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How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy in 6 Steps

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Have you been told to “live in the present” and “let go of the past?”

How easy do you think it is to let go of everything unpleasant from your life and move on with a happy heart?

By now, you should have some understanding that it’s not that easy to let go of the past, but luckily, there are things you can do to make it easier.

This blog post outlines 6 steps that will teach you how to let go of the past and be happy.


How to Let Go of Past Mistakes

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If you’re having a hard time letting go of things, chances are you haven’t healed from the trauma that has happened.

For some, it can be a really hard process. But the truth is that healing of past hurts will happen naturally with time and dedicated work. They go hand in hand.

Before taking your first step on your healing journey, it’s imperative that you understand what your triggers are.

What makes you think about your past?

Once you figure out what those triggers are, the next step will be to try working through them by devising a plan for how you’ll deal with them when they show themselves.

For example, if someone says something that reminds you of an old mistake, don’t get angry or defensive. Instead, try not to engage at all by communicating with that person that the topic they’ve brought up is something you’re not interested in discussing.

People respect honesty, so try not to avoid the situation by being dodgy. Instead, be crystal clear about why you don’t want to indulge in that conversation.

You do not need to tell them your specific reasons! If they continue to insist even after you’ve clearly communicated your boundaries, then it’s time to cut that person out of your life because it’s obvious that they do not respect your wishes.


How to Let Go of the Past: Painful Memories

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If you’re having a hard time letting go and being happy because every day is filled with old painful memories, try one or more of these ideas:

  • Focus on the present.

Ask yourself the following questions:

How am I feeling right now?

What is one thing in my surroundings that could be affecting my mood?

Your answer should be in the present tense.


  • Use your negative memories as motivation for being better in the future.

Your negative memories serve as a reminder of what was done wrong in the past. Use them as fuel to do better in the future.


  • Write down what you value in the present, and remember these things with great fondness.

Think of the best things that are happening to you in your life right now and list them.

This simple task will remind you that feeling better is possible, and there are things in your life that are great!


  • Spend time imagining yourself feeling positive, happy, or excited about your current experiences.

Your imagination is your best asset!

How do you feel when you’re doing something fun?

Channel that energy and use it to make your body feel the joys you want to experience. Your mind is a wonderful tool, so use it to your advantage.


By focusing on what makes you happy now, is the best way to let go of what was.

When you dwell on pain and negativity in the past, you are subconsciously inviting more pain and negative emotions into your life.

You deserve happiness, so start thinking happy thoughts!


6 Tips on How to Stop Dwelling on the Past and Start Moving Forward


1. You Are Not a Victim

You can have a happy life, no matter what has happened to you in the past.

It’s okay if the tragic event that happened to you is really hard to release, but don’t allow it to drastically shape a future you do not desire.

You and only you must take control of your happiness by directing your thoughts away from the past and focusing on what is good in your life now.

Even if the situation labels you a victim, do not use that word to describe yourself.

You are stronger than anything that has happened because you survived it.

No matter what has happened to you in the past, do not allow it to stop you from being happy. You have survived and grown as a consequence of whatever pain you faced, and that’s a great thing to celebrate!


2. Take Responsibility

If the fault was yours, own it!

Even if the fault wasn’t entirely yours, own the part that you’re responsible for. You didn’t get in that situation without doing something to get there, and you cannot leave or avoid it without doing anything to overcome it. There are, of course, exceptions to this as with most things in life.

If the past is haunting your present because of a mistake you made, then take responsibility for it.

Maybe you’re not proud of what happened but take the time to recognize how significant an impact this mistake has on your life right now and be willing to change.

Do not punish yourself. Accept what has happened and forgive yourself for it.

Apologize — if it’s possible — to those whom you may have hurt.

Take responsibility for your actions by recognizing that you may not be the only person still hurting from the events that have transpired.

By taking responsibility for your actions, you are showing the people around you that you see and accept your flaws, and most importantly, you understand that you are not perfect.

Holding a grudge against yourself only increases your emotional pain and leads you nowhere fast.


3. Permit Yourself to Be Happy Now

You hold the keys to your happiness. It’s not up to others to give you permission to let go of the past. You must make that decision for yourself.

If you’re waiting for permission from someone else, it will never come.

If you’re waiting for a certain event or the “right time” before allowing yourself to be happy, then you’re wasting your time because that may never happen either!

Allow yourself to be content with your life now and appreciate the lessons you have learned. Without them, you wouldn’t be as wise as you are right now. You’d be making the same mistakes expecting a different outcome.

