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11 Honest Secrets to Let Go of the Past, Be Happy and Look to the Future

Are you always looking over your shoulder, wishing the past could be different? Let it go and move on. Learn how to let go of the past right now.  

how to let go of the past

We all have things in our past that we want to forget. There are always going to be decisions, choices, actions, and problems that you wish never happened, or perhaps something you wish you could do differently. The truth is, the past has gone. It cannot be revisited. It only has the power to make you miserable. If you have things in your past that you want to move on from, the good news is that you can learn how to let go of the past and find peace instead.

Letting go of the past requires effort and focus. You need to come to the point where you understand you can’t go back. It’s important to know that by thinking about it all the time, you’re not helping yourself.

We all have things we wish we had done differently but the key is to use those experiences as learning opportunities instead. Do differently next time. Do better next time.

If you’re keen to start letting go of the past, you’ve already taken one step towards doing just that.

[Read: How to stop ruminating – Leave your past and live your future]

Why does looking back cause so much anguish?

If you’re thinking about the past or always thinking to the future, you’re causing yourself stress and worry. It’s far better to try and focus on living in the present. However, that’s easier said than done, that’s for sure.

Looking back to the past and identifying a specific event, or a series of events, that bothers you is useless. You cannot go back. Unless you have a time machine, there’s really nothing you can do. In that case, why upset yourself further?

Now, if something in your past is still unresolved and needs action, that’s different.

For instance, if you hurt someone and you’re yet to apologize, you can do something. Go and apologize, vow never to repeat the process, and learn from it.

But, if whatever you’re focusing on doesn’t require any action, or there’s really nothing you can do, the only option is to let it go. [Read: 10 signs your past relationship is holding you back from a better future]

You will never learn from the experience if you simply sit there, wallowing in self-pity and wishing things were different. The anguish comes from keeping yourself stuck. Forgive yourself, or whoever hurt you, and move on.

How to let go of the past

While everyone’s story is different, it is possible to be free of whatever it is that is holding you back. Sometimes though, it might take a little bit of effort to get to the point where you are able to truly explore your future. But, that is okay.

Being able to spread your wings and take the chances you have always dreamed of is completely worth the struggles it may take to get there.

Let’s look at a few ways you can start letting go of the past and make peace with your present. [Read: Things you can learn from a failed relationship]

1. Clearly identify what it is you’re struggling with

When you are caught in the past and struggling to move forwards, it is easy to find yourself paralyzed with anxiety. At two o’clock in the morning you start replaying every mistake you’ve ever made. This kind of processing is way too overwhelming for anyone to deal with.

Instead, on a day that you are feeling strong and have some free time, sit yourself down with a cup of tea, your favorite music, and a journal or computer.

This is a really important part of letting the past go. Even if you are very busy, it’s important to carve out some time for yourself!

Write out everything that is bothering you – from the hangnail on your pinky finger to the biggest mistake you think you’ve ever made.

Once you’ve written everything, put it away for a day or two. When you’re feeling rested, take out everything you’ve recorded and read through it.

Identify what you feel are the core issues and what issues are just surface-level concerns. Knowing what it is that you are fighting against makes the battle so much less terrifying. [Read: 5 life altering lessons you can learn from regret]

2. Is there anything you can do to fix the situation?

Sometimes, once you’ve recognized what it is in your past that’s hanging over you, the solution becomes immediately obvious. Terrified that a hurtful message sent in the heat of the moment may have ended a friendship? Reach out to your friend and make the first move by apologizing.

Worried that you may have burned bridges at a past job and that it would affect your future employment? Send a quick e-mail to your old manager asking to have coffee. See if you can fix the damage that’s been done.

These actions can be scary, but they are less painful than having a past mistake keep influencing your future. [Read: How to apologize for ghosting a friend and undo the damage]

3. If there is nothing you can do to fix the situation, you need to release it

This sentence sounds so easy, and yet it can be so hard to actually do. The fact of the matter is, sometimes the past seems like a better place. You may still be in love with the man or woman who broke your heart five years ago, but if they’ve moved on, you need to do the same.

It is important to recognize that the past is gone – there is no bringing it back, and there’s no re-creating it.

It’s human nature to romanticize the past and remember it as being far more wonderful than it was. Memories of good times are important, but you can’t put your current life on hold while you relive the past!

4. Know that by letting go of the past, the future will be better

As the famous quote by C.S. Lewis goes, “there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

It’s wonderful that you have such fond memories of the past, but remember that you can be just as happy again – that you can find love again, if that is indeed the issue. You can be successful again. Looking forward is going to be a lot better for you in the long run, but you can’t do that if you’re still clinging determinedly to the past! [Read: Secret to happiness – The uncomplicated guide for a happy life]

5. Forgive those who have hurt you

People say cruel things, and their actions can be even worse. One of the horrible things about being hurt by the people we love is how hard it is to forget. No matter how many times we hear the word ‘sorry’, it can seem impossible to “forgive and forget.”

