Even though we’re living in the present right now and we have the future to look forward to, sometimes we can’t help but live our lives focused on what’s happened in the past.
It is difficult to have a happy life when it feels like the past still has a hold on you, you’re caught in a web of reflection and brooding, and it seems like the mistakes that you’ve made in the past are the only things that matter.
Living in the past can be a difficult temptation to overcome, especially if there’s pain and hurt in those past memories.
Living in the past makes you lose sight of the present, and it prevents you from building a happy future.
Reminiscing memories of the past is healthy and should be done, but when these memories start to have a hold on you from moving forward, then something needs to change.
This guide is going to help you learn how to let go of your past so that you can start living a happier life and building a brighter future.
1. Let All Your Emotions Out
The worst thing you can do is to keep your emotions bottled up inside. Ignoring them can only lead to them bursting out at the worst time.
Instead, feel your emotions in order to move forward as this is key to understanding why you’re upset in the first place.
Let the tears flow until you physically can’t cry anymore, or scream into a pillow until the frustration dissipates. Letting all of your negative emotions out is the first step to stop living in the past.
Make sure that you don’t get lost in your emotions, which is a common thing to do.
Remind yourself that you are not defined by your emotions, your emotions of course affect you, but they do not control you.
2. Don’t Let Negative Emotions Cloud Your Mind
Expressing your emotions is crucial, but don’t let your mind dwell on them. Negative thinking is unhelpful as it can distract you from all the positives in your life, and it makes it even harder to let go of the past.
There are also studies that show that “certain negative cognitions” can put you in a state of depression.
There’s also a lot of evidence out there that shows that a depressed mood can affect the relative accessibility of positive and negative cognitions.
This essentially means that negative thinking can produce a state of depression, and depression can evoke negative thinking.
This is a widely destructive cycle that can cause a lot of harm, and it can be difficult to escape from.
It can also make it much harder to let go of the past since your mind is riddled with negative thoughts.
When you start to have negative thoughts, steer your mind away from these thoughts and think about the positives that you have in your life.
3. Learn From Your Experiences
Look at the positives from your past experiences instead of the negatives.
By learning from an experience, you’ll end up learning more about yourself and what makes you happy.
For example, you might’ve gone through a harsh break-up. Instead of focusing on the sad nature of a breakup, focus on the positive aspects.
Such as, now you’ve learned what you don’t want in a partner and you can eventually start to seek out more meaningful and positive relationships.
Or did you get fired from a job? Now you can start looking for work that you actually enjoy.
It is all about focusing on the things that will make you happy and making the best out of a negative experience.
4. Stop Being The Victim
It may sound harsh, but once you get into the mindset of being a victim, you’ll find that all your thoughts start to lead back to your past traumas, which leads to you living in the past.
Once you start thinking about these past traumas, your mind becomes riddled with these negative thoughts, and you find yourself thinking that everything always goes wrong for you.
This, of course, isn’t the case because you are in control of your own fate. There’s absolutely no reason to think that just because you failed in the past, you’ll fail again.
Instead, remember that you have control over your life, and you’re not the victim.
5. Don’t Wait For An Apology
The best possible lesson in life that you can learn is to forgive and forget.
Maybe you weren’t in the wrong, and the other person was, and they should apologize, but waiting for an apology that may never come can be damaging for you.
Focus on moving forward because waiting for that apology just means that you’re stuck in the past. Don’t spend your time being hung up about an issue that you can’t change.
6. Expand Your View Of Yourself
Once you’ve completed all these steps, now is the time to start focusing on yourself. Take some time to get to know yourself better and learn what makes you happy.
Try new hobbies, take part in new activities, push the boat out and try new things. Actively pursue hobbies or activities that you’ve never tried before.
Understanding who you are and what you want out of life will go a long way in helping you live a happier life.
7. Live In The Moment
Enjoy the present; enjoy the moment you’re currently in because you’ll never get to live it again.
Take a look around yourself, and take it all in. Take in what people are saying and doing whilst also focusing on yourself and what you’re doing.
This won’t always come naturally to everyone.
If you’re struggling, try using mindfulness practice to help you realign your thoughts to the present, reduce stress, and give yourself some space to analyze any problems you have dwelling on the past.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you should be more able to live in the present, not the past.