Everyone has pain from the past. It might be a failure in school, a cruel comment from a parent, or a failed relationship. Letting go of the past is challenging, but necessary. Those that cling to the past are forever at its mercy.
A peaceful and meaningful life is easier if you’re able to leave the past in the past.
1. Remember: your past only exists within you. Everything happens in the present, so the solution to your challenges is in the present. Everything you can control is happening right now. The past only exists because you allow it to.
2. Avoid ruminating over the past. What do you think you accomplish by replaying negative events in your head? Do you think something positive will happen the 500th time that didn’t happen the previous 499?
◦ Rumination is an activity with negative consequences. It ruins your mood and leads to more rumination. Reliving negative events can lead to shame, depression, and anxiety.
3. Accept the past. You can’t change it and it’s already happened. You don’t have a lot of choices here. Stuff happens. Sometimes life stinks. Focus your attention on the present.
4. Forgive everyone that wronged you. Forgiving them doesn’t mean you have to let them back into your life. It does mean that you’re ready to focus on something else in your life. When you forgive, you give yourself the emotional freedom to not feel bad about the incident anymore.
◦ You might need to forgive yourself, too. We all make mistakes, so give yourself a break. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
5. Treat yourself well. Ensure that you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and spending time with people you enjoy. What hobbies would you like to explore? Make yourself a priority. You’re worth it.
6. Realize that you did the best you could at the time. For that matter, everyone in your past did the best they could. Our best isn’t always great at each moment in time. Everyone is doing the best they can. Believe that and you’re free.
7. Make exciting plans for the future. Give yourself something to look forward to. What do you want to do and accomplish in the next 5 or 10 years? What do you want to accomplish next month?
8. Do something fun. One way to overcome negative memories is to create some new ones. Do something fun with people you enjoy. Focus on making new memories to help you let go of the old.
9. Control what you can. Much of the reason for reliving the past comes from wanting to control the uncontrollable. Rather than longing to do the impossible, focus on what you can control. Control what you’re able to control and let go of the rest.
10. Realize the control you’re giving to your past. When we relive past pain, we develop defense mechanisms to protect us from future pain. The pain from the past creates fear. That fear of the past creates fear of the future. The key to a peaceful future is releasing yourself from the past.
How much is your past affecting your present and future? Will you allow this to continue?
Everyone’s past is checkered with failure and uncomfortable memories. You can choose to allow the past to define and limit you, or you can choose to leave it behind.
Learn from your past and then move on. Forgive everyone and yourself. There’s plenty of life left to be lived.
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