How to clear your emotional baggage

New Year, new you…but how can you ensure you start 2017 as a clean slate? Best-selling author and our new love correspondent Kate Taylor tells you how.

Don’t despair if you’re currently dragging around an oversized collection of emotional baggage. It’s impossible to be alive for more than about 20 minutes without gathering some emotional souvenirs.

Your baggage is simply a set of associations you have made between your experiences and how they made you feel. Many of these will be positive—when you find yourself smiling at your best friend’s voice on the phone, that’s happy emotional baggage.

But if you’re feeling like you’d like to check in some of your more negative baggage for this fresh new year, here’s how to begin.


Recognise your baggage


The worst kind of baggage is the discreet—but bulky—kind. When past experiences have caused you to create limiting beliefs about people, love, and relationships, you need to recognise this, and begin unpacking.

Ask a friend or a family member if you seem to have some particularly fixed opinions. Do you talk about relationships in a jaded way? Do they hear you say, “All other people want is…”? or, “I could never do that…”?

Ask them to gently point out when you begin talking this way. Realising how often you’re allowing your mind to run down well-worn emotional ruts is the first step to jolting it on to a new track.

Read more: Six common reasons relationships end


Remove physical baggage


Another easy way to set down your emotional baggage is to clear your physical baggage. Look around your house—are you still displaying photos or gifts your ex gave you? Are you still stocking their preferred brands of food, or wearing the clothes they liked? Do you still sleep on “your” side of the bed?

A very positive step is to remove all these daily reminders. You don’t have to hurl them into a bin with a dramatic flourish—you can simply box them up and put them in the loft.

Similarly, download all photos from your computer and store them. You might feel you don’t notice these little things anymore, but you subconsciously do, and removing them from your home can lighten you.

Read more: 7 dating anxieties to overcome when you're over 50


Gather happier baggage


If negative baggage is becoming cumbersome, replace it with lighter, happier baggage. As we said, baggage is just a collection of ingrained beliefs. The worst part about ingrained beliefs is that you will look for (and invariably find!) proof of them everywhere.

If a partner cheated on you in the past, it would be easy to begin feeling that fidelity is impossible in relationships. Every example you see of infidelity will only cement that idea in your mind.

Or let’s say you believe you’re too old to find new love. Left unchallenged, your mind will happily bring you supporting evidence of that belief every day.

What to do? Actively challenge these negative thoughts. Seek out examples of relationships where fidelity has been possible. Talk to your friends who have found love later in life. Give yourself evidence that happiness is alive and well, all around you.

Read more: The secrets of happily married couples

Start a daily journal where you jot down all the happy stories of love and relationships that you hear all through the year. When the next New Year’s Eve rolls around, re-read your journal and you’ll have hundreds of positive reinforcements to challenge your negative beliefs.

The most important thing to remember is that collecting emotional baggage is a natural part of life. You’re not weak, or cynical, or jaded—you’re human! 

Follow these steps to recognise, remove and replace your baggage and you’ll soon find that your journey through life, and new experiences, feels much lighter. 


You can read more from Kate on her website

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