a woman covering her face with her hands.

6 Ways to Start Letting Go of the Past

Amber Murphy

Pain, past, and present. Believe it or not, they are usually connected – but they don’t have to be. You can work on yourself to begin letting go of the past and, make it a life lesson learned, not something weight you carry with you forever.

What do you have to do to live a better, lighter life? It’s simple. It would help if you focused on letting go of the past. Yes, it’s simple – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Don’t worry, though! We’ll teach you how to do it.

Before you begin, you need to believe you want to do it. You’re not going to achieve anything unless you decide it’s time to let go. Ask yourself if you’re ready to do it. So, are you? Great! Let’s get started!

Why is letting go of the past necessary?

Woman holding up polaroid

Every single human being on this green Earth lives one day at a time. You have, give or take, 24 hours for every day you get. And you don’t get to enjoy the full 24 hours! How you spend your time is one of the most important decisions you can make.

Are you going to spend that time having fun, working on your goals, and sharing with the people you love?

Or, perhaps, you prefer to waste your time by sitting down, feeling sad, and thinking about what happened years ago?

I’m pretty sure you’re going to go with door number one. It’s nonsense to spend so much time dwelling on things you cannot change anymore. So, why do we insist on doing it?

Because we don’t know any better! You have to realize how vital letting go is. That’s the key! You need to understand that you need to let go if you want to live in the present.

Otherwise, you’ll forever be reminiscing, and all the time you wasted, forever.

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Is letting go of the past hard to do?

I’d be lying if I said this is something you can do during your lunch break at work. It’s not a 10-minute task you can quickly get over with, so you can start living right. It takes a little more than that!

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The thing about letting go is that you’re going to do it little by little, day by day. Sometimes, you’ll have a small relapse. Other days, you’ll feel like you have finally succeeded. One day, you’ll be done with your past!

The key here is to remember that it will be an on-going process, not an overnight success. I would give you a let-go-of-the-past pill if I could. Unfortunately, this takes work.

On the bright side, if you start doing it today, you’ll finish earlier than if you decide to start tomorrow!

Should you try to letting go or try to forget?

A little caveat before you start working on letting go of the past. Letting go of the past and forgetting about the past is not the same thing. One is possible. The other is lying to yourself.

You can pretend you’ve forgotten about something all you want. The truth is, you can’t forget painful or traumatic memories. The past is there – and you need to deal with it.

Letting go isn’t about forgetting. It’s about allowing the past to take a back seat in your life. Yes, it happened. Yes, it hurt you. No, it no longer has control over your life. That’s it.

Six ways to start letting go of the past

1. Stop running away from your problems

Woman running by the water

Running away means something is wrong. Or worse, it means you’re not ready to deal with what’s wrong. Either way, that method doesn’t work – and you need to stop using it right now.

When you escape from your problems, you’re letting them dictate your life. An unresolved trauma, for example, will determine what you do in both the past and future. You can’t let the past have so much power over you!

Believe me, when I tell you, running away is the worst thing you can’t do. The longer you run, the worst it’ll get. It’s like trying to outrun a snowball. It gets bigger and bigger until you can’t run anymore – and then the snowball runs over you.

If you’re running, stop. Deal with your problem. You can only get closure if you deal with the issue at hand. The past can’t be an open wound.

2. Sit down and have a good, honest talk with yourself (and others, if you want)

Try to figure out why it is so hard to let go of the past. Is it an emotional problem? Are you hurt? Do you feel something you don’t quite understand yet? There’s only one way to figure out what’s going on: talking. Talking is more challenging than we think. I’m not referring to small talk or chit-chatting about your favorite movie. I’m talking about having a real discussion—the kind of conversation that makes you feel naked and exposed.

Because of that, you might want to start talking about your issues on your own. Break down what happened to you. Then, try to understand why you’re living in the past. When you feel ready, try to talk to your friends and family about it. Different perspectives always help.

Little by little and word by word, you may feel like a weight is even released from your shoulders. You’re slowly leaving the past behind.

3. Try to shake things up in your life

Woman driving a car

Figuring out what’s wrong isn’t going to fix all your issues. That’s only the first step! You found out what went wrong. Now, you need to start working on fixing it.

The best way to do this is by shaking things up, big time. You now know what went wrong – so you have to make sure it never happens again.

Were your parents too strict? Did you choose your major under pressure? Do you think you should’ve paid more attention to your social life? Do you regret the life you have?

No matter the problem, you need to start addressing it now. Yes, it’ll probably mean you’ll have to make significant changes in your life. Who cares! Shake things up until it all comes out the way you want to.

This is your life, so take the reins.

4. Get busy, really busy

You know that life-altering changes are not an overnight success. Working on yourself is more like going to the gym: painful, sweaty, stressful times you have to go through. You’ll come out of it lean and mean, though.

Well, you’re not exactly coming out lean and mean out of this one, but you’ll be happy-go-lucky! Keep in mind that’s only going to happen in the end. In the meantime, what can you do?

You can get busy! Get more involved at home, get more hours at work, start a new hobby, maybe go to the gym for real, learn another language, or anything else you’d like to do. Perhaps you can do it all! (Okay, probably not).

The important thing is to keep your head busy with something until you can get everything in order.

Oh, and, by the way, getting busy is also a great way of letting go. You’re putting your attention right in the present. That’s precisely what you need.

5. Don’t kick yourself while you’re down

Man climbing up a cliff

If you came all this way, you’re interested in letting go of the past. You’re probably investing time and effort in doing it. That alone means you’re trying to do the right thing. You can pat yourself on the back over that!

Remember when I said doing this wasn’t easy? Well, I lied. Or, lied. It’s both easy and hard. Mentally letting go works like physically letting go: you have to open your hand; otherwise, you’ll be forever stuck with what you don’t want.

The only way to mentally open your hand (you know, letting go) is to be more forgiving of yourself. Yes, you failed. Or you came short. Or didn’t get what you wanted. Keep in mind it happens to the best of us – and that includes you.

Think of it this way: if what’s so hard to let go of happened to a friend instead of you, wouldn’t you be more kind to his or her situation? Exactly. So stop beating yourself up so hard.

6. If everything else fails, get professional help

Superman is a comic book character. You’re not made of steel, and neither am I.

We all need help from time to time. Sometimes, we can depend on our friends and family. And that’s great! For more severe issues, there are trained professionals who can assist you. Find a therapist or professional that can help you.

Sure, there’s a little bit of stigma when it comes to mental health (even though we’re 21 years into the 21st century, come on everybody, get on with times). And you know what? Who cares! I’m pretty sure you’d still go to the doctor if you were injured, stigma or otherwise.

Why not contact these trained professionals who spent years perfecting their craft. And that craft is helping other people get better.

So, if everything else fails, get professional help. You’ll get better in no time. They’ll help and guide you so you can start fixing your issues. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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