It’s necessary to let go of painful memories in order to move forward in life. Otherwise, you’ll internalize these thoughts and get stuck in the past.
So, if you want to improve, you’ve got to leave your baggage at the door.
Why do we allow the past to consume our present?
“You don’t have to let that one thing be the thing that defines you.”
― Jojo Moyes
We aren’t taught how to let go of painful memories or traumatic events. Most of us are left to figure out how to get over these things or if we should even let them go. As a result, many people carry these harmful thoughts with them for life.
When you think of what you should let go, do you come up with these excuses?
- “I’m so angry, and I’ll never get over this!”
- “It would be uncaring of me to let this go.”
- “I should be punished with these memories.”
- “I don’t deserve to let this go.”
These thoughts will hold you back and make every day miserable. For this reason, you can’t let the past define your entire life. Instead, release these negative memories, and you’ll feel a massive weight lifted from your shoulders. You don’t need them anymore anyway! Deal? Great, let’s do this!
How to let go of the past
1. Choose now to let go
“Rehashing the past wouldn’t change anything. Time to move forward.”
Getting over what happened begins with the choice to finally release it. Besides, holding on to what happened doesn’t help, and wishing things were different won’t change them. So, it’s best to accept that it happened and to let it go.
Furthermore, tightening your grip on it will only destroy you.
2. Learn to let go of what you can’t control
“Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.”
— Jackson Kiddard
Learning to let go of things you can’t control is a critical life lesson. It would save so many people from a lifetime of torture if they learned this. It’s imperative to realize that you can’t change the past or other’s behaviors.
You can only control your actions. Although some people never take control of their lives, because they’re so worried about everyone else!
For instance, if someone wants to leave you or they can’t treat you right, let them go. Besides, it’s much better to be alone than with someone who makes you feel bad.
Yeah, it might hurt for a couple of weeks. But, someone is out there who really wants to be with you. So, stop wasting time with people who don’t.
3. Focus on a beneficial project
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
— Carl Jung
In order to release the habit of rumination, focus on something positive like a goal or a project. Learn a new skill or language, improve relationships, or get in shape.
Even small goals will help to calm you down and distract you from negative thoughts. So, when you start dwelling in the past, dive into your project.
Furthermore, don’t tell stories where you’re the victim. That’s dis-empowering to you, and it weakens your soul. Instead, be the strong person who inspired others to live their best life no matter what happens.
5. Embrace the small things
“The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we learn to let go of yesterday.”
— Steve Maraboli
If you have a belief about how your life “should be” then let that go as well. Life doesn’t follow anyone’s rules, and you’ll be able to cope much better if you realize this.
Luckily, you can choose to focus on the good things you have despite what happened. If you can’t think of anything positive, it’s because you’ve been marinating in self-pity for too long.
So, make it a point to notice and appreciate everything you have in your life. It can be as simple as a cool breeze, your dog’s loving gaze, family, or even the fact that you are alive today. When you’re thankful for everything, you’ll start to realize that you’re luckier than you thought!
6. Forgive them
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”
― Robert Brault
You might reject the idea of forgiving who hurt you, but this is the only way for you to let go of what happened.
Moreover, don’t seek revenge. Revenge will give you more pain when you pay for the consequences of it. Karma will deal with them.
Always remember that forgiving the offender doesn’t mean what they did was okay! It means that you are going to forgive them so you can move on and be free.
If you hold on to their past actions, they win. So, accept what happened and choose to move forward regardless.
7. Forgive yourself
“ Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
— Herman Hesse
Perhaps you were the offender? If you did something that you regret and can’t get over it, you have to forgive yourself.
That doesn’t mean you approve of what you did. It means you realize that you messed up, but you don’t deserve a lifetime of punishment for it. Learn from your mistake and become better. Forgive yourself, it’s in the past, and now you can make a higher quality future.
8. Have a good laugh
“Life is like a river, if you cannot let go of the past, it will drag you down the stream.”
Don’t take things so seriously; take the time to relax and laugh! Research shows that laughing can relieve stress and ease (mental or physical) pain. Plus, it can strengthen your immune system.
So, if you’re dwelling in the past, stop and try to laugh at it. You survived, you learned, and now you’re stronger because of it!