Inspiration

6 Ways to Move Forward From a Hurtful Past

let go

Have you ever struggled to let go of something in your past? Do you find yourself revisiting old hurts?

Do you find yourself thinking of the past—a difficult time you’ve lived through or a wrong you’ve suffered because of someone else’s actions? Even if you’ve heard people extol the virtues of “letting go of the past,” or “appreciating the present,” we all know it’s often easier said than done.

It’s not like we enjoy holding on to past hurts, regrets, and losses—they do everything from sap our energy to taint our relationships to dim our perspective on life. Studies on forgiveness—which can be a big part of letting go—show that it decreases stress hormones, improves heart health, improves sleep, and enhances your relationships (a key factor in a healthy, happy life).

But how can we let go, in a practical sense? Here are six ways to start letting go of heaviness from the past to move toward a lighter, brighter future.

1. Set Letting Go As a Priority

The writer Anne Lamott says, “Every single thing I’ve let go of has claw marks on it.” See? You’re not the only one! Letting go of old hurts and pains can be tough business. It’s also the kind of thing that’s easy to put on the back burner of your life. But the first step to healing is often setting the intention to do so.

Make a note in a journal—or a sticky note on your fridge—”I am ready and willing to release the past.” And see what kind of support you can get for doing so. Maybe talk to a therapist or a trusted friend or grab a helpful book like Hugh Prather’s The Little Book of Letting Go . Once you focus on the goal, move toward anything that gears your mind toward the project at hand.

2. Exercise the Forgiveness Muscle

Nothing frees us from anger and blame like forgiveness. There’s that old saying about holding a grudge being like a poison we feed ourselves. It can also make us heavier! One recent study on forgiveness found that study participants could literally jump significantly higher when asked to recall a time they forgave—and lower when thinking of a time they held onto a grudge. It may demonstrate that letting go can make you feel lighter.

Of course, there are not just physical or psychological benefits to forgiveness. There’s the spiritual side, too.  The Lord’s Prayer includes the line, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

See what you can do to start forgiving anyone you’ve been quietly seething against. Even if you don’t feel forgiving, practice. “I forgive ….” Say that several times a day. Write it out, talk it out. You don’t ever have to be friends with them again, but you can let go of the poison of the past—because it’s your life and you don’t need it.

3. Practice Being Here, Now

The main thing that keeps us stuck in the past is our thoughts about the past. Ruminating on old scenarios, thinking about what could have gone differently—basically wishing for a different reality. The main way to address this is to start to take control of your thoughts.

Studies show that practicing mindfulness by meditating can improve memory, increase mental focus, reduce stress, and lower emotional reactivity. Find 10 minutes a day to sit and breathe and simply watch all those thoughts tumble by.

You’ll realize those thoughts about the past are just thoughts—like the thought that you need to buy bread. You can direct your thoughts. Just like you don’t think about your shopping list all day, you don’t have to think about the past either.

4. Express Yourself

The past does not just miraculously evaporate from our minds. Studies show that emotionally charged memories set down actual grooves in our brains, cementing them.

If you’re noticing that some of those grooves are making you miserable, tell someone your story. Talk therapy with a trained professional has been shown to do everything from ease depression to reduce back pain to heal insomnia.

We need to tell our stories before we can release them. And it helps greatly if those who hear our stories are compassionate and objective. You don’t want to tell your story to people who were involved originally. If there’s no one you can talk to, at least write it down. It can help to have a pretend listener to write it all out to in a letter you’ll never send.

5. Own Your Story

The good news is, all that crazy stuff that happened in your past, It’s YOURS! No one else has that story, for better or worse. You can shake off any shame, regret, or anger by simply seeing all that happened didn’t destroy you. You’re still here by the grace of God. Appreciate that.

Your story is unique. I bet it’s a good one. Imagine you’re reading a novel with all those ups and downs. People would be riveted. Everyone has a story. Accept yours. You can’t change it, but you can own it, even embrace it for all its quirks, hurts, joys, and wondrous twists and turns. Then, you can move on to the next chapter.

