The habit of holding onto the past is something many people struggle to give up. Painful events happen that seem impossible to let go of. But, by holding on to them, we’re preventing ourselves from being able to move forward. Can we learn how to let go of the past and be happy?

There are several steps that need to be taken when it comes to letting go of the past. Whether it’s the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, a loss of a job etc. the steps remain the same. However, the depth of feeling that you have attached to that event will affect the healing process.

It’s impossible to bounce straight back after tragedy. We’re human after all and experience a range of intense emotions, good and bad. Time is a great healer, but psychologically we can hold onto past traumas for longer than is necessary.

How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy

In these cases, we need to make a conscious effort to allow our mind, body and soul to let go of the events that happened and move forward.

The following story is a beautiful, yet sad, reminder of the dangers that come from not learning how to let go of the past and be happy;

Once there was a free bird.

She soared through the sky, relishing the feel of the wind beneath her winds, the sensation of the rain as it dashed on top of her, and the views of the rising and setting sun.

However, when anything caused the bird sadness, she would pick up a stone and keep it with her. At the end of the day, she sorted through her stones, laughing at memories of joyful events, and crying at the sad ones.

She always took the stones with her, whether she was flying in the sky or walking on the earth, she never forgot about them.

As the years passed, this free bird accumulated a lot of stones. Still, she kept soaring by the day, sorting by night, until one day, the weight of the stones caused her beloved flight to become impossible.

This free bird, Queen of the skies, could no longer match the speed of the wind. She could not even manage to walk the earth. All she could do was sit completely still, endlessly poring over her stones…

6 Practices That Will Teach You How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy

1) Understand and Accept

Before we can truly move on from any experience, we need to fully understand and what happened. It is the first step of acceptance and usually the hardest point to master. Understanding or acceptance does not mean you agree with what happened, but it’s essential in order to move on.

Remember it is impossible to fully know someone’s intentions unless they tell you. It’s also important to realize that you can only control your own actions and not the actions of others.

It is also important to remember that a persons actions are not a reflection of you, but of themselves. If they hurt you, it’s not because you lacked in someway, it’s because they did.

In some cases, you will never know why certain things happened and understanding that allows you to move forward. Sometimes, there are no answers to questions asked and it’s important to let go of the need for knowing every detail.

When we run over what happened again and again to find meaning, we are obsessing. This is the most difficult period to get out of and it will take your strength and will power to say, “Enough!”.

By doing so we break the cycle we are stuck in and are able to move onto the next steps.

2) Experience Your Feelings

Another thing that many people are guilty of is burying feelings for fear of appearing vulnerable or simply because they don’t want to do with them. Men, in particular, tend to bury emotions because of society’s expectation that they do so.

This is incredibly healthy and in order to heal we need to experience the emotions that come with experiencing a sad event and allow them their required time.

When we bottle up emotions, we are only making our suffering worse. Try to think of feeling these emotions and expressing them as a release.

If you’re not comfortable exhibiting this in front of people, then you can still feel these emotions in private.

However, always remember that the loved ones in your life would much rather be a part of helping you to feel better, rather than thinking of you suffering in silence.

If you feel sad. Cry.

If you are angry, release this anger in a healthy manner; through physical exercise for example.

If you want to laugh. Laugh until your stomach hurts!

You will notice that you’ll go through a myriad of emotions. Each one is designed to bring you through to the next. It’s not only our hearts that need to heal in many cases, it is our mind.

3) Forgive Yourself as well as Others

People get caught up in trying to find the courage to forgive others but often forget that in difficult times, we often portion ourselves a great deal of blame.

Forgiveness is simply understanding what happened, learning what you were meant to and releasing the anger or sadness you have towards a person or past event. But don’t only do that for others. Find where you have blamed yourself, and forgive yourself.

It is human nature to feel at fault, to feel shame or take the blame. Even when everyone else can see that this was no way in your fault, there may still be a part of you thinking, “I should have known,” or “That wouldn’t have happened to someone else.”

This is the critical area of your own mind that finds it easier to take control when we’re experiencing sadness.

Look at the situation in an unbiased way, see if there really is anything there to forgive yourself for and do it. Quiet your inner critic and allow yourself to move on.

4) Embrace the Present

Sadness lives in the past, fear in the future. It’s important then, particularly during this time, that you focus on being in the now. Mindfulness, or living in the present moment, is incredibly therapeutic.

Start taking care of yourself in the now. Is there anything that you’ve been neglecting? Make steps to get your life back on track and reconnect with the loved ones in your life. They’ll be delighted to hear from you and you can take steps to spend your days doing things that take your mind off your pain.

Do something you’ve always wanted to do and make sure you have lots of fun. This is what friends are for and they’ll enjoy it just as much as you do. When they’re going through a difficult time you’ll return the favor for them.

When we’re sad we can often forget to take care of ourselves; physically emotionally and mentally. Spending these days having fund is enormously beneficial for all three.

Spend some time pampering yourself, enjoy a long soak, check into a spa, go for long walks, get your hair done, whatever you like to do. Spending time making yourself feel better is what you need to complete your healing process.

5) Make Plans for Your Future

Now you’ve got living in the present moment nailed down, you can begin making larger plans for the future. These should be positive changes that will allow you to move forward on your life journey and do the things that are important to you.

Many people take this opportunity to evaluate all areas of their life. It’s time for you to take control of your happiness and remove the things that are dampening it.

Have you always wanted to travel? Make plans to see the world and set achievable goals in order to get there. Is your job making you sad? Identify what you’d love to spend your days doing and make the steps to change your career.

Whatever you do, it’s all to benefit you and improve your life. You’ve been through some tough times and it’s time to put you back into focus. Nothing is stupid or too big and there is never a better time for you to make changes than right now.

6) Affirmations to Teach You How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy

When it comes to mastering the mental game of learning to let go of the past, some people find affirmations to be particularly beneficial.

Affirmations help us to attain the belief we need to achieve our goals and dreams. If you’re someone, like most of us, who struggles with self-doubt, then it can be hard to fully get in the zone of believing you have what you take to make it.

You do.

By practicing these affirmations every day, you can start to take control of the negative thoughts that prevent you from moving on from a traumatic event. Below are 5 examples of affirmations you could use.

“I see the miracle of every day.”

“My future is limitless.”

“I can breathe freely without any constraints.”

“My past does not dictate my future.”

“The past is gone. The future, uncertain. All that matters is now.”

Use the ones that resonate with you and create your own to learn to let go of the past. Repeat them every morning and get into the habit of also stating the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Positive thinking is incredibly powerful and helps us to get through some of the most difficult times.

By practicing the 6 skills above, you’ll learn how to let go of the past and be happy.