Learn to Let Go of Control and Surrender to Life’s Flow
All of us have a little control freak in us.
We get attached to success, to our jobs, to our homes, to our sense of security.
But if there’s one thing we learn over the course of our lives is that we’re rarely, if ever, actually in control. 2020 has taught us this lesson many times over again. Between the pandemic, BLM, and voter suppression, most of us have been left feeling dreadfully out of control.
Lori Deschene at Tiny Buddha tells us this:
“There will never be a time when life is simple. There will always be time to practice accepting that. Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful.”
Holding on to something, whether it be worry, routine, our rituals, future goals, or our belief about the way life should be gives us a measure of control. And with that control, we feel less vulnerable to the changes and tides of our lives.
No matter what we attach ourselves to, this need for control can have detrimental effects. Often the things that we attach ourselves to are not the healthiest choices for us, mentally, physically, or emotionally.
In truth, holding onto those things and clinging to that small measure of control only brings us closer to suffering.
The Difference Between Surrendering and Giving Up
I want to be clear that there is a huge difference between letting go of control or surrendering and giving up.
Think of it like surfing.
If you’ve never surfed before, that’s okay. Let me tell you about my experience.
Moments after this picture was taken, as I took the board back out to our surfing class group, a wave pummeled me.
I struggled and fought against the wave as it crashed over me. The currents in Hawaii were wicked strong and I was no match for their power. I honestly could have drowned.
But the wave subsided and I came back to the surface, adrenaline pumping.
What I learned later, when I was refueling on the shore after I left the ocean for the safety of the beach (my blood-sugar was low and the rush left me feeling quite sick), was that if I had let the current take me, it would have spat me back out on the surface anyway, and I wouldn’t have lost so much energy fighting something I was powerless against.
This is the ultimate inner peace of our mental health.
I suffered because I tried to maintain control.
If I had let go, I wouldn’t have suffered, and I certainly wouldn’t have feared going back out into the waves.
Had I given up entirely, I would have drowned.
Finding the space where you can let go, but still continue to guide yourself in the right direction gives us the energy to focus on what’s truly important.
7 Ways to Let Go of Control and Surrender to Life
1. Be in the Present Moment
Mindfulness is a solution to many of our psychological and emotional health issues. Lao Tzu, writer of the Tao Te Ching, said:
If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.
This could not apply more to the idea of attachment and control.
Meditation is one way to slow our brains down to enjoy the present moment. But mindfulness itself is a concept that encompasses a much larger range of behaviors and techniques.
You can also be mindful by stopping periodically throughout our day to notice things around us. What season is it? How’s the weather? Are we holding tension in our bodies anywhere that might need to be released?
Take a few deep breaths or use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to slow your consciousness down. Mentally and physically letting go and taking a deep breath is a great technique.
2. Use Affirmations
Affirmations are one of my favorite way to increase mindfulness in my life. Affirmations are simply statements that we make to be true. They are positive, powerful, and present tense. (They’re also in 1st person.)
You can meditate with them, write them down, or print them out where we can see them throughout our day.
Try these affirmations for letting go of control.
- As I breathe in, I gently hold the important things in life. As I exhale, I let go of what does not serve me.
- I surrender to life’s flow.
- I release control and let go.
- I allow others to be themselves.
- I embrace the Universe. I trust that it will take me to where I need to be.
- Everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to.
Keep reading more: What are affirmations and how do they work?
3. Know Your Fears and Limiting Beliefs
It’s commonly accepted in psychology that control is rooted in fear. A person often tries to control because they’re afraid of something happening (or not happening).
Personally, one of my biggest fears is being a burden on people around me. Often the things that I try to control in my life is to avoid this feeling.
The more you know about your own fears, “lies” that you tell yourself, and limiting beliefs, the more you’re able to catch yourself when you find yourself fighting for control. Knowledge is power, and when we have this knowledge, we’re able to adjust quicker to let go of that control.
Read more: 4 Techniques for Letting Go of Your Fear
4. Embrace Your Faith or Beliefs
One way of releasing fear is to embrace trust.
Whether you believe in the Universe and energy as in the Law of Attraction, Christian God, or the power of the human brain, trusting these powers can be incredibly relieving to us. Discovering your own spirituality as a means of finding comfort and learning to let go can help you find a deeper meaning and learn to surrender.
Although this article from the NCCN is specifically about cancer patients, the same principles apply about using spirituality and religion to find comfort and enhance the quality of your life.
Spirituality can help you:
- decrease feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger
- decrease loneliness
- live a healthier lifestyle
As you’ve learned, these things can in turn help you release control.
5. Write Down Your Thoughts
Journaling can be an incredibly powerful vessel to open ourselves up to discovery and inner peace.
Often, we need to be alone with our thoughts in order to discover important things about ourselves. Also, we might also make new discoveries when we write instead of talk because they use different parts of the brain.
Especially when you couple journaling with #2, #3, and #4, you can discover a lot about yourself and why you hold onto certain things. This article from Psychology Today goes into depth about different kinds of journaling that you can employ for your mental health.
6. Visualize Letting Go
When you find yourself fighting for control, take a moment to be mindful.
Think about what you’re trying to control. No matter what it is, picture that it’s a mountain that you’re trying to climb. The more aspects you are trying to control, add a weight around your back. The things you’re trying to control are burdens and will weigh you down. Think about how drained you will be when you get to the top. Is it worth it?
Release the need to climb the mountain and picture yourself in a quiet place.
Maybe it’s a beach somewhere with pristine waters and a blue sky. Maybe it’s a rich forest with tall trees. There is no path anywhere. There’s no need to embark on a journey. Find yourself embracing the peace you feel in that place and surrendering. You can let go.
6. Be in Nature for Grounding
Just like the above example, as well as #1 (practicing mindfulness), actually being in nature can have huge benefits to your mental health.
According to Harvard, nature can help you break the continuous loop of control, negative thoughts, and stress that accompany trying to maintain control. “Calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.”
Getting out of this fight-or-flight response will help us let go of control and respond instead of react when met with something we can’t control.
Letting Go Quotes
Need more inspiration? Quotes about letting go, or letting go of control are all around us: in our religions, and in our pop culture.
Let’s take a look at some Letting Go Quotes:
“The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”-Princess Leia.
“Hold on loosely… if you cling too tightly you’re gonna lose control.”-38 Special (Hold on Loosely)
“Non-attachment is not complacency. It doesn’t imply a lack of caring and commitment. The philosophy of non-attachment is based in the understanding that holding on too tightly to those things, which in any case are always going to be slipping through out fingers, hurts and gives us rope burn.”-Lama Surya Das
“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”-Yoda
“Nonresistance, nonjudgment, and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”-Eckhardt Tolle
“When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment.”-Pema Chödrön
Let it go … Let the storm rage on.-Elsa, Frozen
When you let go of control, you allow space for acceptance, balance, and peace. Whether you believe in God, or the energy of the universe, there are much bigger forces at play than you could ever imagine.
Your success, your happiness, your health, your LIFE and so many of the good things in life come to you from miraculous sources.
So as you work toward your goals, allow yourself the space to let go of control. Let life take you and work its magic. And if something negative and unexpected happens, expect that life is propelling you to exactly where you need to be.
7 Ways to Let Go of Control and Surrender to Life’s Flow
*Updated August 24, 2020