Much is written about happiness. Books. Articles. Songs. Videos. Happiness seems to be a universal pursuit and one that has existed through ages; indeed, it was a frequent topic among philosophers from the ancient worlds of West and East and has been pursued without pause since then. No one has yet to discover a single answer to how to find happiness. Russ Harris, a important leader in acceptance and commitment therapy, wrote a book entitled The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. Is happiness attainable, or is it a trap, a sham? Read More...
It’s difficult to create inner peace when circumstances around us cause or contribute to stress, anxiety, negative thoughts and emotions, and cognitive dissonance (an uncomfortable feeling that develops when your actions and values don’t match up). Sometimes, to be at peace and decrease the experiences we don’t need, we need to walk away. However, doing so is often easier said than done. Knowing what it involves and how to do it will move you in the direction of wellbeing and inner peace.
Walking Away Can Be Negative or Positive
For some people, the mere phrase “walk away” adds more stress than it relieves. It can sound negative and contrary to what they value:
- Giving up
- Throwing in the towel
- Running from problems
As it relates to mental health and happiness, walking away is different that the above actions. Here, walking away is an action chosen in order to live a quality life, wellbeing, and inner peace. It’s done for positive reasons rather than negative ones and is based on thoughtful considerations and a choice to move toward your higher goals. Quitting a job in the heat of an argument and storming out with no notice because you’re angry isn’t in the same spirit as calmly choosing to resign for that job because it’s toxic or because you are pursuing a different career goal.
When done positively, walking away can bring great relief. Walking away means
- Letting go of something unhealthy
- Stepping toward your values
- Taking charge of your limits and boundaries
If you want or need to walk away from something or someone in your life, the following tools will help you do it positively and with positive results.
What Walking Away Looks Like: Ways to Walk Away
Decide if you want to walk away. Spend time with yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, and reflect on what’s important to you. How would walking away from the person or situation in question fit with your values and goals? By walking away, would you move closer to inner peace or closer to more anxiety and agitation?
You can walk away from struggle in many ways.
Walking away can be literal. You might quit a job that isn’t good for you or because a new opportunity has arisen. Also, you might need to leave a toxic or abusive relationship. This is essential for your safety, and there are resources to help you. (My latest novel, Behind Silent Smiles, is a story, inspired by a real woman, about leaving an abusive relationship to start over and find peace.)
Walking away can also be figurative. Sometimes, only a component of a situation causes problems. Someone’s marriage might be a good one filled with both ups and downs. The person might not want to leave his or her partner but hates some situations. Walking away from those aspects can create peace. Some ways to walk away include:
- Mentally separating yourself from the source of frustration, a form of non-attachment. It’s also called shenpa, the Buddhist practice and attitude of choosing not to get hooked by something harmful to your wellbeing. In choosing separation and shenpa, you create room to move ahead.
- Practicing acceptance. Acceptance means acknowledging something we can’t change and moving forward anyway.
- Taking action. Walking away involves choosing to move rather than remaining stuck. Acceptance and non-attachment are active practices that involve forward motion rather than stopping.
A Gift for You to Walk Toward Inner Peace
I have a bonus for you that you can use whenever you want to. It works for walking way, and it’s useful in many other situations, too. It’s a mindfulness exercise I created, and I’ve called it “Somewhere I am at peace.” It appears in The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety. You can see more about this journal and even preorder it until its release on December 25 here: http://bit.ly/MindfulnessJournalforAnxiety.
Enjoy this mindfulness exercise to help you in the process of walking away, and feel free to share it with others.