The art of letting go: 6 simple ways to move on from a troubled past

Are you struggling to move on from your troubled past? 

It’s like no matter how much you want to let go and move on, you still can’t seem to do it. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s not easy to move on from difficult experiences.

But by doing a few simple things, it’s possible to master the art of letting go. 

Today, we’re sharing 6 things that’ll help you to put your difficult past behind you once and for all. 

Let’s get started. 

1) Practice mindfulness through meditation

Do you ever feel like your mind is too busy? It seems like you’re always thinking about the past or the future and you find it hard to focus on the present moment. 

If this resonates with you, you might benefit from practicing mindfulness which is all about “gently focusing your awareness on the present moment.” 

According to a 2016 study more mindful people tend to suffer less from rumination and are more likely to show self-compassion. That means practicing mindfulness helps you to break free from the cycle of repetitive negative thoughts and encourages you to focus on the present. 

There are lots of different ways to engage in mindfulness through meditation such as focusing on your breathing, engaging in visualization, or reciting mantras and affirmations. 

Mindfulness through meditation is a simple way to move on from a troubled past so why not give it a try and figure out what type of meditation works best for you? 

2) Write down your thoughts

If you’ve got a troubled past you probably know how it feels to have a head full of thoughts that you just can’t seem to process, right? I know how that feels too. 

People say that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and we should talk to others if we’ve got a lot going on. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel ready or comfortable to share with others. 

One simple thing that has really helped me to process my thoughts and emotions is journaling which is simply writing them down. By putting them down on paper, it feels like I can get them out of my head and finally let them go.

And it’s not just me: research has found that writing about traumatic and emotional events improves physical and psychological health.

Journaling has other benefits too, including:

  • Reducing anxiety
  • Breaking the cycle of excessive non-stop thinking
  • Processing and regulating emotions
  • Encouraging people to open up to others

In a nutshell: journaling is a simple but effective way to help you to let go and move on from the past. Are you willing to give it a try? 

3) Prioritize yourself

Sometimes letting go of past troubles means prioritizing yourself.

Although it sounds simple, it can prove to be very difficult when there are other people involved that you love and care deeply about. It could be your partner, your family, or even close friends. 

The thing is: sometimes you’ve got to put yourself and your needs first if you have any chance of moving on. And one of the best ways to do this is by setting boundaries

I had a friend who I cared about a lot, but she was also a constant reminder of a pretty traumatic event in my life. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I put her first for a long time. Eventually, I realized doing this was stopping me from moving on. 

I had no choice but to prioritize myself if I wanted to heal so I set some boundaries with her and created some distance between us. It allowed me to let go of the past. We’re still in touch now, we’ve just got a different friendship than we had before, and that’s ok. 

If you’re struggling to let go of the past, consider the people in your life who might be stopping you from doing so. Maybe it’s time you put yourself first and set some clear boundaries. 

4) Get active

You’re probably well aware of the physical benefits and even some of the mental benefits of getting active, right? 

It’s well-documented that getting active helps to reduce stress and anxiety and increases mood and energy. But did you know that doing physical activity can also distract you from negative thought patterns?

Exercising regularly also helps to develop self-esteem and confidence which are crucial in helping you to deal with negative experiences as they ‘make us better able to deal with life’s ups and downs’ as noted by the UK NHS (National Health Service).

A 2016 study found that physical activity boosts self-esteem both directly (the more someone exercised the higher their self-esteem) and also indirectly through things like body image and physical fitness, where improving them leads to higher self-esteem.

Getting active is another simple thing that’ll help you to let go of your tough past and move on.

5) Make room for self-compassion

Do you think the trauma that you’ve experienced has shaped you to be the person you are today? 

Whether you realize it or not, it probably has had an impact. “The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating,” wrote Dr. Peter Levine, author of Healing Trauma. “It can affect our habits and outlook on life.”

One of the simple yet powerful things you can do to let go of the past and start moving on is to acknowledge that your past experiences were not your fault. To do that, you’ve got to make some room for self-compassion in your life.

Clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone explains, “Recognizing that you came by your pain honestly and innocently can be freeing and the beginning of healing… this means acknowledging that it was not their fault that they came by certain defenses and certain traits.”

You’ve been through a lot, give yourself the same kindness and care you’d give to a good friend. It’s a simple way to let go of the past and move on. 

6) Accept what you can’t control

In all of the experiences I’ve been through in my life, the thing that’s helped me the most is to accept what I can’t control. 

Life is full of ups and downs, and twists and turns that you can’t predict or control. Learning to accept the things that you can’t control sets you free from past traumas. It allows you to worry less and have a more positive outlook on life

I’m not at all religious but when I’m facing things I can’t control I always draw comfort from quietly reciting this quote/prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Accepting the things you can’t control is the key to mastering the art of letting go. 

Final thoughts

The truth is: dealing with past trauma big or small, is never easy. And sometimes some of the simple things we’ve talked about today feel really tough. 

During those tough times, it’s important to remember that by doing them, you’re taking small steps toward letting go of the past. Be kind to yourself in the process. 

Cat Harper

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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