Do you know that you can learn to be happy?
And that ultimately happiness is a choice that you make?
Sure, there are circumstances in life that can strip you of your contentment, joy and wellbeing, but most of the time the only person stopping you being happy right now is you.
It’s amazing how many people spend a large proportion, if not all, of their lives waiting to be happy, as if it’s some elusive thing far off in the distant future that’s dependent on health, wealth, status and perfect relationships.
But happiness doesn’t come from these things.
It comes from within.
And you hold the key to in your own hands.
People who are happy tend to have a set of habits that create peace in their inner worlds, which is then mirrored in their outer worlds.
Anyone can learn these habits.
If you adopt them and practise them in your own life, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy too.
Over the coming months I’ll be writing about these habits.
The first one is letting go of grudges.
If you’ve ever been wronged you’ll be able to relate to the deep feelings of resentment, pain and hurt that can linger on for a long time. It can sometimes seem impossible to let the issue go and move on.
However, here’s the thing: if you want to be happy, you have to let it go – for your own sake.
Because the negativity you’re holding onto is preventing lighter and more positive energies entering your life.
It may not be wise to forget what happened (because you don’t want it to happen again), but it is wise to let the issue go.
Here are 6 steps that can help the process.
1. Acknowledge the problem
It’s a good idea to start by getting a clear understanding of what the problem is.
What was said or done?
What specifically has upset/angered you?
Be as honest and transparent with yourself as you can about precisely what triggered the difficult feelings in the first place.
It can be difficult to admit but sometimes our own deep-seated insecurities and emotional wounds are partly or wholly to blame. We blame others because it is easier to do so.
2. Identify and share your feelings
By nature, grudges involve pent-up energy.
Something that needed to be said or done at the time, but wasn’t, has caused unresolved feelings, which is why you feel you can’t let the issue go.
There is unfinished emotional business.
Without being too harsh on yourself and the other person, reflect on your feelings about the situation.
Are you angry? Sad? Disappointed? Fearful? Guilty? Ashamed?
You will have to acknowledge and give these feelings careful consideration if you want the tension around the situation to diffuse.
You can write about them, or, if you have a trustworthy friend, you can talk about them.
If at a later stage you decide to communicate with the person involved in the original issue, then these feelings will be a vital component of what you say.
3. Switch places
This step can be particularly challenging, especially if you’re feeling angry. But it pays to persevere. Remember, this is a process you’re doing for yourself, not the other person.
Try to put yourself in their shoes.
What may have caused them to behave the way they did in that situation?
What was going on for them at the time?
What possible explanations could there be for their attitude and behaviour?
People tend to act out their own emotional baggage with other people.
Was this person going through a rough time?
Have they been emotionally hurt by others in their present life or in the past?
Do they have low self-worth, causing them to try to gain a sense of power by dragging other people down?
Are they acting out their insecurities, inadequacies and pain with you by creating drama?
Reflecting on and trying to empathise with the other person does not excuse their actions; it simply helps you to understand the situation better.
Empathy can significantly reduce your feelings of anger.
4. Do a reality check
Occasionally we can get so caught up in nursing a grudge that we forget that, at the end of the day, it is we who are holding onto the negativity, not the other person.
At these times, it can be helpful to reflect on this quote from Mark Twain: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Negativity drags us down by lowering our energy vibration. It has the potential to damage our health and make us bitter and twisted. Is this really what you want for yourself?
Chances are the person you’re resenting is happily getting on with their life. Why should you be the one who continues to live with this damaging energy?
The grudge is harming you, and you alone. It pays to remember that the person holding the grudge always suffers more!
5. Take back your power
Decide to take back your power and actively choose to create your own healing.
Don’t wait for the other person to come round and offer you an apology.
If you’re waiting for them to do that, they are wielding power over you – power that you’ve given to them.
Do they deserve to hold this privileged place in your life?
Are you going to allow them to control your inner world in this way?
Make a conscious decision to get past the issue, with or without an apology.
An enduring grudge will only drain you physically and emotionally, and damage your quality of life.
6. Symbolically let it go
Once you’ve decided to let the issue go, do something symbolic. You may come up with a myriad of ways to do this, but here’s an example to get you thinking.
Close your eyes. Imagine holding a magic wand in your hand and waving it over your head and body to gather up all the negativity.
Give this negative energy a colour and texture (e.g. rough, prickly, slimy) and see the wand drawing it out of your body.
See a bubble forming on the tip of your wand. When you’ve finished, propel this bubble into the air and see it floating away into the sky.
See it getting smaller and smaller as it floats further and further away from you, and continue watching it until it disappears.
Now mentally draw a line on the ground in front of you and, taking one big step, cross over the line. As you take this step, vow to completely leave the issue behind.
Don’t think about it.
Don’t talk about it ever again.
You are free.
By doing this exercise, you’ve created room for peace and happiness to flow into your life.
Of course, letting go of an issue doesn’t mean you will ever forget what the other person did.
What you have done is rid yourself of the negativity they left behind and made space for greater contentment and serenity to come in.
Do it for yourself.