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How to Let Go of Thoughts and Feelings

Four Methods:Making New Thought PatternsUnderstanding the MindDeveloping Deeper SkillsStaying Positive

Negative thoughts and feelings have a way of popping up at inconvenient times and distracting us from the good things in life. Before long, our minds begin to slide toward negativity more often than not, and dwelling on dark emotions becomes a bad habit that's hard to kick. But, like breaking any other habit, it requires retraining yourself to think in a different way

When we are stressed we often have a million and one things happening at once and a chattering mind is one of the last things we need. Therefore, it’s very important to be able to spend some time to relax, put things in context and to let go.

See Step 1 and beyond to learn how to quiet your racing mind.

Method 1
Making New Thought Patterns

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    Be in the moment. When your thoughts are spinning out of control, what are you normally thinking about? Chances are, you're dwelling on something that happened in the past - even if it just happened last week - or you're obsessing over something that has yet to happen. The key to stopping those thoughts in their tracks is to be aware of the present moment. Noticing what's happening right now necessarily yanks your thoughts out of those dark corners. This is because very often the thoughts stop just by focusing on them because they are suddenly exposed to scrutiny and your inner desires that are creating the thought process is seen in a different light. It sounds so simple, but as you probably know, it's not always easy to do. Here are a few ways to become more aware of what's happening right this second:
    • If you look at a calming image, the mind can relax and let go all on its own, but it only happens when you stop trying and expecting it to happen. This is a good primary method to relax and calm the mind.
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    Engage with the world around you. Part of the downside of dwelling on negative memories or emotions is that you're forced to be a little distant from what's going on outside your head. When you consciously decide that you're going to come out of your shell and engage with the world, you leave less room in your mind for those niggling thoughts and feelings that normally sap your mental energy. By judging yourself on the theme of those thoughts it can actually make the problem harder to deal with. You might have been thinking about how much you don't like someone then feel guilty or angry for it. This then trains the mind to become habitual or ingrained as a cause and effect process and it becomes harder in future to be in control. Here are a few ways to start engaging on a basic level:
    • Be a better listener during conversations. Take time to really absorb what the other person is telling you, instead of half-listening while you worry about other things. Ask questions, share advice, and generally be a good conversationalist.
    • Consider volunteering or otherwise getting involved in your community. You'll meet new people and be exposed to interesting and important topics that may just outweigh the thoughts and feelings you're trying to let go.
    • Look down at your body. Pay attention to where you're sitting. Be attuned to your immediate surroundings. Your reality is where you are right now. It's impossible to go back to yesterday, and it's impossible to predict what will happen tomorrow. Keep your thoughts engaged with your physical presence in the current moment.[1]
    • Say something mentally or out loud. The physical act of making a sound will pull your thoughts to the present. Say "This is the present," or "I am here." Repeat it until your thoughts are pulled to the present.
    • Go outside. Changing your immediate environment can help your thoughts move back to the present as your senses are occupied with expanding to take in more data. Observe the way is the world is moving around you, each being living in his or her own present. Focus on small changes, like a bird alighting or a leaf whirling on the sidewalk.
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    Be less self conscious. Self-negativity in its wide scope of forms is also the instigator of negative thoughts and feelings for many people. When you're self conscious, it's as though you have a second reel running through your head, distracting you no matter what else you're doing. For example, when you're talking to someone, you're thinking about how you look, or what impression you're having, instead of fully participating in the conversation. Curbing self consciousness is essential when it comes to letting go of negative thoughts and feelings so you can participate fully in life.
    • Practice being more present by doing activities that completely absorb you and make you feel confident in your abilities. For example, if you're good at baking, savor the experience of sifting the dry ingredients, mixing the batter, filling the cake pan, smelling the aroma of your creation as it fills the kitchen, taking the first bite when it's ready.
    • When you experience present moment awareness, explore it and remember how it feels, as well as how you got there and recreate it as often as possible. Remember that the only thing keeping you from feeling that freedom in other situations is your own mind, and put aside self-criticism from your daily thought process.

