how to stop living in the past

Why Am I Stuck Living In The Past?

Learning how to stop living in the past might just be the best thing you can do for yourself.

Each of us is a reflection of all the events that have shaped us during our lifetimes. Our lives are composed of both good and bad events, and no two people have the same life story.

If the past is all we ever focus on, it would hinder our ability to live joyfully in the present. This pertains to both past adverse life events as well as those glory days gone by. Staying fixated on either of these will only prevent you from living your best life in the now.

Why It’s Important to Stop Living in the Past

It’s easy to get stuck in the past, dwelling on things that went wrong in our lives. By going over them in our minds, we might seek some kind of validation or self-defense. We might still be trying to process the unfortunate event or loss, which is understandable.

Maybe there was a period in our lives that we aren’t so proud of. Are going to keep beating ourselves up, punishing ourselves, because we made some mistakes? Or, do we dust off our sandals and move forward, mindfully choosing to start fresh?

The same can be said for longing for the good old days at the expense of the present. Some people look back at their time as the high school football star or the college beauty queen. They can end up getting stuck there in the past, wishing they could time travel back to those heady times. In essence, they live in the past, clinging to a former version of themselves. Sadly, they can’t see all the great traits they have now, in the current version of themselves.

All this contemplation about the past can cause us to ignore the good things going on in our present life. We find ourselves missing out on enjoying the things that would otherwise give us joy. Worse, dwelling on the past reduces our quality of life in the present.

It is fine to remember all the things that you have done and experienced. These events have combined over the years to make you the person you are. But by moving on and embracing the present you make the most of the time you have ahead of you.

6 Ways to Stop Living in the Past and Embrace the Present

With a little effort, it is possible to break free from the mistakes of the past and live your best life in the present.

Consider these 6 tips to help you stop living in the past:

  1. Stop the blame game. Sometimes we replay past events because we are still upset and are trying to make sense of it. We want to blame someone for what happened to us because it makes us feel better. But getting stuck on blaming either someone else or yourself keeps you stuck in a negative place.
  2. Work through the emotions. Stuffing your feelings will only make you sick. Part of the healing process, so you can move on, involves parsing through feelings like anger, betrayal, and pain. Start a journal where you can jot down your thoughts and feelings, or make an appointment with a therapist.
  3. Forgive. Forgiveness is very powerful. It can help free you from a past hurt and allow you to move forward in life. Even if the person never apologized, still the act of forgiveness takes away their power to cast a shadow over your present happiness.
  4. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to rein in distracting thoughts that keep us upset, and to instead focus on the now. When we divert our attention away from thoughts about the past, we can focus on something beautiful in our present.
  5. Accept responsibility. As hard as it is to admit it, sometimes the past event that you are so upset about was your own fault. Instead of looking for ways to deny accountability, accept your role and humbly admit the error. Chalk it up as a lesson learned, and then move forward.
  6. See the past as only a chapter. Don’t allow one chapter to become the story of your entire life. View the past event as simply one of many intriguing chapters of your life. This helps to compartmentalize the not-so-great period of your life, and then turn the page to a brand new chapter.

Access Mental Health Treatment

If after you have followed the above tips you are still not able to break free from the past, it is time to seek help from a mental health provider. There can be a mental health disorder that is causing this emotional distress by ruminating on the past. These might include:

Trauma. Experiencing a trauma can have lasting effects on your psyche. You might be unable to shake the event from your thoughts, reliving the trauma over and over. Trauma can cause nightmares, insomnia, avoidance, anger, detachment, and substance abuse.

Anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety you might be caught up in the aftereffects of disturbing events from the past. By keeping the upsetting past events on replay in your mind, you remain in a state of heightened stress. Anxiety can cause irritability, fear, dread, sleep problems, and symptoms like a racing heart and shallow breathing.

Depression. Not moving on from loss or grief, or any negative life event from the past, can lead to depression. Depression symptoms include sadness, hopelessness, sleep issues, weight changes, fatigue, loss of interest, trouble thinking, and suicidal thoughts.

If you need to learn how to stop living in the past, consider working with a therapist who can help.

Mental Wellness by Ken Seeley Provides Residential Mental Health Treatment

Mental Wellness by Ken Seeley offers expert treatment for mental health conditions, such as past trauma. If a constant barrage of painful memories is sabotaging your present, it is time to seek some guidance and support. MWKS provides the compassionate care and treatment you deserve to break free from the past. Reach out to us today at (888) 312-4262.