Loving the life you’ve lived and learning to let go

Mar 23, 2023
Source: Getty

I was listening to a conversation at the gym between one of our trainers and a fellow member. A mum in her late forties was talking about her up-and-coming basketball grand final. It made me wish I was back playing. A feeling of nostalgia kicked my mind into overdrive.

Images of my competitive sports days, specifically squash and netball, flashed before my eyes as did the adrenaline kick I thrived on. Surprisingly, a sense of sadness followed. It was the realisation that I will never get back to those days. I wondered why I stopped in the first place. I’m sure I could play today even if a little out of touch. I have played sports since I was a kid and continued well into my fifties/sixties.

There is probably a myriad of reasons. I pondered on what I once did and what I do now. One part of me says just do it, another says let it go.

Once upon a time, I would be the first to embrace new adventures. Now I hesitate and consider how long it will take for me to heal if I am injured.

It made me wonder if others have had the same feeling. Maybe, I thought, there is a biological element associated with ageing that tells us it is time to let go. A default mechanism to prepare us as we move closer to death’s door. I could not let it go (excuse the pun) and did a little research.

Research on Letting Go

To my joy, well maybe a hint of sadness, there is evidence that suggests letting go is part of the biological ageing process. I discovered there are ten areas that people found less important as they age. It was no surprise; I could relate to every one of them!

They are: caring about what others think, things we can’t control, competitiveness, your birthday, being cool, material possessions, career, toxic friends/family, weekend activities, dressing to impress, and the realisation that ageing is not too bad.

There is further reassuring evidence that says letting go may be the key to happy aging. Scans of the fluctuations in brain activity showed different patterns in people who were living a life without regrets, one key to aging well. By employing better mental strategies to avoid regret, their positive attitude toward their past and potentially regrettable behaviour made a dramatic difference.

They were more relaxed and open to what lay ahead as they aged. It seems that if people dwell on regretful decisions they made when they were younger, it can be detrimental to their mental health if they don’t let go. As we get older it is far more essential to focus on emotional well-being and adapt to a positive approach to changing life demands. It all makes sense.

How I am learning to let go

I realised that I have been unconsciously transitioning from holding on to letting go for some time. Here are some of my examples.

  • Letting go of dressing to impress. Dressing up but under my rules. Comfort and feeling good about myself are my key focus.
  •  Decluttering, letting go of material things. I have stopped collecting. Even with gift giving my first comment is please be practical, I don’t need stuff! It will ease the process for my kids when I am gone.
  • When I retired from a corporate environment, I needed to let go of my role and title. My roles and objectives today are taking me on wonderful diverse paths. I have the gift of time, flexibility and choice.
  • Coming to terms with the ageing of the body. OMG, letting go of youthfulness. Accepting lines, drooping skin, and greying hair.
  •  Family things are out of my control. Admittedly I have trouble with some, but I soon get told to butt out by my adult children.
  • Personally, physical activity is not all about letting go, but modification. My old sporting injuries tell me so. Exercise is therapeutic for my well-being.

I have come to understand that letting go is linked to ageing, it is an ongoing process and we experience it more and more as we age. It brings a sense of inevitable losses that challenge us. It is not about giving up, but acceptance. Finding new things, and making the most of what we have to retain a sense of connection, with no regrets.


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