Method 2
Understanding the Mind

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    Consider your relationship with the thought or feeling. Thoughts usually run out of habit so will pop up again, when you stop being aware. Resolve to let those go as well as not only do you have to stop the chain, you have to prevent new ones.
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    Observe what's going on to develop an insight and an understanding of how thoughts and feelings control you. By watching the thoughts, it doesn't take too long to see there is two distinct things happening - a theme and a process. The process is the thinking or expressing feelings.
    • The mind doesn't always need a theme to think, that's when the mind chatters away over what seems an illogical and fairly wild stream of thought. The mind is using thought just like a pacifier or a distraction and often does it when there is physical pain, when it is afraid or trying to protect itself from something. If you watch the mind like a machine, you can sometimes see the mind just grabbing whatever it can find or sense to use as a theme or topic of thought.
    • Theme based thinking is much more obvious, you might be angry, worried or have a particular feeling over an issue and you think about that issue. These thoughts tend to be repetitive and focused just on the theme at hand.
    • The difficulty is that there is a pretty central problem: essentially the mind has to be disinterested or disenchanted with the theme & process of thinking or emotionally feeling. Often this is helped greatly by recognizing that the theme and the feeling or thought process at hand is not helping us at the moment. There are a lot of feelings & thought subjects we don't want to let go of or view as being stressful because we often want to explore the themes and issues they represent (such as when being angry, or being anxious etc, we want to think about the who, where, what, why etc).
    • This specific "wanting to think about" or just "wanting to think", is more powerful than our desire to let go - letting go is really hard when it is simply outweighed by a stronger desire. When we aren't careful or being aware, we just start fighting ourselves which is also part of the trick if you are thinking for the sake of thinking. Fighting becomes another distraction from the issue the mind is running away from - the mind is still in complete control, even though it doesn't look like it. You have to counter the strong "wanting to think about" with a gentle but very persistent "OK, it's time to move on and let go" until eventually the desire to let go is stronger than the desire to think about the issue.
    • The other problem is feelings are something we see as part of our identity or part of us. We have no desire to recognise that part of us can cause us pain or misery, or that they are able to make us unhappy. People are often trained to think that "all" feelings are precious when they are "me" or "mine". Some feelings cause stress, but some don't. This explains the whole method, you have to observe the thought and feeling long enough to decide - without condemning yourself - if the feeling is worth keeping, or worth letting go of.
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    Compare this theory to your own experience. If you have a theme based thought you want to let go of think about, try some of these experiments::
    • Try as hard as you can to avoid thinking about a polar bear, or (more unusual) a purple polka-dot flamingo drinking a cup of coffee. This experiment is quite an old one but still a good one to show the dynamics of thought. The simple fact of the matter is to be able to maintain an effort not to think about polar bears, or when we experience an unhappy thought, we struggle against it, both trying to suppress a thought and struggling against a thought both require applied and sustained effort and the theme (such as the polar bear) as an object. If you keep trying or fighting not to think about it, the bear stays put.
    • Say you are holding a pen in your hand and want to let go of it.
    • In order to put the pen down, you have to be holding it.
    • When you continue to want to put it down, you have to "continue" to hold it.
    • Logically you can't put it down when you are still holding it.
    • The more effort and intention applied in "wanting" to put it down, the more grip is applied on the pen.
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    Learn to let go by relaxing your fight against the feelings and thoughts. These same physics apply in the mind. Because we are trying to force the thoughts away, the more we hold on to them to be able to apply the force of forcing it to go. The harder we try to force it, the more we are tensing and crushing the mind. The mind however responds as though it is being attacked.
    • The way out is instead of forcing it, just relax the grip. The pen falls out your hand all on its own the same as thoughts and feelings. You may need a little time - if you were using force it may be imprinted on the mind for a short while, because the mind is so used to fighting it so it has become almost ingrained as a mental occupation.
    • This is so much like the mind really. When we clamp on to thoughts and feelings by exploring them, or trying to destroy them - they are going nowhere - they are locked in tight. We have to relax the grip in order to be able to let them go.

