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How to Let Go of the Past

Photo by JUCO
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. ~Henry Ellis

Despite my best intentions, I’ve spent the past week looking for a fight.

It started as a small seed of frustration over a few things work-related, and passively I stood back as it bloomed into something far greater and much uglier than I ever should have allowed.

My reaction to the situations I encountered was completely off balance.

I found myself seething with anger when a well-meaning coworker took over a task clearly delegated to me. I started sobbing when a meeting that ran longer than expected left me with a $50 parking ticket.

It was the kind of emotion that doesn’t dissipate with time, the kind that you go to sleep thinking about and spend the night dreaming about.

It must be picked up and examined, turned over, contemplated and dissected. It requires finding the origin, and reconstructing it so it isn’t allowed to return to its original form.

It’s the kind of emotion that requires letting go and making the conscious decision to move on. In other words, it takes a lot of hard work.

While I was in the midst of all the heavy emotional lifting, I decided to do physically what I was attempting to do mentally — purge what wasn’t working to make room for what would.

So I went to work on my closet.

I searched through the forgotten, the hidden, the things I had outgrown. I pushed through all the well-I-might-use-that-some-day’s and the but-so-and-so-gave-that-to-me’s until I felt that sense of peace that only physical simplicity can offer.

Not everyone is a fan of extreme organization, but for me, my environment is a direct reflection of my mind. Thus, clearing things out in a physical sense paves the way to mental clarity.

In the days that followed, I made the deliberate decision to clear a space in my mind like the one I had created in my home.

By letting go of the anger and frustration, I opened up enough room for things to flow again. And it’s flow that really allows for things to fall into place in a positive way.

Many of us see spring as the time to clear out the cobwebs, plant gardens, clean all the areas of our homes that were neglected during winter.

But it’s also the perfect time to let go and make room for better feeling feelings, new experiences in alignment with what we desire and relationships that reflect who we are and who we are striving to be.

Here are 5 ways you can clear out the mental clutter to create lasting change.

#1 Forgive

Choose forgiveness, embody it and move on.

Resentment and anger take up a great deal of space in our minds and in our lives.

They taint future relationships, change the way we feel about ourselves and keep us in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Not to mention the fact that they are exhausting emotions to entertain.

When it comes to cleaning house, practicing forgiveness is the first step, one that will make all other steps possible. Work to release any hurts you may have experienced in the hands of others and be fully present in the moment.

Most of all, be kind to yourself and respect your progress.

#2 Letting Go

Let go of relationships that aren’t adding to your happiness or sense of fulfillment.

Most of us don’t have an infinite amount of time to spend nurturing relationships that refuse to bloom.

Instead of pouring yourself into something that clearly isn’t working, or is no longer offering you the fulfillment relationships — romantic or otherwise — should be giving you, make the conscious decision to let it go.

This might mean confronting someone head on, or simply phasing someone out of your life. Either way, you are creating room for someone else to enter — someone that is better suited to you and your needs at the time.

In all likelihood, this decision will be serving the other person in a positive way as well — the sheer fact that a relationship isn’t working for one person means it’s not working for the other.

#3 Confront Fear

Do one thing everyday that takes you out of your comfort zone.

You can’t get different results by taking the same actions and the greatest change comes from doing something you wouldn’t normally do.

Not only will you put this in contact with new people, but it will slowly give you the confidence to pursue different paths.

A few years ago, I was paralyzed with fear anytime I had to interact with people I didn’t know. So I decided to take a job where I would be required to spark up conversations in restaurants, stores and bars in order to sell a specific product. Needless to say, I was terrified.

After countless conversations, I stopped being intimidated. That lack of intimidation and ability to see everyone as my equal ultimately landed me my next job.

#4 Be Decisive

Stop being wishy-washy and decide what you want. Declare it to the world.

When reflecting on their life, a lot of people will say that they don’t have what they want. But most never actually decided what they wanted in the first place.

The universe doesn’t simply read your mind when you have fleeting thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice to have that?” You must place your order — the more specific the better.

If you are clear about the things that you want, you will be more likely to notice when it arrives, or be able to tell when certain opportunities or people are being placed in your path for your benefit. It also gives you the motivation to create change instead of simply waiting for it to happen.

#5 Find Abundance

Focus on abundance in every area of your life.

What you focus on multiplies, so why not focus on abundance instead of lack?

Start a gratitude practice in which you concentrate on all of the circumstances, things and people in your life that make your experience on this planet easier, happier or more fulfilling.

No matter how small the impact it’s had, it deserves a mention.

Meditate on your gratitude, create a list or talk about it at your family dinner. Whatever you do, give it a voice and notice how your body and mind shift to a better feeling place almost immediately.

If you make it a habit to be grateful for all of the amazing things you already have, you will inevitably attract more of what you want into your life.

** What about you? What are you having a hard time letting go of? What tips have you found helpful in letting go of unproductive emotions? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comment section. See you there.

