How To Embrace Change & Increase Longevity
If you can learn to look at change in your life as white space of possibility you will be unstoppable
When Elsa’s “Let It Go” burst onto the scene I was thankful that Disney heroines had moved beyond the “Some Day My Prince Will Come” lament. On the other hand, Elsa’s let-it-go proclamation had a bit of a gnarly undertone. I applauded the letting go of expectations to be true to your authentic self, but did that freedom require forced isolation? In an ice palace? Far away from your loved ones?
People have long tried to unlock the secret to happiness. A study out of Harvard, one of the longest-running studies on happiness, has been following 724 participants since 1938. In that time, researchers have found that certain personality traits are associated with increased levels of happiness as participants aged. “Letting go” is one of those hallmark characteristics. Not shocking, right? At some point, we’ve all struggled with letting go — whether that be a relationship, dream, habit, guilt, forgiveness, way of thinking, or grief over the loss of a loved one.
Delving into the unknown is well, not known, and some perceive that as a black hole of nothingness instead of a white space of possibility. It’s almost easier to hold on to the devil you know. But you must channel your inner Marie Kondo, and practice letting go because it’s integral to making space.
In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.
Learning to Let It Go… So You Can Start Embracing Change
It’s okay to grieve whatever you’re letting go of. Seriously, grieving is part of letting go. It’s comparable to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s grief model in her studies on death and dying. You often need to go through similar stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) before you can reach the stage of acceptance, which is your springboard to freedom. And a longer life.
The more you hold on to a negative thought or event or emotion, the greater effect it will have on your physical health. Your immune system. Your cardiovascular system. Your digestive system. Chronic stress accelerates aging and is associated with premature death. It’s a fact.
Want to be healthier? Want to live a full life? Want to feel more liberated? Let the heck go of whatever it is you’re clinging onto.
Embrace Change: Lose Control
I get it. I really do. It’s hard to let go — to give up that perceived control. Hi, my name is Beth, and I’m a controller. I’m reformed, but that inner dominatrix is always lurking beneath the surface if I’m not vigilant.
Even the thought of not having control could put me into a tailspin. But that’s the thing about control: it’s an illusion.
Monitoring my cheating boyfriend on Find My Friends or constantly checking his call log was an absolute exercise in futility. I thought I had control over the situation when, in fact, it was controlling me — nay, consuming me. Being an internet and smartphone sleuth became my side hustle — an exhausting one at that. I couldn’t control what he did — or who he did. Letting go of that relationship took more than one do-si-do through those stages of grief, but on the other side of acceptance was exhilarating freedom.
Sure, the sex may have taken my breath away (insert green vomiting emoji repeatedly), but now I can actually breathe again. I forgot what that felt like. Oxygen is the best “big O” out there; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Embracing Change: Hold Yourself Accountable
Keep an Oh-Hell-No litmus test handy. For me, my two beautiful daughters became the ultimate litmus test for my own life. I would imagine what my advice would be if they were ever in similar situations as young adults.
If Oh-Hell-No immediately comes to mind, then it’s not okay for you, either. No do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do bullcrap. It’s an effective accountability exercise. I’m developing that muscle (so can you), but it’s still a viable fallback when in doubt. If you wouldn’t recommend something for your BFF, your grown child, or any loved one, then it should be off-limits to you as well. Healthy choices are a two-way street.
Embracing Change: Take Inventory
Take inventory of your life, and identify what’s gotta go. For many of us, it’s the resulting space left behind that scares us into stuck submission. Rather than viewing the void as a gaping hole of nothingness, embrace your tabula rasa.
View it as potential and not a penalty.
What would you like to put in its place? Write it all out — in detail. Be as specific as you can. It’s incredibly beneficial.
Focus on what you can control: your attitude; your daily habits like diet and exercise. And don’t underestimate the healing effects of gratitude. Focus on what you do have and give thanks for it. Gratitude is a total game-changer. Fall into the warm, supporting embrace of family and friends. A support system will help buoy you through the waves of grief. My friends are the 911 on my emotional speed dial.
Embracing Change: Rewrite the Script
Another effective letting-go strategy is to reframe the scenario. Shame and guilt are prisons of your own making and preventing you from moving forward, so rewrite the script on that failed pilot. Recreate the narrative through more compassionate eyes toward yourself and others. Forgive yourself and anyone else who needs a prison pardon. Letting go as an actual ritual also can be a powerful experience.
Years ago, my friends and I had a burn party where we pitched our major let-it-go items straight into a bonfire. I threw in my divorce papers. It was liberating. We totally disco-infernoed our way to a happier space that night.
Embracing Change: Find New Passions
If your letting-go space feels a little empty, fill it with some cool new stuff. Learn a new skill. I learned how to make homemade pasta. Not only did I make my Italian family proud, but you have no idea how therapeutic pounding the crap outta dough can be. I kneaded my way to a happier self and became a culinary legend in my kids’ eyes to boot.
Take on a hobby. Go to a museum. Journal. Join a group of peers with shared interests and hobbies. Go on a bike ride. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It was in one of those gaps that I found yoga. Seriously life-changing.
Stay the course and trust the process. Initially, the unknown may be a bit scary, but letting go creates the space you need to find new passions and realize your dreams.
Beth Romero’s Italian-American, east coast background inspires the straight-forward, humorous, and self-deprecating narrative style that characterizes her writing. She showcases those skills to their fullest in the practical and entertaining how-to guide, Happy AF: Simple Strategies to Get Unstuck, Bounce Back, and Live Your Best Life.