Moving on from the past can be a transformative experience.
Regrets? No more.
Past mistakes? In the rearview mirror.
Once you let go of what was, you are ready to embrace what is and what will be.
People who become happier after letting go of the past usually display these 7 behaviors.
Turns out, dwelling on bygone days might be weighing you down.
1) They engage in self-reflection
Self-reflection is a powerful tool.
People who become happier after letting go of the past make great use of it, and it all starts with pondering why you find yourself harboring regrets or reminiscing about past endeavors.
Is it because you’re still processing loss or grief?
Is it because you’re avoiding the challenges or uncertainties of the present moment?
Once you discover the underlying issue, you’re better equipped to find ways to let go of what’s keeping you stuck in yesteryear.
I’m a recovering overthinker. For a huge chunk of my life, I was obsessed with the process of “getting closure.”
Whenever I would break up with someone – or, more exactly, when someone would break up with me – I would become consumed by the quest to figure out what happened.
Maybe I did something wrong, or I wasn’t good enough, or the guy wasn’t ready for a commitment, or he lied to me about something.
I would overanalyze every interaction, hoping to discover why the relationship didn’t work out.
These investigations turned out to be futile.
More often than not, we just weren’t right for each other. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.
I was simply keeping my mind busy as I processed the loss of someone I cared about.
Accepting that there’s no one clear answer as to why something happens can be maddening.
It’s even more maddening to realize that closure isn’t a given.
You may never experience that wonderful feeling that you’re finally at peace with a past relationship or experience.
The universe is chaos, and going over and over the past is unlikely to make a difference.
That said, self-reflection helps you cultivate greater self-awareness.
You recognize your patterns and triggers, you clarify your values, you develop a more balanced and realistic perspective about the past.
All this makes it easier to move toward the future.
2) They embrace forgiveness
Do you know what comes between self-reflection and letting go?
People who become happier let go of resentment and grudges, choosing to forgive others for past transgressions.
More importantly, they choose to forgive themselves.
We all did stupid stuff in the past, whether we’re talking about taking an unnecessary risk, pursuing someone bad for us, or wearing skinny scarves in the 2000s.
Take responsibility for the mistake. Make amends if necessary or possible. Learn from it.
Then, treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer to a friend who made the same mistake.
Would you berate them for it five years later? Make them relive it every time you hang out? Allow them to obsess over it when they did everything they could to make things right?
I didn’t think so.
3) They practice resilience
People who let go of the past cultivate resilience in the face of challenges.
They teach themselves to see setbacks as opportunities for growth.
Instead of dwelling on failures, they adapt, persevere, and emerge stronger than before.
Sounds easier said than done.
But if you want to follow in their footsteps, here’s how to get started:
- Build a supportive network you can rely on when things go south
- Adopt a proactive approach to problem-solving rather than sulking because nothing ever goes your way
- Identify healthy coping strategies to manage stress and regulate your emotions (like yoga, deep breathing, meditation, and so on)
- Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and diligently work towards them, even when you encounter obstacles
4) They celebrate progress
People who become happier after letting go of the past celebrate their accomplishments along the way.
They acknowledge how far they’ve come, even if the journey has been challenging.
This enables them to cultivate a sense of pride and confidence.
You can lose sight of the big picture when you’re chasing a wild dream, to the point where you forget to pat yourself on the back for what you’ve already done.
I was incredibly stressed when I first embarked on my freelance writing career.
I had to grow my client base and build my savings.
Then there were the more practical aspects of the job – pitching, invoicing, client calls.
I was so overwhelmed that I never paused to reflect on my achievements until about 6 months in.
I didn’t celebrate my first freelance paycheck or my first piece of great feedback.
Looking back, I know I missed out by not taking a moment to mark those milestones.
They were small, but they were a strong indicator that I was on the right path.
Acknowledging them would have eased my anxiety by at least 30%.
5) They prioritize the here and now
Once you become unstuck from the past, you can relish the present.
It becomes more natural to savor each moment and find joy in the simple pleasures of life.
Instead of waking up burdened by the weight of yesterday, you greet the day with a sense of lightness and optimism.
Every moment is infused with a sense of wonder.
Because you finally realize that every moment is a blessing not everyone gets to experience.
Which brings me to my next point.
6) They focus on gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful antidote to negativity.
It lets you reframe your experiences to highlight the good and minimize the bad.
By shifting their perspective from lack to abundance, people who let go of the past enjoy greater fulfillment.
If you experience a devastating loss, it’s challenging to find anything to be grateful for.
But once you gain a bit of distance, you can start to appreciate the little things.
How your loved ones comforted you during this difficult time.
How you eventually found the strength to move forward, despite feeling like your life is over.
You can apply this way of thinking to almost anything:
- If a project goes wrong at work, you’ve learned more about your limitations
- If the restaurant is out of your usual order, you have the chance to discover a new favorite dish
- If you have too much to do, your plate being full right now means you’ll get to reap the rewards in the future
Gratitude takes practice, but it does your mindset a world of good.
7) They set boundaries
Finally, turning a new leaf often involves setting boundaries to protect your emotional well-being.
Once you’ve finally forgiven yourself for past transgressions, you should protect yourself from repeating the same mistakes.
That may mean cutting ties with someone toxic, limiting your exposure to certain experiences, or realizing that you need to say “no” more often than you currently do.
Your boundaries create space for growth and healing.
People who become happier after letting go of the past understand their limits and defend their autonomy at all costs.
You shouldn’t do all this work only to fall back into old patterns.
Releasing the burdens of the past paves the way for a brighter future.
Practice the art of letting go.
You’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
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With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
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