You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Let go of the things that don’t serve you any longer.”
Sounds like a good plan, right?
But how the heck do you do that?
And how do you know what isn’t serving you?
Learning how to practice non-attachment is so much easier said than done.
We are addicted to striving and longing and wanting more or better.
It is human nature to get attached to things, and most of us define ourselves by these outside things instead of being in touch with our true selves.
- What Is Non-Attachment?
- Why Practicing Non-Attachment Is Beneficial
- Practicing Non-Attachment: 9 Ways to Use It in Life and Love
- FAQs about Non-Attachment
What Is Non-Attachment?
To understand non-attachment, we have to understand attachment. When we are attached to something, an emotional bond is formed with it.
This bond could be the rush of endorphins when we get the latest Fitbit smartwatch or when thinking about our childhood best friend.
Not all attachments are bad.
Babies and moms need attachment for nourishment and healthy development.
When we practice non-attachment, we simply stop the cycle of needing something else to make us feel whole.
We recognize we are whole without “stuff” to begin with.
Non-attachment is rooted in these fundamentals:
- Control: We stop trying to control every aspect of how life unfolds and accept what happens without assigning emotions or judgment to it.
- Distraction: We spend so much time overanalyzing what we said at last night’s professional mixer or worrying about next week’s first date that we forget to live in the present.
- Emotions: Being driven by emotions takes us on a rollercoaster ride instead of resting in the smooth ebb and flow of the universe.
It’s worth noting that non-attachment isn’t indifference. When you are indifferent, you don’t care.
When you practice non-attachment, you care very much but aren’t controlled by bias, assumptions, or emotions.
Why Practicing Non-Attachment Is Beneficial
Practicing non-attachment benefits our mind, body, and soul. Think of it as an emotional detox of sorts. Benefits are wide-ranging but include:
- Mental Health: The things that trigger mental health challenges like anxiety and depression can dig in their claws. When you’re anxious, you’re worried about something that might happen. When you’re depressed, you might revisit things that have already happened. When you’re unattached and overtly aware, you’re focused on being present in the moment.
- Physical Health: People who can reduce the number of attachments in their lives can find the time to focus on themselves. It might mean better eating habits or a more diligent workout routine. They are also less likely to let anxiety or depression lead to heart issues or physical manifestations of those emotional struggles
- Confidence: Non-attachment refutes any attempt for friends, colleagues, or society to define us. We don’t need to keep up with trends or look a certain way. We are simply an authentic version of ourselves. When we practice non-attachment, we don’t rely on our significant other to “complete” us. We can find unconditional love for ourselves and our partners.
- Compassion: Some might think a practice of non-attachment means we have no emotions, and others might not want to approach us. In reality, not being driven by feelings or assumptions means we can better support others without judgment or escalating an emotional topic.
Practicing Non-Attachment: 9 Ways to Use It in Life and Love
You’ll find many benefits as attachments to people, places, and things melt away.
1. Don’t Expect to Be Buddha
Non-attachment in Buddhism is called a practice for a reason – you practice it. It’s hard – there is no way around that.
You can start easy, like not attaching your value to the number of belongings you purchase.
You can also start with a therapist to learn mechanisms to help you let go of things that don’t serve you.
2. Check Your Clutter
An excellent way to start this process is to go through some of those boxes you have stored away. Did you keep your childhood doll?
Maybe those little green Army men are in a locked box?
Realizing the emotional attachment we’ve assigned to these items is a foolproof way to see how attached we are to things.
If you get rid of that doll, are you any less of a person? If you throw away the Army men, are you insulting their importance? You might be surprised at how much stuff you’ve accumulated simply due to emotional attachment.
3. Your Trauma Does Not Define You
When you feel you’ll always have the label of abuse victim or alcoholic, you are attached to it.
You can find a balance between not being numb to negative experiences but also not letting them stop you from evolving and developing.
Accept the lessons you’ve learned from the trauma and how you can be a better version of yourself because of the healing you’ve done.
Holding onto trauma is like drinking poison and expecting your nemesis to die.
4. Accept There’s a Season for Everything
Embracing this truism is especially important when it comes to non-attachment in relationships.
Watch as the seasons change each year and how once a bountiful tree turns into stark limbs that firmly hold inches of snow each winter before blooming again.
