You spent the holidays trying to ignore the people in your life who cause you grief (your ex, your boss, that snippy sales clerk). For the new year, drop the emotional baggage once and for all by forgiving them. “Problems in our relationships are intended to become passages to new understanding about ourselves,” says Guy Finley, author of Let Go and Live in the Now (Red Wheel, 2004). He suggests three steps to wipe your emotional slate clean.
Opt out of negativity. You can’t control whether your coworker takes credit for your brilliant brainstorm, but you can choose to let go of your fury over the situation. Once you realize that by keeping stress pumping through your body, you’re only punishing yourself, it should be easier to ditch the negativity and come up with more productive solutions to your problem. “It’s like finding yourself holding a hot skillet,” says Finley. “You don’t think, ‘How do I let go?’ You just do.”
Take responsibility for hurt you’ve inflicted by apologizing, on paper or in person, to the person you’ve injured. Surprisingly, it may make you more sympathetic to those who have hurt you. As you come to understand that you sometimes lash out at others because of inner pain or grief, you’ll be more compassionate about the emotional angst that turns your loved ones into enemies.
Quit replaying victimization. Finley suggests an exercise called “Stop Revisiting the Scene of the Crime”: The second your mind starts to replay a bad moment, remind yourself that every time you mentally relive it you’re victimizing yourself all over again. Then consciously empower yourself. For example, master a new cooking technique or train for a 5K race. When you refuse to relive negative moments, you’ll let go of the past and open yourself up to exciting new discoveries.