One of my – and most people’s – main sources of anxiety is an inability to let go of the past.
Everything from silly s*** we’ve said in passing conversations, to life-changing events can set us on edge and cause us to over-think.
Fortunately, there are ways to go about moving on in a healthy way – journaling is one of them.
Using journal prompts for letting go can help us process the past, heal from it, and move on in a positive way.
What does ‘letting go’ mean?
Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting. I want to make that very clear right off the bat.
Nor does it necessarily mean total forgiveness, or any type of forgiveness for that matter.
Letting go does not mean allowing toxic people and behaviour to be present in your life all in the name of positivity, letting go and not holding onto grudges.
If you need to hold onto that grudge in order to protect yourself, you dig your nails in, girl. I stand by you.
What ‘letting go’ means in the context of this blog post is processing past events, healing from them, and ultimately not allowing them to negatively affect you anymore.
You can look back on them and either think about what you learned from that situation or simply brush it off as something that did once hurt you, but no longer does.
It might even still hurt you – and that’s okay – but it no longer causes your heart to skip a beat or stomach to clench.
Letting go, especially of what doesn’t serve you, is the ultimate way to grow as a human being as not only do you learn from it, you also release the negative feelings attached to it.
This isn’t to say you’re not allowed to still acknowledge that a situation hurt you. In fact, pin-pointing where and how you were hurt is how we build and enforce boundaries – a key element of self-care.
You just no longer let that situation haunt you.
The emotion you feel is dulled and you can disconnect from it whenever you need.
Here’s an analogy for you, since I love analogies.
Imagine the specific situation or person you can’t let go of as a dumbbell. A heavy weight.
Letting go is not burying your dumbbell under a pile of clothes, hiding it in a cupboard or giving it to someone else to carry; letting go is merely setting it down yourself and walking away from it, free to live your life.
It still exists, it’s still there, and you know that. Sometimes you might even have to pick it up to move some other stuff around and tidy up some other mess.
But you’re no longer burdened by the weight of it all day, every day.
Do you always have to “let go” in order to find inner peace and move on?
Learning to let go of past experiences has definitely helped me process emotions and move on in a positive, healthy way that ultimately benefits me.
It’s helped me stop over-thinking every little mistake I made in the past or every bad thing that anyone has ever done to me.
(Although I have never forgotten or forgiven the people that did said bad things to me. They’re still not in my life. I know my worth and I’m firm with my boundaries.)
This has helped with my feeling of inner peace and improved my mindset overall as I’m not always dwelling on the past.
Shadow work has been amazing for this too.
However, I do want to reiterate that letting go does not mean forgiveness or forgetting.
If someone hurt you, you absolutely shouldn’t feel obligated to forgive them or let them back in your life.
When people show you who they are, BELIEVE them. Protect your energy.
It just means not being obsessed or preoccupied with that person and whatever they did to you for the rest of time.
It means processing and healing from it.
Why is ‘letting go’ of what doesn’t serve you important?
Letting go and moving on from what no longer serves you can be good for you in a few ways.
Speaking from personal experience it can:
- Improve your outlook and mindset in general as you no longer feel angry or bitter (even though those feelings are probably valid and justified)
- Boost self-esteem as you feel powerful for rising above the situation and moving on
- Stop over-thinking, which tends to also help you sleep better as an added bonus
- Relieves anxiety and improves mental health
- Improves relationships and communication
- Helps you set and enforce clear boundaries
- Protects your energy
- Makes you better at processing and healing from negative emotions in a healthy way
- Teaches you healthy coping strategies
- Gives you more time for positive stuff
Ultimately, while not essential for happiness, letting go can really help with healing and growth as a person.
When should you use journal prompts for letting go?
If you’re really struggling to move on from something like a failed relationship, argument with a family member, or betrayal from a close friend, journal prompts for letting go can help you process and move on from the situation.
They can help put the situation into perspective so that you can make a decision – if there’s a decision to be made that is – and heal.
You can then move forward with your life, taking only what serves you from it (i.e. a lesson, boundaries, e.t.c.).
When it comes to moving on from past traumatic events, while journal prompts for letting go can be helpful, I would also strongly advise you see a therapist who’s got plenty of experience in this area.
Huge traumatic events need to be handled in a specific way that you may need professional help to deal with.
This isn’t to say that the life events I mentioned above, such as break-ups and family fall-outs can’t be traumatic.
If you’re struggling to get over any life event that has impacted your mental health, I implore you to seek professional help.
Journal prompts can help, but there are other steps you need to take.
How to use journal prompts
Using journal prompts for letting go can be as simple as sitting down in front of your journal, picking a prompt and just writing whatever comes to mind.
Sometimes, picking a journal prompt will inspire me to write a whole page in my notepad; sometimes it will only encourage me to write a sentence.
It’s totally down to you and how you’re feeling that day.
If you want to improve your mindset, I’d also recommend:
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Shadow work
- Goal/intention setting
- Practising gratitude
- Repeat affirmations
- Finding a creative outlet
These are the steps I usually take in my journal practise every morning and, when all combined, they’ve really helped improve the way I look at life, as well as myself as a human being.
When it comes to just using journal prompts themselves, my top tips are:
- Buy a journal that you want to pick up and write in
- Journal first thing in the morning while your mind is fresh and you’ve not had a chance to forget; set a reminder/alarm if you need to
- Use your intuition to pick a journal prompt for letting go
- Set a timer if you’re strapped for time – you shouldn’t need more than 5-10 minutes
- Use journal printables to save you time and stress (I have a few on my Etsy)
- Be open and honest when you write; spill everything onto the page – no one else every has to read this back, not even you
- Meditate afterwards to clear your mind
- Practise self-care afterwards to reward yourself and form a positive association with your journal practise
- Try to turn this journal practise into a daily habit but don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult at first – we’re all learning
Journal prompts for letting go and moving on
#1. Does this [insert person, situation or memory of an event] serve me anymore? If yes, how so?
#2. Why am I finding it so hard to move on from this?
#3. What emotions does this event or memory trigger in me?
#4. Has this affected other areas of my life? How so?
#5. Has this affected how I treat others or approach situations? How so?
#6. What makes me feel safe?
#7. What would I gain by letting go? How would it make me feel?
#8. What are three things I can do right now to make me feel better?
#9. What are three long-term things I can do to move on from this and heal?
#10. What triggers me to over-think?
#11. What’s one event I lose sleep over?
#12. “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” How does this statement make you feel? Why?
#13. Why do I choose to dwell on things I can’t control or change? Where does this come from?
#14. Write about a tough situation you’ve overcome.
#15. Write about your five strongest traits.
#16. What are five things that make you happy?
#17. I’m okay with not having all the answers because…
#18. What does ‘letting go’ really mean for me?
#19. I choose to put my energy into what serves me. This includes…
#20. How have I grown from my past struggles and experiences?
(Check out my Journal Prompt Library for 750+ journal prompts to help you transform your mindset all in one place.)
Letting go takes time. Prompts or no prompts.
It’s really important that you’re gentle and kind to yourself during this process.
You won’t suddenly let go of something that’s been haunting you for years just because you’ve written about it a couple of times. It takes patience and work.
Allow yourself to feel to heal and I invite you to do some shadow work. It’s really helped me.
You’ll get there. And you’ll be so much stronger for it.
If you struggle with knowing where to start when it comes to journaling and need a little extra help, feel free to check out my journal printables on Etsy.
They lay out what you need to do and I even provide free journal prompts to get you started.