6. Plan Ahead

Though living in the present is a worthy and noble goal, humans need to move forward. Having a sense of purpose that reaches beyond you can help you get unstuck from your past. Make that bucket list and start ticking things off—and making plans to do some of the bigger things on it. That way, your soon-to-be past will be of your own design, to be both let go and cherished.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Stacey V. Jepthas

    April 19, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Esmerelda Ramklass

  2. Vonnette Crawford

    April 10, 2017 at 4:15 am

    Glory be to God

  3. Jasmine Isaacs

    April 9, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Amen

  4. Paula Rogers Watson

    April 9, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Teri French

  5. Freda Grandy

    April 8, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Tina Johnson

  6. Sarahliz Mawia Jones

    April 8, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Il practise these steps

  7. Linda Mamzangwa Gxekwa

    April 8, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I wish I can be there where i laugh at my past relationship….not there yet. But I guess it’s true time heals…

  8. Sheilla Kalambula Zhanero

    April 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    I’m still hurting and don’t see myself getting healed. I need God to work within me so much. I feel dead inside

  9. Lesley-Anne Bello Pacete

    April 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Eunice Bello

  10. Debora Farish

    April 8, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Amen

  11. Lapaix Shaffina

    April 8, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Amen but sometimes it really hurts

  12. Kgakgamatso Tladi

    April 8, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Not dr yet it stil hurts thnkn abt de thns dat made me cry

  13. Arvis Johnson

    April 8, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Yes Lord.

  14. Marz Claudene Ugay

    April 8, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Bern Montesclaros

  15. Harriet Byakuma

    April 8, 2017 at 6:46 am

    let go and let the almighty do his part

  16. Marilyn Chereti

    April 8, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Amen

  17. Ngangwa Sally

    April 8, 2017 at 6:04 am

  18. Sindiswa Thwala

    April 8, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Amen

  19. Telly Manuel

    April 8, 2017 at 2:22 am

    Let go and let God do His part!

  20. Leticia Arechega

    April 8, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Amen….I thought I would never be able to think about the hurt or even talk about it without feeling that I was dying slowly..but Thank you Jesus for closing that hurtful part of my life…i am still not sure of my future and my marriage…I am still with my husband but I do know one thing and that is no matter what..I will be ok!!

  21. Terry Daley

    April 8, 2017 at 1:48 am

    Thank you Jesus Amen

  22. Nick Nick Salde

    April 8, 2017 at 1:43 am

    AMEN

  23. Carolyn Reed

    April 8, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Yes

  24. Tracey YG

    April 8, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Yes

  25. Kim Colclough

    April 8, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Lia Wilkins Shanitha Raye

    • Lia Wilkins

      April 8, 2017 at 12:19 am

      Yes ma’am

    • Shanitha Raye

      April 8, 2017 at 12:37 am

      Thanks boo

    • Shanitha Raye

      April 8, 2017 at 1:17 am

      This was so on time. I was frustrated about something I’ve been trying to let go of just this morning. I’d be like “ok, gonna let this go” and five minutes later thought comes back in my mind…ughhhh 😫

  26. Gloria Baker

    March 23, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Good stuff

  27. Cindy Hull

    March 23, 2017 at 1:55 am

    I am . I am much happier than as year ago

  28. Jeanette Cobb

    March 22, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Lord Jesus I’m sick of my past! I want to go forward , start s new. Be able to trust and love again.

  29. Mary Kahoro

    March 22, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    May God help me to forget about the past and move on

  30. Brenda Martinez

    March 22, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Dee Garcia Read it!

  31. Jason Moore

    March 22, 2017 at 9:07 am

    “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”” -John 7:37-38

  32. Brina Doc

    March 22, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Great Advice

  33. Ganearica Deynz

    March 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Mary Ann Bedruz Lucero

  34. Debbie Alford Johnson

    March 22, 2017 at 7:19 am

    I will always hold on to the past…..especially my life in Goshen and Troy. Best years of my life……

  35. Dawn Lahoud

    March 22, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Lord please release me of the past to go forward in you Lord thank you

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