and it may seem innocuous in its message of self-empowerment. But ultimately, there’s an important distinction to be made here: Some opinions should matter, some opinions shouldn’t, and we need to filter accordingly. This means that from those we love, trust, and respect, we need to be receptive to constructive criticism, open to disagreement, and amenable to perspectives that broaden our own. It also means recognizing when you’re giving your power away by worrying about the irrelevant opinions of those who haven’t earned your trust and respect, and needn’t impact your life.
Being Glued to Social Media
According to a national study published in the Journal of Social Science & Medicine, 44 percent of young people aged 19 to 32 were identified as having “problematic” social media habits, defined by a six-point scale of addiction. The researchers found that those with these addictive traits were notably more likely to demonstrate depressive symptoms, and that increased frequency of use correlated with worse moods and lower self-esteem.
“I recommend people taking notifications and alerts off their mobile devices, and setting aside time to check their social media profiles,” says Julie Williamson, a licensed counselor based in St. Louis. She adds, “It’s also important to consider who you’re following on various platforms, and what emotional impact the material they post has on you.”
Fear of Discomfort
According to Dr. Kristin Bianchi, a Rockville, Maryland-based psychologist, it’s time for us all to face our fears. “Let go of avoidance and build up your bravery!”
Bianchi argues that rather than holding onto our old patterns of avoidance, letting go of our fears of discomfort will set us all free in the new year by showing us just how much we can handle. “If we don’t go to the annual office party, we definitely won’t get stuck in an awkward conversation…but the next time that we’re invited to a social event in which we might encounter unfamiliar people, we’re going to be more likely to avoid that, too,” she explains.
Comparing Yourself to Others
It’s all too easy to scroll through your feed and feel jealous of others, whether your envy stems from their seemingly bottomless bank account, their always-adorable relationship, or just their ability to always look perfect in pictures. Yet the problem of unhealthy comparison existed long before Instagram—after all, wasn’t it Theodore Roosevelt who famously tweeted, “Comparison is the thief of joy?”
But seriously, measuring your own success against the highlight reel of other people’s achievements, possessions, or relationships will always leave you coming up short because you know all the gritty details, hurdles, and setbacks of your own life. Choose to be happy with your personal best, push yourself to reach goals that are meaningful to you, and see your happiness soar as you learn to determine your own worth from inside.
Drinking Too Much
Sure, having a few drinks can help us unwind in the moment, but overindulging regularly can have notably negative effects on our health, relationships, and mood. If you’re about to let yourself off the hook here because you consider yourself a “moderate” drinker, consider this: According to recent research, most of us fail to realize how much we drink.
Study participants underestimated their consumption of spirits by 66 percent, with younger people being even less accurate in their estimations! Take a good look at whether alcohol might be affecting you negatively, and if it is, it’s time to let that old habit die.
Society’s Timeline for Success
It’s common in our society to expect certain milestones for success on a particular timeline. You may even have it in your mind that you want to be accomplished in your work by 25, married by 30, having children by 32, and rich by 40. But these things don’t necessarily happen when we want them to (if ever) and being hard on yourself about arbitrary deadlines just makes you feel worse.
“Have set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals,” says Texas-based marriage and family counselor Heidi McBain, “but try to not to beat yourself up if you don’t meet each and everyone one of these goals, as you also may want to leave some room for things that just happen in life.”
You may have felt like 2018 wasn’t quite your year. Maybe there are things you wish you’d done differently. But letting go of your disappointments will free you up to take on the future without all that added emotional baggage and self-doubt, and isn’t that what the new year is all about?
“If you are holding onto something you perceive as a failure, missed opportunity, or any other disappointment, it can create self-deprecating thoughts,” says licensed New York City therapist Sarah Thacker. “These thoughts may cause you to not take action to move forward in the new year and will hold you back… let these disappointments go and start fresh in 2019.”
Now that you’ve let go of past disappointments, it’s time to give yourself the best chance of future success. Wishing for and visualizing a future that will make you happy are important first steps to getting you where you want to be. But for too many of us, we hold onto the wishing stage and set sky-high resolutions without considering what goes into achieving them.
Instead, set bite-sized goals, and start making strides in their direction. “Real change, regardless of what is being changed, is gradual. Small steps always work better for long-term change,” says David Ezell, Clinical Director and CEO of Darien Wellness in Connecticut.
These are genuinely difficult and uncertain times for many people, and you may have some valid reasons for feeling stressed. But stress can have a major effect on your overall happiness and even your health—in fact, research shows that beyond the better-known effects of stress, like tension headaches, high blood pressure, and heart disease, it can actually have a harmful effect on every one of your organs. To live your happiest, healthiest life possible this coming year, find ways to unwind and practice self-care, even if it means slowing down your schedule a bit to do so. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, or a professional counselor if this seems like an insurmountable task when ventured solo.
