The first obstacle in letting things go is to not get the beloved Disney song caught in your head by the same name. If you can move past that, then perhaps you're in luck for being able to let bigger things go in your life.
It is easy and familiar to dwell on events, conversations, judgments and fears. Although surprising, your brain actually does this to protect you. As evolved humans, it is our responsibility to continue our gene pool to the next generation. To do so, not only must we stay alive long enough but we also must be appealing for a partner to desire us to reproduce. Our brain knows this. Therefore, you may find that you're quick to dwell on things that pertain to your own survival, reputation and external image.
When you're over-analyzing the meeting with your boss in which you felt you misrepresented your objectives, that's your ego protecting your personal brand. When you're unable to move past a break-up and rejection from a romantic partner, that is again your ego trying to protect your viability. When you're stuck on the fear of failing in some way or another, that is again, your ego's way of protecting your image.
It's important to remember that "ego" in the brain science community is not your egotistical, arrogant evil side. Instead, it is the idea of self, our self-concept. And those with a strong sense of self have typically been viewed more favorably in history, separating them from others. There is a long, storied past of the ego and current debate whether we even need it help us meet our basic survival needs. Although that may be true, the ego has not loosened it's grip. Therefore, we must understand it and outsmart it. By understanding our ego, we can learn to let things go with greater ease.
How to Let Things Go
1. Recognize the negative story and stop validating it. Oftentimes when we find ourselves holding onto something, it is usually related to a narrative we have created about our situation. Perhaps this is a narrative that has been long-established and it is easy to come back to over and over. Confirmation bias makes creating proof for this story easier, as your brain continually holds onto examples that make the story true. Notice the story and you'll start noticing the ways you subconsciously confirm it. Then, challenge those biases. Every time you think you see proof of the narrative, question it. Question if those thoughts or events are true. Likely, they're not and you can start to see yourself in a more forgiving light and thus allow yourself off the hook for whatever you're holding onto.
2. Ride the wave. Emotions are fluid. E-motions. Energy in motion. Seeing emotions as fluid allows us to let them come and also let them go. Emotions are in the moment responses to events. Yet by holding onto emotions we make them into moods. Instead of feeling angry, we now are just angry. Instead of feeling sad, we now are depressed. It is naturally and totally appropriate to have feelings. But it's the way we attach ourselves to the feeling that can alter our state of being more permanently. Think of your emotion in the moment as a wave. Let the wave come up to meet you, be in it, and let it pass. It helps to visualize the wave coming and then passing you by. Sometimes the wave engulfs you, but you can still catch your breath. Let yourself stay above the water by allowing yourself to feel it, in the moment, without denial, and then let it go. If you fight the feeling it has a tendency to take you under. So acknowledge it, greet it, feel it, and then let it move on.
3. Shake it out. It's time to get physical. Feelings have a way of impacting our biology and we start noticing subsequent physiological responses: hands sweating, stomach butterflies, heart pounding, heaviness in chest. Adrenalin quickly moves through our system when we encounter something that feels threatening (i.e. a rude conversation) and prepares our body for literal attack. Instead of bottling that up and letting it turn into thoughts in your head, you can actually metabolize the discomfort out. Quite simply, shake it out. When you feeling yourself unable to let go of a thought, feeling or story, picture it in your mind, stand up and shake. Shake your feet, legs, torso, arms, hands, head. Shake, dance, scream, yell, just MOVE. Move so much so that unhelpful energy is gone from your body. Maybe you'll feel silly doing it, but the freedom that follows is worth it.
There's no doubt that each of these methods of letting go takes practice. If it were that easy to move on, Disney wouldn't have had a blockbuster film on the theme. Be patient, kind and gentle with yourself as your explore what you're holding onto and practice releasing it. You'll feel lighter, happier and give yourself a much needed reset.