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How to Stop Living in the Past

This simple three-fold process will help you learn how to stop living in the past. I also share the three most painful experiences I’ve experienced, plus three ways I put the past behind me.

Stop Living in the PastA message such the “For I Know The Plans I Have For You” Inspirational Poster is one of the best tips on how to stop living in the past. We need constant reminders that what happened is over. It is finished. We have to keep moving forward, and we need daily – or even hourly – reminders that the present is the only time that matters. The past is over. Learn from it, and let it go.

On How to Let Go of Someone You Love, Christie shared that she wants to move on with her life, but she can’t figure out how to stop living in the past. “I know I need to forget about my ex-husband, but I keep obsessing about what I did wrong in our marriage. How do I stop living in the past and start preparing for the future? I can’t seem to move on.” Below, I share how I stopped living in the past – actually, it’s not past tense. Every day, I need to practice my own advice on how to stop living in the past! It’s not a one-time only deal…it’s ongoing.

What advice have you already received on how to stop living in the past? Before you read my tips, take a moment to think about what you already know. Tell me – I welcome your big and little thoughts in the comments section below.

How to Stop Living in the Past

My three-fold process is simple, yet powerful: Surrender, Accept, and Trust. How do I know it works? Because it’s helping me forget about what’s behind, and press on to my bright beautiful future.

I’m the Princess of Regret. I have so many regrets I don’t even have room to store them all. So guess what? I don’t store them anywhere! I’ve let them go, I’ve learned how to stop living in the past, and I’m focused on this very moment. I don’t feel guilty anymore, and I refuse to beat myself up and condemn myself for my past actions.

No matter what you need to let go of, you’ll find my “system” helpful.

What I let go of

Most recently, I discovered that my behavior towards a woman in my book club was very offensive and hurtful to her. She was angry at me for nine months before I found out. I felt absolutely terrible and ashamed when I finally learned how she felt around me, and I couldn’t stop condemning myself for my bad behavior. I’m prone to guilt and regret at the best of times; this was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to let go of.

My other two painful experiences are my grandmother’s death and my sister’s estrangement. It took me a long time to process both situations, and let go of the lingering guilt and regrets I had.

Surrender, Accept, and Trust

I had to learn how to stop negative thoughts from controlling my life. Maybe you’re in the same situation? Maybe you lost someone you love, maybe you were rejected, maybe you made mistakes. Maybe you did something you’re ashamed of and you can’t forgive yourself. Or you forgave yourself yesterday but today it’s back to haunt you.

If you don’t learn how to stop living in the past, you won’t be fully happy or fully present in your life.

Surrender to what happened and accept the effect it had

Whatever you did or whatever happened to you is over. You can let it continue to eat away at you – you can let it destroy your present life – or you can surrender to the fact that it happened. It happened, and it is over.

My most recent experience with learning how to stop living in the past was with the woman in my book club…I had to leave the group. They didn’t ask me to leave; I chose to withdraw because I felt terrible about how I behaved towards her and I wasn’t enjoying the book club anyway. But still, it was painful to disconnect from the group. I accepted that consequence, and I accepted my new humility and respect towards other people.

Trust that your life is meant to unfold exactly the way it is

For whatever reason, you are meant to be right here right now. You were meant to lose that person, have that experience, and feel those emotions. Your job is to learn how to stop living in the past – not to keep reliving it.

Do you believe your life is unfolding exactly the way it’s supposed to? If not, talk to God. Take a moment to bow your head, and let His presence fill your heart. What does He want you to know about your past, about yourself, about your life? Let His wisdom, love, and grace fill your body and soul.

Choose to be in this moment

If you are fully present right now, then you can’t relive yesterday or condemn yourself for what happened. It is over. It is finished. You can stop living in the past; you can refuse to drown in shame and regret. You are forgiven, and you are free to live in this moment. And this moment is not what happened to you in the past.

If you can’t stop living in the past because you did something you regret, read How to Forgive Yourself.

How I stop living in the past

I believe that everything in my life is unfolding this way for a reason.

Stop Living in the Past

How to Stop Living in the Past

I trust God, and I believe He is working together all things not only for my good, but for the good of others. Things happen on purpose. My job isn’t to figure out why; my job is to live and learn. My job is to do my work.

If you can’t seem to learn how to how to stop living in the past – if your thoughts aren’t filling you with peace, joy, and power – then you need to change what you think about. How? Write about the pain you feel or the bad thing you did. Tell God how sad, ashamed, and sorry you are. Accept His forgiveness, delight in His freedom, soak up His joy!

Then accept your past for what it is and live fully in this moment. You don’t need to carry the burden anymore.

It’s not easy, but it is simple.

A question for you about living in the past

What is one word that describes how you feel about your past? Tell me below. You can write more than a word if you’d like. Sometimes it’s helpful to bundle all your feelings into a word and share how you feel.

If you’re interested in learning how a specific type of therapy helps people learn how to stop living in the past, read How EMDR Therapy Helps When You’re Stuck in the Past.

While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of living in the past. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.


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13 thoughts on “How to Stop Living in the Past”

  1. I Can't do this any more

    “Trust that your life is meant to unfold exactly the way it is”….. a pretty difficult to believe statement, when your past has included suicide attempts.

