Tips for Letting Go of the Past

breakup emotional health healing letting go Apr 08, 2022

It can be difficult to move on after dealing with toxic people, difficult situations, and unhealthy relationships. These past experiences can hold us back and prevent us from living in the moment. Our wounds and fear shape our thoughts, actions, and behaviors, keeping us from reaching those positive experiences.  


When we have negative past experiences, it is easy to use them as an excuse for why we are behaving a certain way. This could be remembering a cheating ex's behavior and projecting those worries and fears on a current partner. In our minds, we do this because we are trying to protect ourselves from any future pain, and we are trying to see the signs we missed the last time we were in a relationship. And though there are common red flags to look out for, we have to try not to look at our new partner through the lens of our past relationship. They are different people; this is a different relationship and what happens in this relationship will also be different. It's easy to spend our time and energy mentally reliving the past, but we have to detach ourselves from that to be able to grow and focus on the present.  


Now, letting go of the past does not only mean letting go of a certain experience or a negative situation. Letting go of the past can also mean letting go of past expectations, attachments, ideals, and even positive past experiences. This one can be pretty confusing, but positive past experiences can also hold us back. When we constantly think about “the good ol’ times” or about “the one that got away” it can be easy to overlook the positive that is currently happening in our life. This can be especially true if we are constantly comparing people and current situations to those in our past. Living in the past holds us back from fully enjoying the present.   


When we are stuck holding onto the past, we can experience a constant level of stress and can become even more stressed when things become inconvenient or don't go our way. Because we are always worried, we also start to overthink things that happened, start to overthink what is currently happening, and then we start spinning our wheels thinking about what could happen next. Because we are always stressed and are using our emotional energy, we start to become short-tempered and easily frustrated.  


To let go of the past, we need to be very conscious of what is happening within ourselves.  


Identify What You Are Feeling and Your Habits 

Take a look at your emotional habits, figure out what you're feeling, and then dive deep into why that is. We need to figure out where our habits and feelings stem from in order to start addressing our wounds. A good way to keep track of this is through journaling. We want to take note of what happened, who was around, and what we were feeling. When we write these items down, it can help us start to see patterns and work through all of our thoughts and feelings.  


Accept The Negative 

There is no way to cut off the negative thoughts, and it is not good to suppress them. Your feelings are valid; let the negative emotions out. A really good tool to let out negative emotions is to find a safe and physical outlet. There are many ways to physically release these feelings, such as cleaning or through art. However, one of the best ways is through exercise.  


Practice Self-Care 

It is important to remain gentle with yourself, especially as you work through your emotions. You can use positive mantras to help get yourself through negative thoughts when they come. You could also use mindfulness which is to be fully aware of what you are doing, where you are, and take in everything that is happening in the present. You can pair this with meditation and find a comfortable and quiet place where you can focus. Think about what you are mentally feeling, what you are physically feeling, and focus on your breathing and the sounds around you. When a thought, negative or otherwise pops into your head, acknowledge it and let it flow out of you. The goal here is to begin conditioning your mind to not get stuck in your thoughts and to let those negative thoughts go when they come, so they don't continue to pull you down.  


Seek Support 

You don't need to work through this on your own. You can seek support from a professional to help guide you through why you are stuck in the past and to gain the tools to move forward. It also helps to surround yourself with positive people. If we are surrounded by toxic people or others who are stuck in the past, we are going to have someone who constantly pulls us back. We need positive people in our life who can lend us support when we need it and who themselves are working to better their lives.  


Create Distance If Possible 

Sometimes, letting go of the past means that we need to distance ourselves emotionally. When we have to deal with someone toxic in our lives, it helps to disconnect ourselves emotionally from them. This does not necessarily mean cutting all contact with the person, but it can be setting boundaries or not being emotionally reactive to that person.  

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