Do you find yourself attached to something unhealthy?

It could be anything — a relationship, a substance, or even a really bad habit. You probably feel frustrated with yourself and confused as to why you keep doing what you know isn’t good for you. And you probably want to start being free, but you may not be sure how to do it.

Below is an overview of helpful ideas that can help you in the process of letting go.

1. Pay attention and admit it.

It can be easy to ignore whatever it is you’d rather get rid of. Then again, it may be so much in your face that you can’t ignore it. But if you haven’t already, you must start by admitting to yourself that you have a problem.

In order to do this, you also must understand that you are not bad for having this problem, and many others have dealt with the same sort of thing. If you see that this issue says nothing at all about who you are, and that attachment to negative things is part of being human, then you can admit the issue to yourself without being overwhelmed by self-blame.

2. Understand why you do it.

We all have a reason for doing what we do. Even the things we hate to do, even the things we try to let go of — they remain in our lives because something in us believes we want it.Yes, we always do what we want to do.

If you have not yet let go of your attachment, it is because part of you believes, for some reason, that you are better off with it. In other words, by holding on to your bad habits, you are trying to accomplish something, to get desires met, to get feelings of safety and control satisfied, or to remain comfortable.

3. See that your desires are not being met.

Of course you want to consider why you are doing things in order to give yourself insight and understanding. But it also serves another purpose. By seeing why you do what you do, you can ask if it is working. Are you getting what you’re looking for? If you see that your desires are not being met there, and completely, rather than partially, absorb that truth, then you can see you don’t really want it. And it’s only then that you will be ready to start letting it go.You can’t let go of something if you are not really sure you want to. You may be able to do a little letting go here and there, but to really move past this, you must be sure you want to completely.

Ask yourself: What is this negative attachment really doing for me? Chances are that rather than making you feel safe and joyful, you are feeling tired, anxious, unhappy about yourself and unable really to live a full life. While you may want control, this habit is making you totally out of control and making you live in hardship rather than peace. You may want love, but this relationship is making you feel unloved and if you are honest with yourself, you know it won’t change.

This thing may give you a sort of temporary relief. It is very temporary, however, and the effects are very unpleasant and much longer-lasting. Surface relief is not enough; the temporary comforting feeling is never totally comforting. It is usually only partly so (if at all), mixed with discouragement, shame, anxiety or emptiness.

So does this thing satisfy your desires for care, safety and joy? As you can see, they are not met here. Believe that and accept it. There is no changing the truth of how this attachment affects you. Accept that this is the way it is. No more excusing things, rationalizing or bargaining — this is just not the place to find answers.

4. Shift the focus to caring for yourself.

As much as you tend to focus on the problem, the addiction itself, it is really not about that. It is about you. It is about your well-being. Take this as an opportunity to ask yourself how you are doing and what you can do to feel better.Sometimes what you need to do first is start accepting yourself just as you are. Once you do that, and know that you are worth a healthy life, too, you can move into it, step by step.

Make yourself the priority. Even if this is a new thing for you, you can start investigating what it means to be kind to yourself, to look for ways to tend to your well-being. And you can show yourself the love that maybe you have been wanting to find.

When you change a bad habit, you must fully understand and remember that you are truly valuable and worth the effort. If the habit has been hurting you, you are in every way worth letting go of it. If it has been difficult for you to love yourself enough to treat yourself well, then it is time to be free of the lie that you are not good enough. You are.

5. Embrace hopeful thoughts.

Here are some examples:

  • There is great joy in becoming free. You can focus on what you would lose or how hard it would be, but you forget that the reason you let go is to be opened to more joy. You feel more confident, more peaceful, more joyful. You can take in a big breath, smile, and simply feel good. Sometimes it is not until we taste freedom that you understand how wonderful it really is. Meditate on the fact that it is far better than the captivity you have been in.
  • There is a healing that can happen in you, if you so need. If you carry around past wounds, you can be understanding with yourself. Embrace yourself and tell yourself that from now on you will take care of that person in you that was injured. This can be your opportunity to address stuff that has needed attention for some time, and it doesn’t have to be seen as scary. It can be seen as a wonderful thing that will lead you into a better time in your life.
  • There is a real and good plan for your life. God has a particular plan for your life. He wants to bless you and to make things new. There can be much more joy and peace and love than what you have experienced so far. Consider that you have a certain purpose for being here and that it is good. Ask God to guide you into it.

Negative, critical thoughts do not make us better at life. They make us feel stuck, weak and unmotivated to move forward. It is choosing to look at things positively that will empower us to do the right things. Find the hope that new beginnings are always possible, no matter what.

6. Consider learning more about the character of God.

It is a wonderful thing to have a personal connection with the Creator of the world who loves each of us personally. I would encourage you to pray and ask God to show you more about Him and what you can have with Him.

There is a feeling of deep comfort, healing and peace that we can have with God, if we are open and seeking it. Many of us have more to learn about the depth of God’s love and His unconditional kindness toward us. It is worth the effort because this love can truly nourish us within as well as teach us how to love ourselves.

7. Practice a thankful attitude.

Put together a gratitude list that you can add to every day. This is a neat thing to do that cultivates a spirit of thankfulness and brings in a sense of joy. Consider all the small things you take for granted and them write down, as you really think about why you are glad to have these things.

It could be something as seemingly small as a comfortable, warm bed or your favorite meal you could prepare that night. Imagine places or people that don’t have what you have.

8. Be around support.

Make sure that you are taking time to meet with friends and family, at this time especially. Choose people you feel comfortable around and can share your heart with. Even if it is just to go out and not talk about your situation, it is very helpful to be distracted in healthy ways.

Just be aware and encourage yourself to seek out people rather than being alone. It won’t help you to sit around alone all the time. Even if you feel like doing it, there are times you must remind yourself that you will be glad to get out.

9. Take care of yourself physically.

Just as the mind can affect the body, and negative thoughts can make us tired and anxious, so the body can affect the mind. You will be not quite as strong mentally if you are feeling bad physically. And it is hard to move forward and not want to be apathetic or stay stuck when you feel like laying around all day.

Think of outlets for your stress and ways to strengthen your body. Here are some suggestions:

  • Exercise.We have all heard about the unparalleled benefit to exercise. It gets more oxygen to your body, makes your organs work better and raises your endorphins, to name a few. Try aerobic exercise (like brisk walking, jogging, etc) at least a few times a week for about 20 minutes. Exercise is also great for clearing the mind, which you certainly need in times of letting go.
  • Watch your diet.Although the recent research on the need for multivitamins has been mixed, you can’t go wrong by making sure you follow a largely whole-food, largely plant-derived diet. Add in animal protein — no larger than the size of a deck of cards — twice a day. Fish is particularly good for your mental processes.
  • Breathe deeply throughout the day. Many of us are not aware of our tendencies to take shallow breaths, but it’s important to start paying attention to your breathing. Taking deep breaths can truly calm down not only your body, but your mind as well. Also be aware of any muscles you feel tensing throughout the day, and purposely release them.

It’s a Process

We tend to want change to happen right away. But be patient with yourself. If you fall back from time to time, don’t get discouraged. This is a step-by-step journey. Get up and move forward again. You have never lost your prior successes even if you have a slipup.

Instead of looking at this time as a negative thing, look at the beauty of it. Every challenge we face is only a wonderful opportunity for us to discover the life we were intended to have. Just as a caterpillar has to struggle before it becomes a butterfly, we often are faced with a similar process toward transformation. But it is a good thing. And the end result is always worth it.