  2. Just sad. When ever a relationship ends? I communicate to the other person (in the worst possible terms) just what a wretched lying evil person they are for hurting me. I suppose I won’t them to feel as bad as I do, but it never works. I only end up feeling worse, and they go on living their happy lives, knowing that getting rid of me was the best decision they ever made. I will never have the joy of these people in my life because I have been shown to be too toxic. And in the end? Because of MY stupid lust for revenge? I only end up hurting myself. I want to end this cycle. I want them to know I am sorry ~ but, they have all cut off contact with me. No letters of amends, no more I love you’s no more hope. And FEAR that if I ever fall in love again? It will all end in tears and me being a nasty sharped mouthed bastard, who will forever hate himself for the things that he said.

  3. Dear Natasha,

    You’ve made more progress than you think! I know it feels like you’re still in the beginning stages of healing, but I believe you have a long way. It may not feel like it because growth is slow…but it’s steady and gradual. That’s the best type of healing, because it’s really taking root!

    You ARE learning how to stop living in the past. You ARE digging in, and Blossoming into the woman God created you to be. Be gentle with yourself today, and keep moving forward. And remember that you are not alone.

    If you haven’t signed up for my free weekly emails, do it now! You can always unsubscribe if you’re getting too much hope, encouragement, and inspiration to Blossom 🙂


    1. I feel I could have done so much more but because of a long history of abuse, I was willing to accept bare minimum and wouldn’t allow myself boundaries that defined who I was or what I would/wouldn’t accept. I endure much pain and feel I am always in thr beginning stages of the healing process.

  4. One word that describes my past: cheated.
    I have been cheated out of so much in my life by no fault of my own. How do you move on? I find myself frozen, angry, sad and unmotivated and most of all a failure to understand why. I am good to everyone.

    1. Hi Cathy… I’m sorry for the pain you are going thru, I too, feel all those same things. And I feel I am a good person, and never deserved the cards dealt to me. I try to stay positive,and know that God has a purpose for me. Most days I am sad for all I missed out on, parents, family , love etc. But I kept God close to my heart, and I know He got me thru all those terrible times.we are all worthy of love, and deserve love, and I found it begins within yourself, knowing you are a good person, and loving yourself. I’m still struggling too, I suppose we all have to work hard on being the best we can be, but in the end, it will be worth it. Just know that you are loved… God bless…..Susan

  5. “What is one word that describes how you feel about your past?” The first word that came to me was disappointed. It is so hard though to not live in the past. I have been in therapy for about 5 years now. I also spend lots of time praying and studying God’s word. I have been in the church all my life. I fully believe in the Lord Jesus Christ but I am far from understanding what He is doing or why it seems like He has never really done anything to help me survive my life. Maybe He has done things for me that I don’t even know. Without Him maybe I would be dead and in hell right now. So I thank Him for what He has done even though I don’t have a big fancy testimony to share with everyone about some great thing He has done to change my life.

    Right now I am studying (among other verses) John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” really hard trying to understand what that verse really means as I have asked for Him to help me with the problems I face but it seems as though He is silent.

    My life first started going bad when I was a teen and was sexually molested and at that time 40 + years ago I had never heard of being sexually molested and I had no idea what to do so I decided just to keep it a secret and never ever tell anyone what was done to me. It tore me apart inside and in my life until I finally read something that made me see I needed to tell. Wow I felt so good and so bad both at once for telling. But I have been in therapy for about 5 years now and I am no longer a sexual abuse victim but now I am a survivor. I don’t blame my self anymore for it but the memories are still there so that is why I still go to therapy. And then without taking all your time my life from the time I was molested until now has really sucked.

    Married twice and I feel a lot of my life was screwed up by spending years fighting the demon of sexual abuse all me life. So I wish I would have taken care of it when it happened. Got through it and saw the man go to prison. He is now dead so I know that God has applied the final justice to the man but then I think about because I did not tell how many other boys got molested because of my silence.

    So to wrap this up letting go of my past is a major struggle and there are a lot of memories I want to go away. I just wish God would give me peace and hope over my past. I just want to live for Him without having to ask Him “why” all the time and not getting an answer.

    Thanks for your article and I will be reading it several times and hoping to see more from you that can help me.

  6. Hi Coco,

    I hear what you’re saying and understand how you feel, because I’ve felt the exact same way! My past mistakes were overcrowding and overshadowing everything, and I couldn’t enjoy my life. Worse, my marriage was being affected by my past.

    I wrote this article for you:

    How to Stop Past Mistakes From Ruining Your Relationship

    May you find hope and healing, and may peace and joy reign in your heart. Take care of yourself, and forgive yourself for whatever is behind you.


  7. I love my husband but I can’t let go of the past. I made some bad mistakes before we got married, and I only told him part of it. I’m keeping secrets from my husband and it’s destroying everything! I can’t tell him what I did even though it’s not that bad, we even know a girl who did the same thing and he doesn’t judge her. So I feel like he could forgive me, but when I get up the nerves to tell him about my past, I get too scared and once I even had a panic attack at the thought. So how do I stop my past mistakes from destroying my marriage?

  8. A complicated question! Yes, some people who are poor have terrible, sad lives. Our world is messy, violent, and scary. It’s also beautiful, connected, and helpful. We human beings are the cause of our own complicated messy situations — our actions have social, personal, political, economic, and environmental consequences!

    I believe God gives us free will and freedom of choice. He isn’t a puppeteer, organizing us robots and creating perfect conditions for us. He loves us and wants us to love Him, to connect with His abundant flow of life, grace, hope, healing, spirit and energy!

    How we use His power to influence the lives of the poor is up to us….but He doesn’t create perfect worlds or automated robots. Real life is messy and beautiful. Bittersweet.

    Question for you: how did you find my post “How to Stop Living in the Past” – and what made you ask the God question?