Method 3
Developing Deeper Skills

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    Develop some skills to use when the thought or feeling arises. There is a host of things you can try or ask yourself when there is a thought or feeling that just keeps repeating. Here are some good things to consider or try:
    • Have you ever read a book, seen a movie or done anything so many times you know everything about it and it just seems uninteresting and boring? If you do the same and watch the thought and be uninterested with it, there is no more attachment to it so its easier to let go.
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    Don't run away from negative feelings. You're tired of thoughts and feelings that never seem to leave your mind, but have you taken the time to face them head on? When you try to ignore thoughts and feelings instead of acknowledging them, they may never go away. Allow yourself to deeply feel what you need to feel before you start the process of letting go. If your mind is trying to force-feed you thought chains or emotions, judgements are another tool it can use to dominate you. It is wise to remember that our mind is the source of all our manipulative skills so the mind knows more tricks than we are often aware of. It does this as the parts of the mind that crave and are addicted to things want to stay wild with our desires running and controlling us. By and large it is our addictions that drive us all.
    • A useful mantra in facing the feelings and thoughts is to recall that you must be responsible for your own happiness and they don't have to control your life. Ultimately if you let the past or worries about the future as well as other desires control your happiness, they will never come up with the goods.
    • Manipulate the thought. Run it backwards, twist it, bend it, change it - eventually you can see that you are running the show. By substituting an unpleasant thought with a more soothing thought chain, is a temporary fix, but still a good one in times of need. You can let go of the issue easier when you feel you have more safer ground to stand on.
    • If your racing thoughts and feelings are related to a problem you have yet to solve, think it through, then take measures to remedy the situation, even if you have to accept that the situation is completely beyond control.
    • If the thoughts and feelings are related to a sad event, like a breakup or a death in the family, allow yourself to feel the sadness. Look at a picture of the person you're missing and think about memories you shared. Let yourself cry if it helps the process - remember its perfectly all-right to be a human being. It might also help to write down your emotions in a journal.

Method 4
Staying Positive

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    Have some tricks up your sleeve. When you're feeling stressed, overworked or generally down in some way, thoughts and feelings you thought were gone for good tend to come creeping back. When that happens, you need to have a few fallback methods that will help you get through the low moments without allowing certain thoughts and feelings to completely take over.
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    Practice visualization. If you are a busy person with little time to relax, visualising can help greatly. One example to consider is this image (or any memory of a beautiful or happy place you can remember from your life):

    Imagine a pleasant, beautiful and empty field dotted with flowers and other scenic aspects. Take a minute exploring the open space, open blue sky and clean air. Then imagine a city built on the field with towers and buildings, streets and vehicles. Now let the city slowly disappear again, leaving the empty, beautiful field. The relevance of this image is that the field represents that our mind is primarily empty and peaceful, but we have built a city of thoughts and feelings on top of it. Over time we get used to the city and forget that underneath it, the empty field is actually still there. When you let go of them, the buildings go and the field (peace and quiet) returns.
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    Reflect on your achievements. The world is full of the small joys of helping others, finishing jobs and goals, going outside and seeing a beautiful scene or sunset or enjoying a delightful meal with friends or family. In practice by reflecting on the beautiful aspects of life builds confidence as well as increases your enjoyment of future experiences.
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    Take good care of yourself. When you're not feeling well, it's difficult to muster the strength and energy to keep yourself feeling optimistic. Do what it takes to keep your mind, body and spirit healthy - those negative thoughts and feelings will be a lot less likely to take hold.
    • Get plenty of sleep. When you're running on a sleep deficit, it's difficult to keep your mind functioning in a positive way. Get 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night.
    • Eat well. Have a balanced diet full of all the nutrients your brain needs to stay healthy. Make sure you get plenty of fruits and vegetables.
    • Exercise regularly. Having a good exercise routine will keep stress at bay as well as helping your body stay in good shape. Both of these effects have a big influence on the thoughts and feelings that occupy your mind.
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Alcohol is a depressant, and drinking it too much can cause your thoughts to spin out of control. The same is true of many types of drugs. If you regularly consume a lot of drugs and alcohol, consider cutting back to improve your mental health.
    • Seek counseling when necessary. Caring for mental health is as important as caring for your physical health. If you're having trouble controlling your thoughts, don't try to manage everything on your own. Seek out a professional - a counselor, religious advisor, social worker, or psychiatrist - who can help you get back on a positive path.


  • Remember: thoughts and emotions are like the weather. They come and they go. You are the sky. Thoughts and emotions are the rain, cloud, snow, etc.
  • The more you practice, the easier and quicker it gets.
  • Knowing the mind makes it easier, a simple exercise is to just relax and watch the mind for some time, including reactions. Imagine that you are a scientist watching a brand new species and its your job to find out how it lives.
  • It is easy to get attached to the blissful and happy feelings, but these come and go, we can't peg our mind on that standard in the hope it will stay there, you can however use these feelings as a point of reference to both develop and calm the mind down.
  • Close your eyes , look at the thought in your mind and say in your head tell it to "STOP." Keep doing this until you have control of your mind.


  • Trying to destroy aspects of the mind, will force the mind to protect what you are trying to destroy - this is the defensive ability of the mind when it is under attack.
  • See a counselor whenever required. Don't be afraid to seek help.
  • There is no way to bullet-proof your mind as it changes and reacts to impulses. This is because the mind and body exist and its not within our powers to make it be as we want it.

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