If you dwell on these 6 things, it’s time to stop living in the past

‘Presence’ is a word that you might hear everywhere these days. 

Mindfulness gurus, life coaches, healers, and self-development courses all seem to put some emphasis on being present and in the moment. 

It’s true:

If you are thinking constantly about what’s already happened, or what might happen, you can’t truly make the most of the opportunities right in front of you. 

Dwelling on the past is one common way you take yourself away from the present moment. 

But don’t worry.

Here are some things you may be dwelling on that keep you living in the past and are limiting your potential. 

1) Regretting past mistakes

We all make mistakes, and we all feel some type of way about them. 

If you’re able to learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, and try again in a different way, you’re doing amazing at being present. 

If you find you’re frequently ruminating about what’s happened and feeling guilt over and over again – that’s called beating yourself up. And it keeps you chained to a past version of yourself. 

It’s a brave step to forgive yourself, and let yourself grow beyond who you were.

As long as you integrate the lessons and act with more wisdom in the future, you are truly doing one of the best things you can for your development. 

2) Romanticizing the past

What’s the opposite of regret, but it’s just as bad for you? 

Holding on too hard to the past!

If you feel a very strong nostalgia for your past life, achievements, job, or a relationship that’s ended, you may be identifying with and romanticizing your past, and it’s hurting you. 

If you do this, try to keep this in mind:

We experience things through our lens of awareness at that time. Things may have seemed better back then, but as you’ve grown and life has too, your capacity for incredible experiences increases along with it. 

So if your point of view was smaller in the past (which it always is), and you’re holding on to something that you thought was amazing, there is even greater potential for something more amazing since your point of view widened. 

You just have to remain open to it.   

3) Holding grudges 

Holding grudges against people who have wronged us is a sure sign you’re dwelling on the past. 

If you want to live more in the present with lightness and openness, releasing the charge around past conflict will really be helpful for you.

Keep in mind that there’s no need to invite them for lunch or even see them again. By releasing resentment, you’re doing it for your own well-being, releasing a weight off of your shoulders. 

Resentment eats away at us inside and can become hatred if it’s built up. This can become very unhealthy mentally and physically. 

You can practice putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to try and understand their actions. You don’t have to agree with them – just try to understand what may have happened in their own lives to lead them to do those things. 

You may feel resistance at first, but try to push through with the process and you’ll feel much lighter for it.

In some serious cases, forgiveness can take months or even years, so be very patient with yourself.

4) Overanalyzing conversations

If you struggle with social anxiety, this one’s for you. 

When I was an extremely shy person, I used to replay and overanalyze everything I said in social situations, especially in group interactions. 

I’d mull over if what I said was interesting enough, funny enough, and what people’s responses were to it. I would read into it to the point of stressing about how to act in the next social interaction. 

The truth is this:

No one else is contemplating what you said that deeply. They are probably too busy thinking about their own reality. 

And that’s a wonderful thing!

Sometimes, this kind of overanalysis can come from childhood situations like being told to be a certain way, or if we were punished for saying certain things.

When you can get to the root of this tendency and become free from it, you can experience the true freedom of being yourself in any given situation. 

And that’s a very wonderful thing.

5) Objects and memorabilia 

Don’t get me wrong.

The occasional nostalgia for items, people, and places isn’t a bad thing.

In fact, it’s a beautiful part of life to find an old love letter or photograph in your storage and relive the memories that came with it. 

However, forming an unhealthy emotional attachment to things that no longer serve a purpose or us bring joy can sometimes point to a deeper issue of living in the past. 

If you still keep that picture of your ex on your shelf or still use that keychain they gave you – even though you feel intense sadness when you look at it… well, you know what to do.

Objects can absolutely trigger emotional responses if they have significance for us, so if something you’re still holding on to doesn’t bring positivity to your life, it can be very empowering to let that go for your own mental health. 

If it’s still super important to you to keep it, you don’t have to discard it completely – just remove it from your everyday life so that it no longer has power over your emotions.

6) Avoiding new experiences

Do you find yourself consistently saying ‘no’ to invitations or opportunities to meet new people and have new experiences?

Do you feel that your life has remained very much the same for years now?

If so, ask yourself this question:

Am I avoiding change? 

Sometimes, we can become stuck in our comfort zones and the familiarity of our lives because we fear what lies beyond them. 

We fear putting ourselves out there in a new environment, being seen by new people, or challenging ourselves with new opportunities.

Don’t worry – most of us actually have this fear whenever we face the prospect of the unknown.

The thing is, learning to lean into that fear is the best way to grow and become more of yourself. It’s only by taking a leap and landing, or failing, that we can know our true selves. 

So if you want to grow beyond the past, try to embrace every new chance to experience something different. 

Remember, the key is to always be kind to yourself, and always acknowledge your own bravery in facing the uncomfortable. 


So, how many of these 6 things do you find yourself dwelling on? Are you ready to move on from them, beyond the past, and into your full potential?

If so, here’s a recap of the ways to get into the present moment that will help you on your journey (plus some other suggestions):

  • Mindfulness practices: journaling, meditating, breathwork, playing an instrument, painting
  • Setting new goals and intentions for the future
  • Seeking new opportunities
  • Letting go of things that don’t bring joy
  • Forgiveness for self and others
  • Seeking professional help if needed

Wherever you are on your journey, keep in mind that the lighter the load you carry, the further you will go. 

So cultivate a light mind and heart, as you go forth into your future.

Picture of Shela Riva

Shela Riva

Shela Riva is a Thai-Swiss freelance writer, artist, energy mentor and co-creator of Jaiyen Eco Resort, a creative retreat space in Thailand. She is deeply passionate about our incredible ability to transform and is dedicated to helping each person realize the power within themselves, whether through her writing, empowering custom art pieces, one-on-one work or in-person retreats.

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