How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy

In the Moment: How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy

Have you thought about how to let go of the past and be happy?

Letting go of the past can be difficult, especially if it’s caused you emotional pain. Past trauma can affect your everyday life, from relationships to your perception of failures and successes.

It’s important to know that you aren’t the only one experiencing this. Many people struggle to let go.

This article will cover how to let go of the past and be happy. We want you to start living in the present and embracing personal growth too!

How Can Living in the Past Make You Unhappy?

Thinking about past hurts can lead to negative thoughts that prevent you from moving forward.

Ask yourself why you’re thinking about or reliving the past. Is it rumination or introspection?

Introspection refers to exploring, gaining insight, and gaining a new perspective on a past event. This is a good thing.

a woman holding someone's arm, comforting them

In contrast, rumination makes you dig yourself into a deeper hole of despair. Let’s look at rumination’s effect on your life in more detail.

Recognize Rumination

If you experience rumination, you think about the past because of the regrets you have. Instead of accepting the past, you think about what you could have done differently.

However, you’re not gaining any pleasure or insight when you do this. Instead, you are constantly drowning your present in your past experiences.

Rumination can lead to a vicious cycle of never-ending worry and negative emotions.

Rumination is often associated with anxiety and depression. You replay your failures, thinking that doing so might solve a problem, but it doesn’t.

You might feel like you’re solving a problem because you’re thinking about the past and your actions at that time. However, the truth is that you’re just continuing to hurt yourself.

Signs You Are Living in the Past

If you show any of the signs below, we recommend that you read our steps for letting go of the past to improve your mental health.

If you’re living in the past, you tend to:

  • Have conversations that involve past mistakes or people.
  • Compare your current experiences with previous ones.
  • Replay traumatic events in your mind.
  • Be easily frustrated.
  • Avoid new relationships and experiences.
  • Expect bad things to happen.
  • Feel anxious.
  • Be afraid to be alone with your thoughts.
Hand reaching out

Recognizing the signs that you’re living in the past is the first step to a brighter future. When you leave your past behind, you’ll be able to live in the moment and enjoy life for what it is.

Is It Hard to Live in the Moment?

It can be challenging to live in the moment, especially when you’re worried about the future and have past events holding you back.

We are here to tell you that learning to live in the moment is doable and worth it.

If you don’t know how to let go of the past and be happy, follow our guide.

How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy: 8 Steps to Happiness

Here are our steps to letting go of the past:

1. Forgive Yourself

We can be incredibly hard on ourselves when we make mistakes. This is especially true if you are a perfectionist. You might struggle to accept that you can make mistakes.

You might fear making mistakes for many reasons, whether it’s embarrassment or feeling imposter syndrome in a new workplace. When you’re hard on yourself, your self-esteem takes a big hit.

Just like you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes, you must learn to forgive yourself. You need to practice self-compassion.

Being too hard on yourself is a mistake you must learn from.

We are all human. We’re all prone to making mistakes!

Learn to forgive yourself so you can use the lessons from your mistakes to build a happier future.

2. Experience Your Emotions

Woman wrapped in her blanket while looking at her laptop

Many people tend to avoid pain. Doing this is not good as it can build up inside you.

There’s a risk that those old emotions and wounds will reappear, possibly stronger than before if they’ve been repressed.

We suggest letting yourself feel your emotions to help you move forward.

Allow yourself to feel pain, but find an outlet. Try confiding in someone you trust, whether a friend, family member, or therapist.

You can write your emotions and thoughts down in a journal. It’ll help you make sense of the situation and your feelings.

Having an outlet will help you release the things weighing you down.

Experiencing and releasing your emotions will prevent them from consuming your life.

3. Take Responsibility

Taking ownership of your role in past events means you’re one step closer to letting go of it – even if it was a painful event.

It’s so easy to blame others for the outcome of our actions. Taking that approach won’t release us from our conflict with ourselves.

It doesn’t mean that you need to blame yourself. Simply acknowledge your role.

This will ensure you don’t become a victim of your own narrative. Without taking responsibility, you’ll be trapped in a cycle of blame and unable to move on or grow.

By taking responsibility, you can more fully understand what went wrong and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.