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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13 thoughts on How to Let Go of the Past

  1. Forgiving is essential to being a healthy person because it takes energy and stress to uphold grudges that really do not need to continually exist. Also, cleaning and tidying up your environment is a great way to relieve stress. Thanks for writing this post, Kayla!

  2. Great article!

    What has helped me and others is to write or type out a list of what you’d like to release. If you’re interested in astrology and or the phases of the moon, you could do a ‘full moon’ release where you place your list underneath your pillow and say the following before you go to sleep, “I willing release (fill in the blank) and surrender my ego-based fears and anything else that doesn’t serve me or others.” Give it a try and see if it works for you. :)

  3. This post is right on all around – from creating spaciousness in our physical space leading to more internal energy flow to all the recommendations. I’m in 100% agreement and have been going through some deep purging, letting go and letting soul. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  4. Kayla: I can relate your advice to my life. I always feel better after I clean up though, I never really want to clean up in the first place. I also get mental clarity from paving things out of the way and where they should be. My desk is pretty unorganized right now so I have some cleaning to do in a little while, but this was great!
    A short time ago, I wanted finish what another person started when he shoved me at work. It was hard getting over my anger of being in an enviorment where I could not fight back. Honestly, it was hard getting over it and I do not really know if I am.

  5. Life is something that is always in order for a reminder of fundamentals. These 5 different ways are all things we know, but so easily forget to do. Thanks for this amazing reminder!

  6. Rafael

    Great article thank you for sharing! Being decisive and confronting fear right now are two things I’m taking head on!

  7. patrick

    I am at the moment going through a sticky patch in my life…I have been to a few funerals lately and have been unwell…The recent funeral was just yesterday which was of my lovely aunt…..So i was searching and found your site…..some great ideas but sadly i am a coward with change…So much has happened in my life..Childhood abuses etc and i feel as if i have just been walking through life but not seeing….I have a loving wife a son who is doing well and a lovely daughter but at times i feel as if i am not part of this world..Thank you or reading my rant.x

  8. Jenny

    Tina,

    Thanks for the great article. I have trouble letting go the good times of a recently broken up relationship. I catch myself looking through old pictures, reading through old loving emails. Sometimes I know I need to stop, but in that process my ex sends me tidbits of information about his new life (he moved away) and makes me think he can be that guy again.

    I guess my question is, what is the fine line between holding on and letting go? Are his messages a sign that we should still be together? I’m holding onto that slight chance of hope, which he continuously gives me from time to time, that makes all my effort of letting go worthless because I fall back into the idea of holding on.

    It was a 14 months relationship that really spiraled down the last 2 months, off and on. I keep thinking we’d always get back together, and we did. But is this it and I really need to let it go now? Especially because he’s far far away.

    • Hi Jenny,

      I’ll keep this short. I think you should let go.

      I’ve been in your shoe more times than I would like to admit. Including once 5 year relationship that dragged on because I didn’t want to let it go. After being dumped a few more times, I decided that it was truly time to let go.

      Holding on will only drag on the pain. There are so many good men out there. The faster you can let go of this one (who doesn’t sound like is right for your situation), the faster you can heal and the faster you can allow the right person to come into your life.

      Tina

  9. mooey

    Tina, Great article!! Like Jenny, i too have a problem letting go. I have been dating this married guy for past two years, and we recently broke up because his wife had a baby. when i fist met him, he said his was very unhappy with his marriage and he no longer loves his wife. He even promise me he would move out in a month, but instead of moving out he end up having a baby with his wife through IVF. I gave up my family, my job and relocated myself to be closer to him, but week after i move to my new place, he called and said that he couldn’t leave his baby girl. His enjoying his family while i am suffering, but i kept hoping he would come back to me. He broke my heart, none of my family talks to me, i lost all my good friends. I really need to get over him and move, but i am having a hard time. Please help me!

  10. Joy

    Letting go of a relationship with someone I have a long history with. We’ve had ups and downs and am proud to say I ended it calmly and in a good headspace mentally. I am sad about it, I saw a future with this person but as in your article I believe if it wasn’t working for me then it wasn’t for him.

    I dont know what the future will hold and am the moment taking my time with really letting go as in returning things he gave me and the BIG one deleting him from FB.

    Any tips guys?

  11. Joy

    Hi Mooey,

    hope you are feeling better since your post in October. I was involved in a similar situation (Married guy, and had two kids in the space of time we were seeing each other) and I can tell you that it gets better :). Hopefully he remains out of your life so you can begin to clear/heal your heart and head.

    Your suffering will not be in vain in someway in the future it will help you or help you help someone else.

    Sending you a big hug :)

  12. Biany

    THank you for this great article! I have a hard time letting go of resentment and fear. I am very hard on myself but I keep getting the signs from the universe and from loved ones. That I must first forgive and also cultivate a practice of gratitude.

    I appreciate this article as well as the five things to help me clear the mental clutter. I am a work in progress.

    Thanks

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