5 Ways to Rid Yourself of Guilt


As busy people who struggle with the daily responsibilities of work, family and self-care, we can often find ourselves over-stretched, frustrated and feeling guilty for not being able to accomplish all we had intended. We can be really hard on ourselves and allow negative self-talk to overcome us if we aren’t careful. Once we can learn to ‘think outside the box’ and realize that we (and others) are doing the best we can with the best intentions we have, then we can begin to rid ourselves of the guilt. Of course, feeling guilty about something you did that was harmful to someone else can be useful in that it can give you the realization to make amends and move forward with making positive changes. However, when guilt is triggered by our perceptions of what others may think or what we think we ‘should’ be doing, it can be harmful. Feeling guilty can be toxic to your body, mind and spirit. When we experience guilt, we are kept back from experiencing growth and transformation, and chronic negativity can lead to disease. Here are some ways to reduce and eventually get rid of guilt:

Don’t ‘should’ on yourself: Focusing on the “I should do this” or “I should have done that” sets you up for being self-critical. When you ‘should’ on yourself, you are judging yourself. When you judge yourself, you are limiting all of your potential to grow and think openly. We can’t change the past but we can learn from it and take those experiences as tools for change. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘shoulds’, think of ways that you can learn to change your way of thinking by letting go of the preconceived thoughts that may not even be beneficial to you. Where did those thoughts develop? What can you do or say to challenge those thoughts?

Practice positive affirmations: Since guilt can affect your physical, emotional and spiritual health, a gentle way to remedy the effects is by practicing positive affirmations. Keeping your affirmations in present tense helps you stay in the present moment, and using “I am” makes the statement powerful and personal. I like to say my positive affirmations right after I wake up while I am still in bed. It gives me positive thoughts at the beginning of the day, and it also helps me work on the action part of keeping my affirmations. Saying something like “I am healthy and prosperous, and I am grateful for all good things in my life, and I am accepting of all abundant things coming into my life” gives me a sense of peacefulness and harmony for the rest of the day.

Start a Journal: One way of releasing guilt is actually seeing it on paper and expressing your feelings and thoughts through journaling. Journaling is a wonderful method of visualizing what is on your mind and also going back to it later to remind yourself how far you’ve come along. We often forget about all of the accomplishments we achieved because we are too busy judging ourselves with what we ‘could have’ or ‘should have’ done. Instead, remind yourself of all the wonderful things you have done and the barriers you overcame, and recognize that you are whole and divine. I had a client who lost 50 pounds in a year but was disappointed at herself because she planned on losing 60 pounds by the end of the year. Instead of focusing on all the positive changes she made toward her health and her commitment to all of her lifestyle changes, along with losing 50 pounds, she was stuck on the thought that she didn’t lose 60 pounds. Going over her journal, she realized that she had come a long way with her goals and vision and she was able to put it in perspective and reward herself for her improved health and dedication. There is always opportunity for continued growth, so be gentle with yourself along the path of personal improvement.

Focus on Quality and not Quantity: When my girls were younger, I often experienced ‘mom guilt’ and told myself that I ‘should’ be home with the girls instead of going to the gym. I finally gave in to the guilt and decided to stay home with the girls instead of exercising. That evening, one of my daughters asked me, “Mommy, can you go to the gym today?” I realized that she noticed I was irritable and tired, and she would have preferred that I go to the gym and practice self-care than stay home and not have ‘quality time’ with her. It actually benefited all of us when I decided to let go of the ‘mom guilt’. It brought an awareness to me that quality time can be more appreciated than the quantity of time spent with my children. Enjoy the present moments and the quality of what you are experiencing rather than trying to find ways to increase the quantity of time if it is not realistic for you at the time.

Forgive yourself: Whether your feelings of guilt are coming from something you have done or something someone else has done, it is essential to forgive yourself and others in order to release your guilt and decide to not allow it to suffocate you and your future opportunities. Forgiveness is not the same as acceptance of the hurt. It is about taking care of yourself so that you can move forward with your life without being controlled by the guilt or the person who has hurt you. Forgiveness is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Forgiveness is key to allowing yourself to move forward with your life in a positive direction. When you don’t forgive yourself, you are not able to forgive others. So, start forgiving yourself and know that just being human means that you have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.

Releasing your mind of guilt and finding ways to leave the past behind, learning from your experiences and moving forward in a healing direction can enhance your physical, emotional and spiritual health.