4. Learn to Accept

Sometimes we find it difficult to accept past traumas. The past, however, can’t be changed.

You must come to terms with each negative event you feel is weighing you down.

Acknowledging and accepting the past allows you to grieve and let go of your negative emotions.

Remember that it’s okay if you need extra time to accept past events. Don’t keep dwelling on them, though. You’ll just be hurting yourself. Be honest with yourself throughout the grieving process.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness lets you focus on what you’re feeling and sensing in the present moment.

Man sitting and meditating

Mindfulness helps you reduce stress and anxiety. When your mind and body are focused on the present, it’s impossible to ruminate on past traumas.

It also stops you from worrying about the future. When you’re mindful of the present, you appreciate the here and now.

Here are some ways to practice mindfulness:

Just Breathe

Practice inhaling and exhaling. You can close your eyes or sit in silence. It’s entirely up to you. If past thoughts appear, let them stay for a short while before chasing them away.

Notice the Small Things

Bring your attention to the present by taking note of your surroundings. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Hear the birds chirping on that nearby tree.

Savor the Moment

Instead of rushing through life, take the time to experience each moment of your day.

Take a bite of that chocolate chip cookie you’ve been craving. Concentrate on its flavor and texture. Enjoy every sip of your morning coffee. Savoring the moment will help you stay grounded in the present and forget about the past.

(Learn how chocolate can enhance mindfulness and self-care rituals by reading our guide on embracing life’s best chocolate moments.)

Be Grateful

Spend time every day appreciating what you’re experiencing, such as the beauty of a sunset, the smell of a freshly baked cake, or even the comfort of being with friends and family.

Gratitude will keep your mind in the present and leave you feeling content.

Learn a Creative Hobby

There’s no better time than the present to learn something new. Pick up a creative hobby, like painting, drawing, or woodworking.

When you’re creating, you become fully engaged in the present moment. Your mind becomes focused on the task at hand.

6. Surround Yourself With the Right People

Distance yourself from the people or situations causing you pain. There’s nothing wrong with letting go of those that only create a negative space in your life.

Whether it’s an emotional or physical distance, creating that space can help you to move on from the past.

It may be time to cut ties if you feel you’re constantly experiencing negative emotions around the person or situation. If you have to interact with negative people, try limiting your interactions with them.

Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people. Create new memories with them and let your positive feelings grow. You’ll soon find yourself focusing less on the negative events in your life and more on the positive ones.

two people high fiving each other

7. Focus On Self-Care

Finding a balance is essential when you’re working on yourself.

Self-compassion is a great start. It can help you feel empowered and in charge of your happiness again. If you can show love to yourself, it will be easier to move on.

If you need to take time away to heal, do it. Spend time doing things that make you happy, and that relax and rejuvenate you.

Sleep well, eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and try relaxation techniques like yoga or taking a warm bath. Giving yourself some much-needed attention, especially after a traumatic event, is the best way to start healing.

Woman wearing a charcoal facemask

If your environment keeps reminding you of the past, try changing it. Throw away objects that constantly bring up bad memories and negative thinking.

Your new and empowering space will make your emotions less likely to consume you. It’ll serve as a fresh start for you to leave the past behind and move on to the present and future.

8. Seek Professional Help

If you have difficulty letting go of the past, consider seeing a licensed therapist. Therapy is a safe space to express your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

The past can bring up many negative thoughts you may struggle to cope with. Letting a therapist help you work through your emotions will give you a better understanding of them.

Therapy can help you put the past into perspective and move on with a new, more positive outlook on life.

Final Thoughts

If you’re trying to learn how to let go of the past and be happy, we hope you feel enlightened!

Different ideas work for different people. We hope some of our ideas will work for you!

Unresolved emotions can prevent you from letting go and living a happy life. Dealing with your feelings is crucial to moving on and accepting that you can’t change the past.

You deserve to be happy, and you can learn to put the past in its proper place and move on with your life.

Surround yourself with positive people, be honest with your emotions, and focus on taking care of yourself.

If you need help, consider the Do Happy App to promote happiness, kindness, and mindfulness in your everyday life.

If you need some extra help, consider seeking out a licensed therapist.

You got this!

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