You have been blessed to live in this present moment, don’t allow negative thoughts, past hurts, and unresolved emotional pain to delay you from moving forward.

Permit yourself now. The past events have already happened, and there’s no way to go about changing the past.

The future is yours to create. How will you live it?

How would your life be different if you weren’t carrying the weight of yesterday’s mistakes?

Allow yourself permission now to let go of past mistakes and start moving forward. Your mental health will thank you!


4. Learn From the Past Without Attachments

The thing about the past is, it’s already gone!

You’ve already felt the pain. You’ve already lived through it, so reflecting on it will hurt a lot less than it did when it was happening.

Understand that all the pain, hurt, and emotional turmoil weren’t just empty feelings because you have emerged on the other side wiser than before.

Acknowledge what good has come out of your mistakes, learn how not to make them again, and then take a deep breath before continuing with everyday life.

If something happens that reminds you of an old pain, it’s a clear indication that you have not allowed yourself to heal.

Be gentle with yourself while you process these feelings, even if you feel like they are too much to handle.

If the memories are causing a lot of pain, then give yourself permission to stop and take care of your mental well-being first. Pushing through might be more harmful than good.

Learn what your limits are, pay attention to how you feel, and be honest with yourself. Don’t push through if it’s not good for you.

Allow the past to be a part of your life, without attachments. Letting go of the past will lessen its impact on your present and future decisions or actions.


5. Forgive Yourself

Forgiving yourself is the hardest step of this process, but it’s also one that will allow you to move forward.

If you can’t forgive yourself, then who else could?

Do not punish yourself for what has already happened.

You are worthy of forgiveness, no matter what’s going through your head right now.

How many times have you been hurt but still found it in your heart to forgive the other person?

How much of this pain and anguish could’ve been avoided if you just forgave yourself?

Forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others, not only for your mental health but also for your self-esteem.

Self-pity will never allow you to grow.

Your mistakes are just that, mistakes. They might not have been the best decisions. But at one point in time, they were what you thought was most suitable.

The past is just a lesson to help guide your future actions, so be grateful for everything it has taught you!

And even if it’s still too painful to forgive yourself, ask others for forgiveness. It will help solidify that you are indeed worthy of forgiveness.


6. Release Negative Emotions

It can be hard to let go of the emotions that seem to keep your life in a constant state of suffering.

You might find yourself feeling angry, bitter, or resentful over things that happened in your past. However, it’s important to let these feelings go because they are no longer helpful for you, and they will only continue to cause more pain.

What is the point of remembering old hurts if it leads us down a dark rabbit hole?

Don’t get stuck repeating the same things in every relationship or situation you allow yourself to be in.

Every day is an opportunity for a new start. Let it go!

You deserve better than the unhappiness that comes from being stuck in the past. How will you know what kind of life awaits when you are re-living the pain from yesterday?

Release the stress and give your brain a break by practicing meditation or getting some quality alone time to sit and cry the emotions away.

You must completely acknowledge, understand, and release the emotions that are holding you back, so you know what to do to move forward with a free, clear mind.


This Is How You Let Go and Enjoy Life

  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Let go of the past.
  • Focus on how to make your life better today and tomorrow.
  • Look at what good has come from your mistakes, so you don’t repeat them.
  • Live in the present instead of focusing on the past.
  • Forgive yourself and others.
  • Do things you enjoy.
  • Learn to love yourself, flaws and all.

Live in the Present Moment

We all have to move on with our lives, whether we want to or not. Life goes on, no matter how you feel about the past.

You can let go of the past and focus on making your life better today while you look toward what tomorrow may bring.

The past is what has made you who you are today. It’s all those mistakes, obstacles, and triumphs that have helped to shape your own story.

But as we’ve learned from the lesson of life, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is how many times you get back up again and keep moving forward.

You can still forgive yourself for any old mistakes while forgiving others for their part in them, too; not just because they were wrong but because holding on to anger will only hurt your mental health more than anything else could ever do.

The key is forgiveness.

Let go of the past and allow new opportunities to come into your life.

Be mindful of your thoughts and actions in order to live life to its fullest potential.

Stop living in self-pity and be kind, gentle, and forgiving with yourself while you continue your personal development journey.


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Jody is a creative writer, artist, graphic designer, and a digital nomad who also helps people live more fulfilling lives by finding creative solutions to their personal growth and development problems and lifestyle challenges.

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