How To Let Go Of The Past – Insightful Benefits and Steps

There is beauty and magic to one’s life, but this light can be hard to see when one is focused on past events. Usually, these are events that are filled with pain, guilt, attachment, and grief. Overcoming these emotions and letting go can be deep and challenging, but it is an ultimately rewarding and healing process.

Letting go is addressing the things in our past that we are attached to, whether that be people, mistakes, trauma, or our own expectations. It’s a process that occurs over and over, each layer of release creating deeper, transformative healing. 

It’s not easy, but it is necessary to live a life full of love, joy, and peace. One cannot move forward while looking back, so one must lay their past to rest. 

What Does it Mean to Let Go of the Past?

To let go of the past is to find acceptance and forgiveness for yourself and others. It is releasing expectations and the story one has built about their life and what has occurred to them. Letting go of what has happened to us, allows us to be fully present to the life we now live. This involves being present and aware of who we are in this moment and the relationships we share. 

A woman looking into the water - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
A woman looking into the water

In order to let go of the past, one has to first become aware of what they are holding onto. Is there a story you have in your mind of how something was “suppose” to go? Are you living with a boiling rage for how you’ve been treated, for what has been done to you? Maybe you feel guilt and bitterness towards yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. 

Each of these things clutches at our psyche and spirit, holding us back from our true potential, from our highest selves. Deep anger towards others will do nothing but burn you from the inside out, increasing the pain you seek to be rid of. Let grace and forgiveness wash over your wounds, and cool your heat. 

To let go of the past is to find acceptance and forgiveness for yourself and others.

In other cases, our attachment to our past comes in more subtle ways. If you’re unsure if you’re holding onto your past, see if you relate to any of the following: 

  1. You dream often of people or events in your past.
  2. You find yourself daydreaming about past people/events and playing out different outcomes.
  3. You have bitterness towards certain people and have unmet expectations. 
  4. You feel guilt or shame when you think about things you have done. 
  5. You long for people who are no longer part of your life. 
A man hiking and looking forward - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
A man hiking and looking forward

Reasons to Let Go of the Past

Sometimes it may feel that in order to let go of something, we have to let go of a part of ourselves. And, for whatever reason, it feels unsafe or scary to let go of that past version of one’s self. 

Holding onto the past and who one used to be can create a life full of confusion, shame, depression, and missed opportunities. No one wants to live their life this way, we all want happiness, peace, and joy. We want to be able to look at our current lives with gratitude, see brightness in our future, and look back on the wisdom gained from our past. 

To let go is to open yourself to joy and new opportunities. It is to welcome healing and love for yourself and others. If you would like more insight on how to let go of this past, check out this enlightening and encouraging video.

Research from Educational Psychology shows that letting go of our attachments also leads to greater adaptability, meaning we’re able to face the challenges of life that much better. When we release our pasts, we can find greater happiness, forgiveness, healthier relationships, and motivation to move forward. 

Let Go of the Past to Be Happy

When one releases anger, shame, and judgment for themselves and others, they are able to receive so much joy in their life. It’s difficult to feel light and free when one is burdened with thoughts about the past. One’s day can feel dark and heavy; stuck in the past and the hurt that was found there. Through healing work, we can learn to let go of these things and find genuine happiness in our lives. 

Let Go of the Past to Forgive Yourself

What are your thoughts like towards yourself? Do you often speak down to yourself for what you’re doing, or what you’re not doing? Do other people’s voices fill your mind with past words of hurt, that you now believe to be true? 

Simple blocks spell the word forgive - Hot To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
Simple blocks spell the word forgive

Maybe you’re stuck in a cycle of shame, where you wished you would have done something differently. Those thoughts can be so painful, especially when it involves trauma. I find that speaking with someone you trust about these experiences can help release the pain you hold. 

You don’t have to believe the thoughts you’ve created about yourself. Forgiveness is possible, and it starts with having love and grace for yourself. This is much easier said than done, and I am still learning how to navigate these murky waters of self-forgiveness myself. There is much to uncover when one travels the road of grace, but letting go of hurtful thoughts and beliefs is the best way to start. 

Let Go of the Past in a Relationship

If one has unresolved hurt from a past experience or relationship, they may carry that into their next relationship. When this happens, one can project onto their current partner the pain they received from the past. One may have unrealistic fears that don’t apply to their current relationship. 

Man and woman holding hands - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
Man and woman holding hands

I believe this is a normal part of the healing process, and the first step is recognizing when you’re projecting from a past event. Also, communicating with your partner what you’re experiencing is truly helpful. Together, you can talk through your experience and help release it. 

