How to Let Go Of The Past To Live A Happy Life

We cling to the past, even if it's negative. But we must let go in order for us to live happy lives in the present.

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Let Go of the Past to be Happy
We cling to the past, even if it's negative. But we must let go in order for us to live happy lives in the present.

It’s incredible how much power we give past events, both happy and devastating.  I know I held onto my past trauma for almost a decade before I even considered letting it go. But, when we hold on to the memories and allow them to keep replaying in our minds as if they just happened yesterday, it deprives us of any happiness in the present. 

Our brains handle information we receive differently based on if it’s positive or negative. For example, if the experience was upsetting, it requires more processing than if the event was pleasurable.  This additional processing time means that we can remember distressing events over fond moments, especially when there is a strong emotional connection. 

The other aspect of the ego is to remember the pain we’ve gone through so we can avoid repeating it in the future.  So it must remember for it to do its job of protecting us.  If it can’t recall past events, then it becomes fearful of the unknown

Despite not being able to alter how our brains work, we can learn to let go of the negative memories that plague our egoic minds.  By releasing the emotional attachments, we have to previous events.  Here are six ways to help you let go of the past to live a happy life. 

Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love? ~ Leo Buscaglia

1.      We Are Not Our Past

My past isn’t who I am. I get to choose who I become.  This message is the first lesson I had to learn after my childhood trauma.  Our authenticity is separate from our experiences.  My ordeal didn’t alter my authentic self.  It caused my egoic mind to go into overdrive to put into place defense mechanisms to keep me safe, but who I am was still there.  I buried it behind a fortress of protection, but it was still intact.

For me to transition out of my victimhood, I had to choose to become a survivor.  This mindset shift meant I was taking responsibility for the choices I was making.  I would no longer blame my trauma for poor decisions.  Or use my ordeal as an excuse for me not to move towards my dreams.  I would not allow shame to keep me silent anymore. Instead, I was taking responsibility for my behaviors, both good and bad.       

So, determine what thoughts, outdated beliefs, or mindsets are plaguing us. Then find out why we are stuck.  What are we afraid of, and how can we alter our thinking?  Once we are aware, we can acknowledge and move towards transforming our responses to empowering ones.  

When we can reframe the stories we tell ourselves into ones that empower us, we alter how we see the world.  It lessens the grip the past has on our present and future. For example, when I moved from telling my story from the stance of a victim to one of a survivor, my world changed in dramatic ways. 

In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.  ~ Deepak Chopra

2.      Let Our Emotions Flow

Many of us learned to stuff our feelings to make others more comfortable or because being vulnerable wasn’t safe for us to do.  But for us not to get stuck in our emotions, we have to allow them to flow.  It’s by allowing ourselves to feel we can understand and release them. 

Our feelings affect us, but they don’t have to control how we respond to life. For example, during my teenage years, I was depressed because I was reliving my trauma repeatedly.  But once I became a survivor, I became anxious because now I was afraid of the future.  Both are harmful ways to handle the emotions I felt because I wasn’t allowing them to come out. 

So when I was alone, I would let them out.  I’d cry into my pillow or scream while walking in the woods, as these emotions needed to be felt so I could release them.  Once they were gone, it allowed other feelings to rise so I could remove them, too.  When we take charge of how we feel, it will enable us to move through life much easier. 

Our self-talk plays a prominent role in handling our feelings, so take care to speak to ourselves with gentleness and compassion.  Don’t allow blame, shame, and judgment to come into play when feeling our emotions to release them.  Instead, reframe the criticism to one from which we can learn.     

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

3.      Forgiveness Releases Us From The Past

Many victims wait for an apology that most likely won’t happen.  Even if we get one, is it an acceptable reason for our suffering?  No matter what excuse my mother could have ever given me for my anguish, it wouldn’t have been an acceptable justification. So for me, waiting for the why only kept me stuck in the past. 

None of us want to be imprisoned in our past.  But when we hold on to our pain and suffering, that happens.  We imprison ourselves.  The good news is that we also have the key that releases us.  To move forward past my pain and grief, I had to forgive my mother for the abuse I suffered at her hand. 

Forgiving means we surrender our justification to be angry, resentful, or bitter towards our abusers. However, they may not deserve our benevolence.  Our intention is to no longer allow the past to harm our present or impede our future. Thus, we are empowering ourselves and disempowering the past when we forgive. 