Here’s something to consider though – you don’t need to forget. No one is asking you to erase the past – all you need to do is release yourself from its grip.

This is a hard step, but it will make your life so much lighter going forwards. you have no obligation to carry around resentment and hatred and disappointment from your past experiences.

Forgive the person who hurt you, remember what they did *so you can protect yourself from experiencing the same thing again in the future*, and then release all of the bitterness and anger you feel. If you truly want to leave these people in the past, you have to leave your emotions around them behind too. [Read: 6 telltale excuses that get you nowhere!]

6. Forgive yourself, even if you weren’t to blame

Forgiving others is hard, but forgiving yourself can be harder. The fact is, the mistakes that you are holding on to, have already happened. Since those experiences, you have grown and changed and become an entirely new person – you need to recognize this, and become confident in who you are now.

In order to truly believe in the person you have become, you need to forgive the person you were.

After all, it is thanks to the person you were that you ended up here. Who you are now is strong enough to face whatever comes in the future. So thank your younger self, and let them off the hook for the mistakes they made – you’ve learned from those experiences and become stronger because of them. There is no peace to be found in disliking yourself.

If you didn’t do anything wrong and you’re looking back to the past because of someone else who hurt you, you still need to forgive yourself. In this case, you need to forgive yourself for holding onto the baggage for as long as you have. [Read: How to forgive yourself & free yourself of the weight of guilt]

7. Allow yourself to be positive and start dreaming about the future

Now that you’ve taken some steps to release your past, it is time to embrace what’s going to happen next. Without the past taking up space in your everyday thoughts, you may find yourself at a loss.

It can be tempting, even, to go back to dreaming about the past. It is very important that you have something else to focus on so that it does not happen!

What have you always wanted to try? Are there new relationships in your life that you have more energy to pour into now? Is there a dream that you’ve always wanted to chase, but been unsure of?

Pretend that you’re five again, and that you don’t have any limitations on your life – what would you want to do? Have fun with this step.

Start a vision board, or a bucket list, anything that inspires you and makes you excited about the future. [Read: 25 memorable life lessons to perfect your life]

8. Get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself a little

Everything is forwards from here – the possibilities for where your life will take you are endless, and you are in control. Your past does not control your future, and you have risen above it.

Chase your dreams and make your life exactly what you want it to be, unencumbered by the people and events from your past. Life is an adventure, and you’re just getting started. [Read: 5 Powerful steps to break out of your comfort zone]

9. Make self-care a priority from now on

You’ve been through a tough time and now you need to be gentle with yourself and focus on self-care. Dedicate one day per week to doing all the things you love. But, that doesn’t mean the rest of the week can go back to how it was before!

Make self-care, in general, a priority in your life and put yourself first.

Understand that you can’t be the best version of yourself if you don’t look after number one. Pamper yourself, do things for you, and know that you’re important too.

10. Use a positive affirmation daily

It’s possible that sometimes the past will try to knock on your door and pull you back again. It has a nasty habit of doing that when it’s not in control anymore. Positive affirmations can help you to keep negative thoughts at bay.

Choose an affirmation that suits you, such as “the past does not define my future”, or “I live my life in the present day” and repeat it regularly throughout the day. Do it in the morning, at lunchtime, and before bed. Whenever you’re struggling with negative thoughts, close your eyes and repeat the affirmation, really focusing on the words.

With time, your mind will become more positive naturally, and negative thoughts won’t be able to control you anymore. [Read: How to be more positive and increase the quality of your life]

11. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help

Sometimes, learning how to let go of the past needs to involve other people. If you’re really struggling with letting go of something, never be afraid to reach out for help.

It may be that you need to talk to a friend or family member. Or, it could be that you need to talk to a professional to help you understand the problem and work through it carefully. Whatever you need to do, do it. With time, everything will become easier.

Wave goodbye to the past, live your life firmly in the here and now

It’s normal to think of the future but what about the present day? Make the here and now exciting and fun by concentrating on enjoyment. Do things you’ve never done before, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and focus on yourself. Sometimes, just being present in the moment and learning to appreciate the small things in life can be enough to help avoid stress and anxiety.

The only way you should ever look back on the past is with fondness and a smile. You should then easily be able to turn your attention to where you are now, and not feel any regret or sadness. That’s the aim you’re working towards.

[Read: 12 insightful lessons to help you plan a better future and a better life]

It’s easy to cling on to past mistakes and errors and let that control your future. But that’s always a choice, and not a commitment. Learn to let go of your past, and you’ll see a future that can be better than even your imagination!

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...