Self-doubt is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It grips you with the fear of failure, stopping you from pursuing your dreams by telling you that you’re not good, smart, funny, attractive, or deserving of the life you want. Instead of listening to the voice that tells you you’re not enough, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I just gave it my best and failed?” Then, ask yourself, “What’s the best thing that could happen if I succeeded?” If you’ve been struggling with self-doubt, odds are you’ve let opportunities slip through your fingers for reasons as minor as the possibility of embarrassment. It’s time to let go of your fear and start believing in your worthiness.
If you’re heading into the new year with a chip on your shoulder about a past grudge, it’s time to hit pause and reflect. “When you hold onto anger and resentment and struggle to let them go, this will hold you back in other areas of your life,” says Thacker.
“It can impact your present relationships… [and] it can cause you to feel stressed constantly and can impact your health.” It’s time to confront why you’re still holding onto those hard feelings, and find a way to process and release them for your own well-being.
Trying to Change Others
It’s often said that people who feel out of control themselves try to control others. If you spend time fixating on other people’s behavior, or try to make people conform to your expectations, it may be a sign that you have trouble regulating your own emotional life. Unfortunately, this is a habit that can throw a wrench into relationships and drive others away, and many of us do this without even realizing it.
“Instead of trying to control the people and the world around you, take time to better yourself instead,” says McBain. “Try to come from a place of acceptance and understanding.”
Unrealistic Relationship Expectations
Many people believe that once you find the right partner, they will always just “get” you, that you’ll always find them attractive and easy to love, or that you’ll never hurt one another. Unfortunately, while optimistic, these kinds of expectations can actually be damaging to relationships because they set them up for failure by creating an impossible standard.
The reality is that we’re all human, and even great relationships go through difficult times that make you question whether you’ve chosen the wrong partner. Thinking of relationships as having different “seasons” instead of being static—and being prepared for a bit of fluctuation in your own feelings—can make your relationship much stronger and happier in the long run as you experience those normal ups and downs.
Guilt Over Past Mistakes
Just as we need to let go of grudges toward others, Philadelphia-based marriage and family therapist Sarah Epstein explains that it is just as crucial to let go of the grudges we hold toward ourselves.
“From a young age, we learn that it is our responsibility to forgive others—that others deserve the benefit of the doubt and a second chance,” she says. “But nobody ever tells us to forgive ourselves for the ways we’ve let ourselves down. We need to forgive ourselves for the time we yelled at our child in anger, the time we were mean to somebody in middle school, or the way that we failed to respect our own boundaries and let toxic people into our lives. We need to let go of our resentment toward ourselves and truly forgive. It is okay to let it go; we do not need to hold things against ourselves for the rest of our lives.”
Your Attachment to Your Phone
A 2018 survey by SureCall revealed that we are essentially inseparable from our phones. Roughly 69 percent of survey participants admitted to checking their phone from the toilet, 75 percent said they slept next to their phone, and 27 percent expressed fear or anxiety when caught in a situation without their phone. Yet mobile devices are known to contribute to poor sleep patterns, increased stress levels, relationship friction, and feelings of depression and isolation. As we head into the new year, see what disconnecting can do for your mood and overall happiness.
According to a 2010 Wake Forest study, what you say about others has more to do with you than the people you talk about. Happy, emotionally stable people tend to view and speak about others with more kindness, whereas negative perceptions of others were more frequently associated with narcissism and antisocial behavior.
If you notice that you’re drawn to critical judgement and gossip, chances are you’re alienating others—particularly those with the emotional stability and confidence you might wish you had yourself. “You never know what someone else is truly going through in life unless they are willing to be open and vulnerable with you,” says McBain. “Try to come from a place of acceptance and understanding—with others, but also with yourself.”
Scorekeeping in Relationships
If you find that you tend to keep track of whether you’ve “won” or “lost” arguments, go tit for tat on blame, or mentally record all the nice things you’ve done for others only to note how their own efforts don’t stack up, chances are, you’re sabotaging your own happiness with your scorekeeping. Not only does this treat relationships like a competition, it breaks them down by making you bitter. In 2019, it’s time to clear the scoreboard, relate in better faith, and focus on all of the good things in your relationships that you have to be grateful for.
Feeling tired and stressed is a surefire way to feel unhappy, yet many of us chronically over-commit, believing that being busy is the same thing as being successful. Many of these obligations can begin to take their toll, leaving little time for the hobbies we love and relationships that energize us.
“It can be helpful to notice how often you use the word ‘should,'” says Dr. Adams. “Evaluate why you’re feeling that you ‘should’ do or not do something. Are you creating a never-ending ‘to-do’ list that is full of non-priorities that you feel you ‘should’ do?” She explains that it is far more “important to create a vision for the new year and intentionally decide where you want to spend your energy.”
Your Lone-Wolf Mentality About Success
Yes, independence is a quality you should be proud of, but there are many areas of life that benefit from a strong support network. Let go of the idea that you need to be completely self-sufficient to be successful, and reach out to invite people in. Most of the time, people are happy to help, and even feel closer to you for being a part of your process.
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