How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy
How to Let Go of the Past and Be Happy
When you experience a trauma, long after your physical scars have healed, your emotional scars can still wreak havoc. The mind, with its vivid imagination, can keep you trapped for years in a moment that lasted but a few minutes. The emotional ties that you use to bind your painful thoughts into neat little packages tucked away in the attic, have instead been converted into monsters that are now lying in wait to hungrily strike during your most vulnerable times.
When you seek to avoid tackling your issues by trying to pretend they don’t exist…You do more harm to yourself than good. Today, we’ll discuss a few ways you can practice how to let go of the past and be happy.
Effects of Negative Thinking on the Brain
When suffering from negative thinking or depression, ever notice the bouts of brain fog that come your way? Your lack of focus and concentration? The sluggishness that permeates your mind and your body to the point you just don’t want or have the energy to get out of bed in the morning?
A side effect of negative thinking is that it slows down your brain’s coordination abilities. This makes it difficult for your mind to process proper thoughts and feelings, and hinders you from finding solutions to problems. For instance, feelings of fear developed from negative thinking, directly affect your cerebellum, which slows down your brain’s ability to process new info—affectively limiting you ability to perform any creative problem solving. I’m sure you’ve felt this whenever you were stressed out and trying get work done at your job.
Fear and negativity can also affect your mood, memory and impulse control. Raise your hand if you like to eat or get mad cravings when stressed. You can’t see me right now but my hand is raised. And if that aint’ an impulse, I don’t know what is.
Your brain also decides what’s most important according to what you give attention to and how you feel about that particular thing. So, the more you focus on negativity, the more your brain will serve up negative thoughts. It literally builds more neurons to support your negative thinking. “Oh! You must really like this as you’re thinking about it so much. Let me help by giving you more! A negative neuron for you! A negative neuron for you…” It’s no wonder depression is often related to gray skies and cloudy days; the brain is making it rain with negative neurons. Thoughts become things, people. Even when those things are micrcoscopic negative-thinking neurons.
How to Deal with Negative Thoughts
We often let ourselves slide when using self-degrading language. How often have you claimed you couldn’t do something because you were too fat, too dumb, too skinny, too this, too that…We easily accept such negative talk about ourselves. Society has made sure that we do. But what if you were to flip that around? For instance, imagine a friend or loved one using your own words to say that to you. How would you feel? I’m betting not that good. So if you wouldn’t like it coming from someone else, why would you tolerate it from yourself?
Try challenging self-degradation instead. When a negative thought comes to mind, pause and do a self-evaluation. Is the thought accurate or true? Or are you just assuming the worst, shrinking and making yourself “less than” because you never knew you had the ability to be and do more. With this thought-shift in mind, try to come up with alt reasons as to why you can’t be or do the thing. I’ll let you in on a little secret: You likely won’t find very many.
How to Let Go of Past Hurts
We’re creatures who love to hold onto the past, so much so that the past has somehow come to define who we are well into our futures. And this isn’t just a system designed to help us categorize and judge others, it’s also the system that’s influenced you to categorize and judge yourself.
Your significant other claimed it was your fault they cheated because you didn’t give enough time and attention, and their new “love” is more attractive, carefree—Just all-around better than you. You thought you were a shoo-in for that promotion at work, because you’re innovative, dedicated and repeatedly scored high on performance surveys; only to have your boss hire someone with less experience.
These are painful moments, but they don’t have to define who you are. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re less-than based on the words and opinions of a few others. But they’re just that: Opinions. There are currently 7.53 billion people on this earth. They can’t all think the same, and trust me, there are as many if not more people who have a high opinion of you than a low one.
With that said, one of the best things you can do to set yourself on the path of recovery is acknowledge your pain. I know in the US we typically like to tout that being emotionally strong is a trait to strive for, but being emotionally vulnerable can be just as strong, too.
Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. If you need to cry, scream, punch your pillow, physically walk away…Then do it. Though we’d like, too, you can’t control anyone’s feelings but your own, so try to separate yourself from the thing that is causing you stress so you can get your own thoughts and feelings in order.
A colleague in one of my networking groups posted how upset she was because her boyfriend of years was unfaithful. The kicker is that the other woman was now texting her with images and details about the formerly secret relationship, which rightly upset my colleague. She asked for advice on how to handle the situation. Everyone agreed: Block. Her. Number. As I responded, “Don’t let them have that kind of power over you. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat—Least of all you!” So, I’m saying the same to you, now: Man, woman, dog, cat, cow—I don’t care who. Don’t let anyone have power over your emotions. You have bigger fish to fry with people who genuinely care about you, so you ain’t got time fo’ dat foolishness.
Yes, it’ll hurt. There is no doubt about that, but find solace in that the pain is only temporary. In the meantime, practice being kind to and loving yourself, and how to let things go that bother you.
How to Let Go of Things That Bother You
Whether you’re seeking how to let go of the past in a relationship, how to let go of a friendship, or simply need to remove a negative force in your life, ultimately, this all boils down to the need for three simple things: Loving, respecting and valuing yourself more. And a way to tackle this issue is to learn how to recognize the signs of, evaluate, and thus be able to let go of the very things that work in absolute opposition of you doing this.
Exercise can be a miracle worker. All that pent up negative energy from battling the world on the daily can find release with some good old exercise. And you don’t have to run a mile or bench 5,000 to do it. Instead take a brisk walk around the block, queue up a yoga video on YouTube or Netflix, or just dance in your living room to one of your favorite upbeat songs. Get creative with how you can move your body and burn off the negative vibes of your haters.
Schedules get pretty crazy when you become an adult, but try hanging out with friends and family when you’re feeling down. By instinct we like to hide away to lick our wounds when in pain, but being around others regularly (and I know my introvert brethren cringe when I say that) can actually speed up your healing time. As long as you deliberately choose to be around people who will support you and have your best interest at heart.
I say this because many times we expect the people responsible for tearing us down to suddenly be ok with picking us up when they learn they made us upset. Just remember, if they truly cared, they wouldn’t have sought to hurt you in the first place. Accidents happen for sure, but if someone hurts you on the regular, with no end in sight, don’t keep trying to pull clean water from a poisoned well.
Another way that will be key in helping you to let go of the past and be happy is to push past your personal boundaries. It’s in your quiet spaces of discomfort that you often find your greatest strength.
Get comfortable with being alone—Alone—Not lonely. Take solo dates. Grab a book and cuddle up with it in a corner booth at your favorite restaurant. Expand your mind and visit a local museum. Ever wanted to try zip lining? From personal experience, it’s terrifying at first, but by the end you feel like you could conquer the world.
These are the moments where you learn you are much stronger, smarter, attractive, loving—insert your favorite adjective here—and gain the love, respect and self-value that you were taught to deny.
Don’t chastise yourself if or when you have a setback. It’s to be expected. You’re only human, my dear. Just be sure to keep getting back up after every fall, because finding ways to let go of the things that hold you back is one of the truest forms of enlightenment.
Until next time.