I've had a lot of sleepless nights. Nights when I was so worried about something that had happened in the past that I let it dictate my future. We’ve all been there at some point. You're not alone.
I’m talking about those times when we just can’t shake the past. Whether it’s something small, like making a terrible first impression, or saying something you wish you hadn't, to something big, like having to shutdown your business. Harping on negative experiences is painful and, when we hold on to that pain, we can’t move on to something more positive.
That’s why it’s important that you let it go and leave the past behind with these eight tactics.
1. Learn from the past but don’t dwell there.
Yes. Those negative experiences you had can actually be used for learning and future experiences -- no matter how painful they are. Take some time to reflect on the experience and look at ways at it can actually benefit you down the road.
You can learn from your experiences by reflecting on these few simple questions:
- What really happened? Answer only by confronting the facts.
- What emotions do I feel? I personally like to write them down.
- How can I use this to empower myself and my feelings?
After answering these questions, it’s time to move on. While reflecting on the past for a little bit of time is acceptable, dwelling on it will only keep those negative thoughts and feelings around.
2. Express yourself.
Don’t hesitate to get the pain you’re feeling off your chest. Whether it’s talking to the individual who has harmed you (or who you harmed), venting to a friend or writing it down, expressing your feelings can assist you in sorting out what, if anything, needs to be done to move on.
More importantly, it’s good for your health. Dr. Edmund Bourne, author of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, warns that holding onto your feelings leads to anxiety, depression, headache and high blood pressure.
Grief expert Gloria Horsley from OpentoHope says "When it’s time to express your feelings, make sure to use “I” messages. Describe the degree of your emotions, and share them with someone who will listen and not pass judgment. This will help you express the grief you're going through."
3. Stop pointing fingers.
Playing the role of the victim is easy and sometimes feels pretty good, especially compared with accepting the truth. The problem is, blaming others prevents you from going forward. Most often, pointing fingers is just complaining.
Life coach Ruchika Batra also adds on Pick the Brain that blaming others gives power to someone else and makes us small. Batra also says, “When we blame, we automatically enter the negative zone. We loathe someone else or some external factor because we were not able to mold life into our own favor.”
4. Focus on the present.
One of the most effective ways to let go of the past is to embrace the present. Instead of reliving the past and getting consumed with negativity, keep yourself active and enjoy the current moment. Learn a new skill. Meditate. Exercise. Have dinner with a friend. Make a new friend. Whatever it is, just live in the moment - even if it’s just sitting at your desk and watching the clouds roll by. I personally "cope" by building my business and the future of eCash. It motivates me and helps give me something to devote my life towards.
Living in the moment, also called mindfulness, “involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away.” Psychology Today states that “mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure.”
To achieve a more mindful state, be aware of what you are thinking and feeling, reduce self-consciousness, seek out new experiences and accept your negative feelings and situations as merely being a part of life.
5. Disconnect for a while.
Allow yourself to take some time away so that you can clear your head. You don't have to go backpacking through Europe. Just remove yourself from the situation by distancing yourself from the people, places and things that remind you of the past. Practicing ways to disconnect for a while will give you the chance to experience something positive -- even if that’s just camping at a nearby campground without any access to social media.
When you return, you’ll have a perspective on the past.
6. Think about the people around you.
Take inventory of the people around you. Who is negative and always bringing you down? Who are the people associated with the past that you’re trying to move away from? You may need to move away from these individuals to find more positive people who will empower you.
There are more than enough ways to meet new people, such as attending local meetups and conferences. Don’t be shy. Get yourself out there and find a new group of friends and acquaintances who can help you move forward.
7. Forgive those who wronged you -- including yourself.
If you’ve been hurt by someone, the last thing that you may want to do is forgive them. But, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “Forgiving others is essential for spiritual growth.” Dr. Dyer has 15 steps to help you forgive someone, like embracing the past while moving on, making a new agreement with yourself, not going to sleep angry and being kind and generous.
While you’re at it, forgive yourself. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Instead of kicking yourself for your past mistakes, cut yourself some slack and focus on the lessons that you’ve learned.
Once you’re not carrying that anger and resentment, you’ll be able to move on.
8. Make new memories.
Finally, start making new, positive memories to replace those negative memories from the past. Spend your time with the people who make you happy, the things that bring you joy and in the places that bring you peace. Making new memories is better being stuck in the past.
In fact, it’s been discovered by scientists that having too many old memories makes it more difficult to make new memories. So, out with the old and in with the new.
Here's to living in the now.