Forgiveness shows us we are more important than the past.  Our continued suffering does nothing to the perpetrator of our wounds.  Instead, we allow the ego to make us think that staying attached to the anger means we keep them culpable.  The forgiveness we give is for us so we can release the past.     

The act of forgiveness is the act of returning to present time. And that’s why when one has become a forgiving person and has managed to let go of the past, what they’ve really done is they’ve shifted their relationship with time. ~ Caroline Myss

4.      Learn From The Past

When we can see a lesson from our past, we alter our perception of the event’s negative aspects.  All experiences have value, even trauma.  It may take time to find the usefulness of the ordeal, but it’s there.  Despite all my anguish, I know I’ve gained valuable lessons and have grown in ways I couldn’t have.  No one wants to suffer, but it helps lighten the past’s grip on the present when we can find purpose.  

So to learn from the past, we must accept what happened. Unfortunately, many of us try to hide from the past by hiding it and not sharing our stories.  But that keeps us stuck, reliving it in our minds.  But through acceptance, we stop struggling with what is. Instead, we let go of what we wanted and allow what is so that we can experience the peace and joy only found in the present moment. 

You can cultivate acceptance by establishing positive routines and habits. For example, I found that journaling, taking long walks in the woods, and reading helped me see patterns from the past in which I could see lessons.  As I got older, I added meditation, daily gratitude, and empowering “I Am” statements to help solidify my soul’s growth and expansion.  I can now see how strong I am, my resiliency, and my passion for helping others overcome their fears and limiting beliefs. 

If you want to fly in the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go of the past that drags you down. ~ Amit Ray

5.      Be Open To Personal Growth

As we release the past, we can give a little self-care to ourselves.  We do this by learning about our authentic selves as we remove the masks and armor we wore to keep us tethered to the past and protect us from the pain. 

As we take time to understand ourselves, we must learn to get quiet and listen to the whispers of our souls.  We need to enjoy our own company and find those things we’re passionate about. We aren’t avoiding our past through distraction but have empowered ourselves to look for those things that make us happy.  We all need to take a journey back to Spirit by remembering who we really are

Growth occurs as we focus on the one thing we have control over, ourselves.  When we undertake personal development, we see that our decisions and choices caused us to continue in our suffering.  But now, we are emboldened to make better choices and have better outcomes as we move forward.  We are breaking the old pattern of behaviors and instilling better ones as we rediscover our authentic selves

When we find our tribe and surround ourselves with positive people, the past is easier to disregard.  Why?  Because making authentic connections with others is a healing balm caused by love.   We aren’t meant to be alone, but when we suffer, we isolate ourselves. So as we let go of the past, we surround ourselves with loving people who encourage us. 

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today? ~ Mary Manin Morrisse

6.      Giving Back To Others Heals The Past

Although I’ve always shared my story with others, I never wanted to write a book, despite being asked to do so over the years.  Then in 2018, I become pregnant with my book Raven Transcending Fear.  Through the writing process, I discovered a passionate mission, helping others overcome their fears and limiting beliefs

When we serve others by using our past, it helps heal any lingering wounds.  This final healing process releases the past as something that happened but no longer has any negative influence.   When we retake our power, our experiences are just that, events that happened but have no bearing on our present or future. 

Our lives matter despite our past.  When we align with our authentic selves and will help others, we thrive.  Why? Because we see the meaning or the purpose behind our experience and how it can support others.  This redirection of our energies shows us our limitless possibilities, despite how we thought about our past.  When we serve others, our past loses any hold it had on us. 

Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day! ~ Steve Maraboli

Happily Moving Forward

We all need to be mindful of our thoughts, especially about the past.  Why?  Because if we allow the ego to keep us tethered to our history, we get depressed, and we don’t live our lives in the present moment

Every day we get to start over.  You get to choose how this day unfolds, and the possibles are endless unless you are stuck in the past.  They this day will be like every other day because you are in a holding pattern. 

Feel your emotions so you can release them.  Forgive what needs to be freed so you aren’t imprisoned.  Learn from your experiences, so they have values.  Let go of the disempowering stories you tell yourself. Instead, serve others to aid in healing.  And remember, you are not what happened to you.  You are what you choose to become. 

As we become more conscious of our need to let go of the past, we can learn to detach to live the happier life that we choose. 

Holding on is believing that there’s a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future. ~ Daphne Rose Kingma

Do you need support to help you let go of the past?  Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.

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