When you are not attached to a phase of life, you can open yourself up to the coping abilities of each season.
Relationships have ups and downs. Life ebbs and flows.
Accept the movement with emotional equanimity, and you’ll be in a better state of mind for the new season.
5. Open Your Mind
In the world of social media mudslinging, people hold onto religious, political, and cultural attachments that end in negative conversations instead of enlightening ones.
You can still be a card-carrying member of a political party and listen to the other side without saying, “but.”
When you don’t allow yourself to be baited into a disagreement, you free yourself from the attachment that fuels defense mechanisms.
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6. Focus, Don’t Fret
Whether you’re working on a big work presentation or a craft project, be cognizant of your thoughts that wander into how people will respond to the project.
When you’re worried about what you’ll wear to the presentation or if your friend will really like this necklace, you aren’t in the present moment.
Unattach from the outcome while enjoying the art of expanding your mind to create something powerful or creative.
7. Read and Re-Read Your Text Message and Emails
Now that you are well on your way to learning how to un-attach go back through your text messages and emails.
Focus on the ones that initially elicited a negative or emotional response.
It might be a person who always responds “K,” which you see as dismissive, or an email from the boss you felt was abrupt.
Do you see now how differently those messages appear when you aren’t reacting emotionally?
You can expand your mind to a wider set of circumstances, like the “K” was sent while your friend was working on a tight deadline but didn’t want to ignore your text.
8. Remove Always and Never from Your Vocabulary
Try an easy exercise of replacing words like “always” and “never” with “sometimes.”
- “I always eat junk food” vs. “Sometimes, I eat junk food. I also eat healthy at lunch sometimes.”
- “I never will get promoted” vs. “I haven’t gotten promoted, and I’m going to talk to my boss about how to improve my chances next time.”
- “I am always so tired.” vs. “I get very tired sometimes, and I’m going to try this new app to monitor my sleep, so I have more information.”
9. Look at Opposing Viewpoints
Stubborn streaks can limit us from seeing another perspective with valid points. You could start with something as easy as getting your pet’s perspective.
Get down to their level, on all fours, and walk around. What does the kitchen look like to them?
You might notice that the trash is much more pungent from this level, which explains their fascination with it.
Use this symbolism in tougher topics, like seeing the other side of a disagreement or a friend dealing with an emotional issue.
FAQs about Non-Attachment
It’s okay if this whole conversation makes you feel uncomfortable. It should. It’s outside of your comfort zone in some way. Y
ou might even be stuck in the “all-or-nothing” mentality of 1. “I can care and be attached,” or 2. “I can be unattached and an emotionless human robot.” Let’s answer some of your looming questions.
Is it healthy to practice non-attachment?
It is healthy to practice it, but it’s not healthy to obsess over it or punish yourself for letting attached thoughts arrive.
You also don’t need to announce, “I am practicing non-attachment, so bear with me” to colleagues and friends.
Practice non-attachment to be a better and higher version of yourself, which will be healthy for you and the people around you. You’ll be able to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression episodes.
How do Buddhists love without attachment?
Buddhists love without attachment because they accept the person as they are, not as they want them to be.
They do not, as individuals, let the emotion or support of another person define their own self-worth. Buddhists love without attachment because relationships are not the primary source of happiness.
Love without attachment also means you commit to a partner for non-material or status-improving reasons. Marrying for financial benefits, to be a high-profile couple, or to get an honorary title would be an attachment.
Buddhists don’t make strict rules for or against divorce but follow Buddha’s lead of believing divorce isn’t necessary if both people are following
Buddhism and accept each other at face value on the path to enlightenment.
Can you have a relationship without attachment?
Non-attachment in relationships can be the single most beneficial element of the relationship.
You can have a relationship without attachment by offering your love, time, and energy without feeling like you are owed anything in return.
If you have a habit of dating people hoping to change them or make them “better,” you do not love without attachment.
In the context of a committed relationship, non-attachment means you accept each other as complete individuals, without judgment or control.
It doesn’t mean your relationship is conflict-free, but it does mean you don’t get hung up on being right but rather work together to find common ground.
If you believe how you are is just “how you are, and nothing can change that,” these ways to practice non-attachment will be more helpful than you realize.
Allow yourself grace in this practice and find affirmations that help. “Today, I will be present. I will not let emotions guide me. I have everything I need. I am enough.”