For example, I carry abandonment wounds from my past. Because of this, I have random bouts of fear that my partner may leave me, even though I’m in a committed, healthy relationship. I know that this fear doesn’t have anything to do with my partner, and it has to do with the trauma I’ve experienced from my past.

With this awareness, I can have grace for what I’m experiencing (without judgment), and share with my partner what I’m going through. You’ll be amazed about how much you can release from your past by talking to someone who supports and loves you. 

Man and woman talking in a minimal kitchen - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
Man and woman talking in a minimal kitchen

Having this awareness, helps you realize when your partner is going through this as well. Together, and individually, you can let go of the past and be present in the beautiful relationship you’re building. 

Let Go of the Past to Move Forward

How can one ever truly grow and evolve if their mind is stuck in the past? To move forward with your life, you have to let go of past mistakes, expectations, and missed opportunities. I know this is much easier said than done, but it will get easier with practice. Take it day by day, layer by layer. 

When one focuses on who they are now, they can start building a bright and exciting future. Focusing on the past pulls you away from the bigger picture of life, away from the possibilities that await you. By letting go of the past, you can find greater confidence in who you are and where you’re meant to go. 

Simple letters spell moving forward - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
Simple letters spell moving forward

That being said, there is much wisdom that can be gained from the past. Instead of looking back on the past with bitterness and guilt, try thinking about what it taught you instead. How did you grow from that experience? Take that wisdom and apply it to who you are now and the future you envision for yourself. 

How To Let Go of the Past

Letting go of the past can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some strategies that may help you let go of the past:

  1. Accept the past
  2. Practice self-compassion
  3. Challenge negative thoughts
  4. Practice mindfulness
  5. Surround yourself with positive influences
  6. Practice self-care
  7. Let go of resentment and forgiveness
  8. Set new goals and create a vision

Remember that letting go of the past is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. 

Tips for Letting Go of the Past

The process of letting go is going to look different for everyone. For those who are letting go of trauma, it may be a process that requires more support in the form of therapy or spiritual practices.  If you can relate to this, there may be things that need to be addressed and released. If you’re curious about the science behind the importance of letting go of attachments, check out this article by ACU

The main thing I encourage you is to remember that it will take time. Trust in the process. Trust in your healing journey, and keep moving forward. The path to healing will uncover layer after layer of what needs to be addressed and released. This is all a part of the process. 

Practicing meditation to let go of the past - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
Practicing meditation to let go of the past

Be kind and gentle with yourself. Seek support when you need it and don’t be afraid to talk to someone about what you’re experiencing. I find that journaling about what I’m learning to let go of is highly beneficial, and helps me release stagnant thoughts. 

There are many tools and resources that will help you let go of the past, such as meditations and even biblical scripture if that is in alignment with you. These tools will give you insight, and unlock hidden truths buried beneath what one is conditioned to believe. One can find many meditations and scriptures through research on the web, as well as books that will help you on your journey. 

I will also say this: letting go is a process you must do within yourself. It requires diving deep into the waters of the subconscious; releasing beliefs and conditions that have been etched into your psyche. This is the uncovering, this is where the real and lasting work begins. 

A woman looking in a simplistic mirror - How To Let Go Of The Past - Gone Minimal
A woman looking in a simplistic mirror

Related Insights

Why is it hard to let go of the past?

Letting go of the past is hard because it often involves overcoming difficult emotions, such as anger, grief, sadness, and guilt. We must accept what is, forgive ourselves and others, and find peace by letting go. 

Why letting go of the past is important?

Letting go of the past is part of the healing journey; it’s how one grows and evolves. If one becomes stuck in the past, they are not evolving or learning and may become stuck in a destructive pattern. Letting go of the past is important for finding joy and peace in one’s life. 

Things That Real People Have Learned To Let Go Of

While letting go of things in our past can be a difficult process, it is still 100% possible. To confirm this, and show that people have found success in releasing things from their past, I asked a few friends and family to list things they’ve learned to let go of. Here’s what they shared and what I learned from the poll, and the percentages of their responses.

Things People Have Learned To Let Go OfTimes Selected
Past Friendships 13%
Expectation of others 13%
Expectation of what life should look like13%
Resentment 13%
Past mistakes 7%
Unhealthy foods 7%
Adamancy towards certain outcomes6%
Anger towards family7%
Awkward teen years 7%
Things that real people have had success in letting go of

Other Resources:

I believe that you will be able to let go of whatever it is you are holding onto. It will take some work and forgiveness, but I believe you have the strength and courage to let go of your past. Believe in yourself, and trust in the journey you are on. 

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