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Living in the Past? 7 Ways to Let Go and Live a Happy Life

Jessica loves sharing her tips on life. She writes about happiness and motivation on Lifehack.
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Are you living in the past? How can you live a happy life when you can’t let go of what’s already happened?

Instead of focusing on the present, you’re caught in a web of reflection and brooding, and only your past mistakes seem to matter. Yet there are many out there who live each day with a happy and positive view on life. Why? Because they are not focusing on the past.

Read this guide to learn how you can let go of your past and start living a happier life.

1. Let the Emotions Flow

“Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.” -Steve Maraboli

One mistake many people make is that they try to ignore their emotions altogether, which is the worst thing to do. To move forward, feel your emotions. This is key to understanding why you are upset in the first place.

Let the tears come until you can cry no more, or scream into a pillow until the frustration ebbs away. Let it all out in order to let go of the past and live a happy life.

Read these tips on why it’s ok to cry.

However, don’t get lost in the emotion. Make sure you remind yourself that you are not your emotions. Your emotions affect you, but you are in control of how you feel.

2. Don’t Let Negative Thoughts Cloud Your Mind

Allow yourself to express your emotions, but don’t dwell on them. Negative thinking is unproductive as it distracts you from the positives in life and makes it harder to let go of the past. Negative thoughts plague your mind with self-sabotaging thoughts, denying you your right to live a happy life.


Furthermore, studies have shown that “certain negative cognitions can produce and maintain the state of depression. There is also good evidence that depressed mood affects the relative accessibility of positive and negative cognitions[1].

Basically, negative thinking can produce depression, and depression can produce negative thinking, which all leads to a vicious cycle that’s difficult to escape from. This also makes it much more difficult to move on from the past when your mind is plagued with negative emotions.

When a negative thought crosses your mind, steer your mind away from it. Instead, look at the positives you have gained from an experience. Willie Nelson mentions the power of positive thinking perfectly:

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.

3. Learn From Your Experience

Take away the positives from past experiences. By learning from an experience, you learn more about yourself and what makes you happy. It may even help to write all of these down and post them on your desk for a few days to help remind you why difficult experiences are necessary.

Did you go through a tough break-up? Well, you’ve learned what you do and don’t want in a partner and can now seek out more meaningful relationships.

Did you get fired from a job? It’s likely that you’re now thinking about what kind of work you want to do next, so you’re learning more about what makes you happy.


Whatever the lesson is, it will help you move on to bigger and better things if you take it to heart and let it guide you.

Use these experiences to your advantage so you can learn more about what makes you happy in life.

4. Stop Being the Victim

When you get into the mind-set of the victim, you often find that all your thoughts lead back to past traumas, which makes it almost impossible to stop living in the past. Your mind becomes plagued by these thoughts, and you find yourself thinking that everything always goes wrong for you.

Of course, this is not the case at all, because you are in control of your fate. You shouldn’t think that because you have failed before, you will fail now. Instead, remember that you have control over your life, and you don’t have to be the victim[2].

The opposite of playing the victim is being a survivor. Acknowledge that what you’ve gone through is hard and try to make yourself a better person through it. This will naturally improve your mental health and make you feel good.

5. Don’t Wait for an Apology

“True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for the experience.'” -Oprah Winfrey

The best lesson you can learn in life is to forgive and forget. Maybe that other person was in the wrong, that he or she should apologize, but waiting for that apology isn’t going to help you. In the end, the only one you will hurt is yourself because you aren’t letting go of the past.

Focus on moving forward, because what has happened is in the past . You could be waiting an eternity for that apology and wasting your time hung up. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes stop you from living a happy life.


Here’re some tips to help you: How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

6. Expand Your View of Yourself

You’ve confronted your past and moved on, so now is the time to avert attention to yourself. This is the time to get to know yourself better, to learn what makes you happy.

Go out and take part in new activities, don’t be afraid to take risks, and learn what experiences you are passionate about. Understanding who you are and what you want out of life will make you happier in the long run.

This is a good time to spend time by yourself. Take yourself out to lunch, go for a solo walk in the park, or make yourself a nice meal. Treat yourself well and learn to love who you are now.

7. Live in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

Enjoy the present, the moment you are in now. You won’t live this minute again, which is why you should make the most of it.

Be present in this very moment by looking around you. Take in what people are saying, as well as focusing on yourself and what you are doing.

This doesn’t come naturally for most people. If you’re struggling with this, try developing a mindfulness meditation practice. This will help you realign your thoughts toward the present, reduce stress, and make space to analyze any problems you have with dwelling on the past.


You can learn more about the benefits of mindfulness in this TED Talk with Andy Puddicombe:

The Bottom Line

The best thing you can do for yourself today is to leave the past behind you. What has happened has made you who you are, but it doesn’t have to define who you become from this moment on.

Focus now on the present moment and your own happiness. Choosing to be positive will open you up to a happier life where you’re able to succeed and achieve your goals.

More on How to Stop Living in the Past

Featured photo credit: Artem Beliaikin via unsplash.com


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