Have you had days where you replay a past mistake over and over, as if reliving your embarrassment will sometimes make it better? Me too. Sometimes I replay scenes that surely everyone else has long forgotten, or at least they’ve ceased to care. And what do you do to get out of that internal re-play? Have you found a way to make it stop? If you often find yourself living in the past, this article is for you.
Your life on repeat
I bet a number of things are happening to you when you obsess over the past in a negative way. Unkind words toward yourself are likely running through your head. You’re probably giving yourself a really hard time for those mistakes or imperfections. You’re probably forgetting how divinely loveable and worthy you are. I bet precious minutes go by that you could be using for something (anything!) more enjoyable, but you’re lost in the past, hurting your heart. Meanwhile, your body is in a stressed state of flight or flight, which will take literally hours to come down from.
According to a Success article featuring Erin Olivo, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, there’s no emotional difference between living an experience and re-living it in our minds. In other words, we create stress when we ruminate on a past event over and over. And what is stress? It’s triggering our bodies into a state of fight or flight. There is no danger in most of our waking moments, yet we create stress for ourselves by reliving our pasts.
it’s ok now
Dear, bright spirit, let’s take a big breath, you and I.
(yes, right now – big inhale…. and let it go….)
If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re on a journey to heal your heart. To heal into the now. It’s because you want to feel fully alive, and you want that joy to expand into an example that your children will follow.
I want that for you, too.
4 Techniques to stop living in the past
Here are a few things that can be done to help curb this habit of living in the past. Keep in mind that these suggestions should be done with love toward yourself, never as an opportunity to be hard on yourself when you realize you’re living in the past again.
- Notice when you are ruminating, and say some sort of mantra that calls you back to the present. I often use a mantra by Tich Nhat Hahn: “I have arrived, I am home/ In the here, in the now/ I am solid, I am free/ In the ultimate, I dwell.” This works for me, but you might have a different one that calms your heart.
- Forgive yourself as quickly as possible. On Puttylike*, Emilie shares that she makes a practice of allowing herself to feel embarrassed when something happens, and then she chooses to forgive herself within hours of the event. Isn’t that beautiful? She makes a choice to let go, and in doing so – she never even forms a habit of reliving a mistake or embarrassment.
- We choose the thoughts we think and sometimes our minds just need a nudge in a different direction. Ask your mind to help you in not reliving moments. Tell it that these thoughts no longer serve you, that you choose to think about things that feel good and you could use it’s help in doing this.
- Consider the possibility that there are no mistakes, only learning experiences. What we consider a mistake is just a sign that we are growing, and there will always be more to learn. There’s flow in language like “learning experience.” A mistake sounds serious, unfixable, unmovable – but our lives aren’t like that. We move on, we grow, we only ever have “learning experiences.”
Feelin better already 🙂
Aren’t we blessed? We live in a world where safety and beauty fill our days. It’s a choice to think hard thoughts, and we can choose again in every moment. We can forgive our pasts. We can be grateful for who we are right now. Why, we can even look at ourselves from the perspective of those who love us: they want only happiness and ease for us, in the end, and they would never spend much time dwelling on our mistakes. In their eyes, it’s all part of the story, it’s all ok.
I hope the rest of your day has moments where you notice the deep peace all around and within you. I hope you feel the love that surrounds you. You are an amazing human being, a light in this world, a good friend and an amazing mother. Thank you for being.
***I’m curious, is there a mantra or quote or calming technique that is powerful to you? One that helps you calm and center yourself? Make sure to write it in the comments. You never know who you will help by sharing. May our lovin’ energy inspire and lift each other up. Go mama!