How to Let Go of the Past

It’s said that the past shapes who we are. That the things we experience mould who we become. While I believe that’s true to an extent, when it comes to negative past experiences, they don’t need to shape or define us in any way.

There are times when we all experience something painful. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, separation and divorce, being bullied, or being a victim of an assault, there are many ways in which we can (and do) experience pain. While it’s true that there are some experiences which take time to recover from, and some that seem impossible to recover from, by letting go of the past we can shape a positive future.

To do this, one of the first steps to take is to distance yourself from the thing that causes you pain. Whether it’s a person, a place, a situation or a thing, by not coming into contact with what causes you pain, you’re choosing to be in control and keep yourself safe. Distancing yourself can help you to heal yourself.

Another important step to take is to start being kinder to yourself. Maybe you blame yourself in some way for what you’ve experienced in the past or feel you deserved what happened. Neither of those statements are probably true. Even if they are, it’s not helpful to beat yourself up about it. At some point you deserve to let go of the past and be happy. Show yourself some kindness and compassion.

A third step to take is to forgive. It may be that someone in your life did something negative to you in the past. It’s possible that they haven’t apologised for what they did. That doesn’t mean that you can’t forgive them though. Forgiveness is incredibly powerful, but it’s best done when it is for yourself, not the other person. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting either. It also doesn’t mean you have to start seeing that person again. Ultimately, it’s part of the process of making peace with yourself and moving on in a positive way.

Something else positive that you could do is surround yourself with people who are supportive of you. Having radiators to draw warmth from is a key part of letting go of the past and living in the present moment. We all need support networks and strong friendships. So, allow yourself to have those things too.

It’s like that letting go of the past will involve talking about it in some way. That may be to your support network, friends and family members. It could even be to yourself. But perhaps it could be talking to a professional, such as a counsellor or hypnotherapist. It’s important to recognise when you need to talk about something that’s affected you, and seeking professional help is a strength rather than a weakness. Talking about the past can help you to make sense of it and eventually leave it where it is; in the past.

Indulging in self-care is another essential element of letting go of the past. Self-care could be as simple as getting up each day, having a wash and getting dressed. It could be something more focused such as taking part in mindfulness sessions or joining an exercise class. Self-care could be absolutely anything that involves you taking care of yourself in some way. Mindfulness in particular is great for helping you to live in the present and let go of the past. By using breathing techniques, visualisation and relaxation, you can make sense of your thoughts, feeling and emotions, focus your mind on the present moment, and choose to live for that.

Letting go of the past may seem like a tall order, particularly if it’s haunted you for some time. However, letting go of it can feel incredibly liberating and empowering. Knowing when to get help is a key point, as this will help you to become unstuck to your past if indeed you are stuck in it.

The past is exactly that; in the past. It’s happened and it can’t be changed. The future is something that hasn’t happened yet at all. So, really the only way to live is in the present. That’s a wonderful gift to give to yourself.