4 Ways to Stop Living in the Past

While the things that happen in our past are crucial in defining who we are and governing the decisions we make, allowing yourself to be stuck in the past prevents you from enjoying the present and moving toward the future.

Our current reality is a sum of all of our past thoughts, emotions and experiences. The amazing thing about this is that we can change our thoughts, emotions and experiences today in order to positively impact our future.

Before we can do this, however, we need to get our minds out of the past. Here are 4 ways to step out of yesterday and start living for today:

#1: Ditch Regret

The glaring reality of the past is – you cannot change it. No amount of thought and effort can change situations or experiences that have already happened. Regrets are those sad or disappointed feelings over something that has already happened or a missed opportunity.

Regret is damaging – it can negatively impact your sense of self worth and cause you to feel stressed and depressed.

We are all human and this means that we are not all perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, but the fact that you feel regret means you care.

Whether the regret stems from a situation affected someone else or just yourself, the easiest way to ease the regret is to apologize and move on. This means apologizing to yourself if you have to.

A good habit to begin in order to move on from regret is to begin a gratitude journal. By looking at the things you are thankful for in the present, you can begin to let go of those missed opportunities or mistakes of the past.

#2: Live in the Present

Imagine you are driving down a road and see the aftermath of an accident up ahead. You are looking forward for any perceived dangers but find yourself turning your head to look at the accident. What do you think will happen if you don’t return your eyes to the road?

When we focus on the past, we end up missing what is happening right here and right now. Important moments may pass you by because you are too busy worrying about what has already happened.

Mindfulness is a wonderful practice that helps you learn to live in the moment. It helps you recognize past thoughts and release them in order to focus on what is happening right now. Practicing mindfulness regularly can help ease you out of living in your past.

#3: Acknowledge Your Painful Memories

Living in the past is living a life governed by fear. We fear repeating past situations because we are scared of experiencing past pains. It seems the only choice we have is to let those painful memories control our lives or bury them away.

The problem about burying feelings away is that they will always be there, and the fear behind them will rear its ugly head in stressful and anxious situations.

You need to accept those painful memories and process the hurt behind them. If you can work through the pain and fear, you are less likely to associate those emotions with present or future situations.

#4: Practice Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be a difficult thing to bring yourself to do since it usually feels like you are letting the other person off the hook for what they did to you. The truth is, forgiveness is not acceptance. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you excuse their actions, it means accepting the bad they caused in your past in order to move forward.

The importance of forgiveness is that it is for your benefit, not theirs. You are saying, “Yup, you hurt me but I’m not letting that define my life. Bye.” Forgiveness is about taking back your power and controlling how you live your life.

There is an old saying that goes: “Forgive and forget.” Personally, I believe in forgiving but not forgetting. Remember in point #4, we need to accept our painful memories – because we can learn from them. If someone has wronged you, take the lesson and release the emotion. Forgive, but don’t forget.

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