How to Stop Living in the Past

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Ann Landers once said “There are people who believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

Her words probably sums up the wisdom of letting go of the past and living in the present.

Living in the past can make you lose sight of your present life. It can mess up your present, make you pass up many wonderful opportunities and steal your ability to enjoy the moment. If you have realized that you are focusing too much on past events, here is how to stop living in the past:

1. Step Back & Examine Your Life

Most people live their lives without taking the time to examine where they are coming from or where they are headed. The only way you are going to understand your life including your past, present and future is by taking the time to examine how you live.

To gain clarity, step back from the hustle and bustle of life and try to figure out how the past affects your life today. You can even walk down memory lane to help you understand and see the past events with a new set of eyes. Once you have gained enough insight in your past life, you are now ready to live in the present moment without having the past haunting you like a shadowy stalker.

2. Explore & Process Your Feelings About the Past

There are many events in your past-good and bad- that have the ability to hold your life hostage. Rather than take the road most traveled which involves ignoring the past and pretending it does not matter, you need to go back and explore it. You may not like what lurks in your past but there is only one way to deal with it successfully-to explore it by expressing your feelings about it.

To explore and process your feelings about the past, you have several options. These include:

  • Write down your feelings about the past. Here, you can opt to keep a journal or write a letter to someone that hurt you. However, do not send it.
  • Talk to a therapist, family member or a close friend. If you choose to confide in a family member or friend, make sure you are confiding in a tested and tried confidant to avoid unnecessary spillovers.

Most people think that it is only bad memories that can affect their lives. What such people do not know is that dwelling on good memories can also affect your life. Dwelling on good memories often lead to longing for things as they were, rather than focusing on improving the present life.

3. Surrender to Past Events & Accept Their Effects on Your Life

To let go of your past, you need to acknowledge the experiences that made you cry, laugh and helped to shape you into what you are today. You need to accept everything you have today, everything you had and acknowledge the possibilities that lay ahead.

By now, you know it is no use trying to pretend that the past does not affect you. Denial will not get help you to get over the past, it will simply give you a shadowy stalker you cannot shake off. The only way you can get over the past is by making peace with it.

If something or someone reminds you of a traumatic event or trigger an emotional response, calmly acknowledge these events and deal with your feelings about them.

Here, it is all about summoning the strength to embrace changes that occur in life, to trust your intuition and learn important lessons as you go. Accept that every event you have experienced in your life has value and proceed to take positive steps forward.

4. Focus on What You Can Change

Everyone has something they would like to change in their past. It could be a great opportunity you passed up or a bad upbringing. The only problem is that though you may want to change certain things in your past, there are many things you have to learn to live with.

To make peace with your past, you need to realize that not everything can be modified, undone or understood. You cannot undo the past, but you can modify how you perceive and handle it.

There are events in your life that you may never understand why they occurred. Rather than fret over them, take to heart the important lessons that such events taught you, let go and stop wasting precious energy on things you cannot change. Instead focus on the things you can change.

If there is something you do not like and cannot change, undertake to change the way you think about it. Whenever you realize that your thoughts are getting enmeshed in the past, guide them back into the present.

5. Take Chances

There are many times when life will set you up with challenges. You may not always love the challenges that life throws at you but you need to understand that there is a reason for them. Instead of avoiding challenges or worrying whether you will make mistakes just as you did in the past, take your chances. Keep in mind that challenges are meant to test your courage and willingness to make changes and create something new.

If you fail to take the chance, the challenge will not wait. Life will move on and you might have added one more regret if you do not rise to the occasion. The challenges you are facing are aimed at helping you to let go of the past and embracing the new. Your destiny awaits your firm decision. You may not have all the answers or resources.

Nobody ever seems to have everything they need when they need it. Just make up your mind and jump in. Destiny usually rewards the brave and the decisive. Take your chances and let life reward you.

6. Focus on the Present

The decision to dwelling in the past or focusing on the here and now depends on you. It is your call to make. If you decide to keep living in the past and allowing the past to affect your present, you will only have yourself to blame.

Ultimately, the best thing you can ever do for your life is to keep moving forward. Take that leap and make that decision without looking back. Leave the past and focus on the opportunities in the present and the future. Forge forward and make your life better. The floor is yours and the world is at your feet.

Check out our list of 170 more stress management techniques!

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