Stop Dwelling On The Past: Tried And Tested Steps To Move On

Stop swelling on the past, the steps to stop dwelling on the past

You've just found the ultimate guide to learning how to stop dwelling on the past and move on. This is everything you need to know how to effectively and powerfully help you to move on from past events, mistakes. This guide will help you with your overthinking patterns too.

What we'll cover in this guide :

If you can't seem to stop dwelling on past situations, then you're in the right place! 

The Mindset You Need To Stop Ruminating

Let's dig in so you can stop ruminating about the negative thoughts you have about something you said or something you did so you can finally let go and feel peace in your mind.

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Is dwelling on the past a serious problem?

We live in three dimensions all day long. We live in our past by way of our thoughts. We live in the future worrying about what will be, and we live in the now moment as you're reading this article. 

Dwelling The Past: Rumination Causes Negativity

Realizing that when we're ruminating on the past, it's usually about how someone spoke harshly to us or about an event or something that someone did to us. We're ruminating over the mistakes that we made. Sometimes we're thinking about the past when times were simple and wishing we could experience that now. 

Unfortunately, I've seen my clients end up stuck in the past and brainwashed by their own toxic thoughts which is extremely problematic.

You probably want to know why you're constantly thinking about the past.

First, you need to know it's normal behavior. It means that when you make mistakes, you feel bad about it. You have a conscience. That's good, the trick is to get you to make peace with the fact that you're human and everyone makes mistakes.

Many people just need permission to forgive themselves.

Can't Stop Dwelling On The Past?

"Is it just in my DNA to constantly be thinking about my past mistakes?"

That's a great question and for some people, I would say it IS part of their personality although, making mistakes is part of life.. Understand something, we have all practiced being who we are. We are creating habits of behavior so if you're wiring your brain to think a certain way, then yes, you're creating a version of yourself where this is just YOU. 

This of course isn't ideal and we need to work to re-wire our brain. The goal is to be a more optimal version of ourselves that has more control and mental strength. Online coaching is a great way to work on this.

Is dwelling on the past a sign of depression?

This can absolutely be a sign of depression. When I see my clients finding themselves consistently fixated on past events, regrets, or negative experiences, I go to work to see if it's because of a deep-rooted emotional struggle.

Depression often manifests as constant rumination and thoughts leading to an unnecessary preoccupation with past mistakes, losses, or traumas.

Is dwelling on the past a sign of depression,  Stop Dwelling On The Past
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This is your conscious mind reading but most of the day, when we're struggling with our thoughts, we're not only unable to enjoy our life but we're being controlled by our subconscious mind. This also can control the routines and habits of our thoughts. 

Unfortunately what we're doing is creating a habit of thinking which causes negativity, sometimes sadness, regret, hurt, and anger. Soon, the negativity becomes just who we are. 

When you're constantly practicing any of these feelings of hurt, anger or regret, it ultimately affects your nervous system which has been known to cause us to be depressed and stressed as I talk about in this article.

Why can't I stop dwelling on the past?

Resisting the Temptation

This is such an important question one that's been hinted at already. You can't seem to move on because you haven't let go. You haven't made peace with the old situation and you've created a habit of constantly thinking of the past.

You've likely, hard-wired your brain to do this. This is what we humans do. We brainwash ourselves and it's really quite easy to do. 

Once you practice a thought, a lot like a mantra or an affirmation, you memorize it, and then it becomes part of you. 

Letting go of what you can't control

Overcoming the Habit

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How To Stop Dwelling On Past Mistakes

The Steps to stop dwelling on the past:

  • Decide and declare you've had enough of the self-sabotage and you'll move beyond the negative past rumination of thoughts.
  • Learn to attach imagery to your thought when it crops up. You can write your thought down and burn it in a sink or you can imagine dropping the thought on a leaf and watching it drift away in a stream. You can't read two chapters in a book at the same time. Use your imagination to turn the page and close the chapter.
  • Train your brain to think a new thought. When you catch yourself thinking the thought, tell yourself to; "stop". Let's come up with a new thought. As I spoke of before, what we tell ourselves, we believe if we say it enough. This is true with negative statements or positive statements. Answer this: What thought would I rather have about the past? Example: I'd rather think that it's over and I'm creating a new future. This thought feels so much better than old thoughts of I'm not enough.
  • Let go physically. Remember, your nervous system has gotten involved and you may feel stress, anger, and anxiety. If you want to stop this thought habit, you need to let go of the past and move on through physical practice, beginning to use breathwork and meditation.
  • Acknowledge and Accept: Recognize the tendency to think about the past and accept that it is hindering your well-being.

  • Practice Mindfulness: Cultivate present-moment awareness to redirect your focus from the past to the here and now.
  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: Replace negative thoughts about the past with more positive and empowering perspectives.
  • Engage in Self-Care: Take care of your physical and emotional needs to nurture a healthy mindset and reduce rumination.
  • Set Goals and Take Action: Focus on setting goals for the future and take proactive steps to move forward, gradually shifting your attention away from the past.
  • Get The Support You Need: Reach out to friends, family that you trust or get professional help from a certified life online life coach to learn the tools for processing and letting go of past experiences and negative thoughts
  • Embrace Forgiveness: Practice self-forgiveness and forgiveness towards others to release the emotional weight associated with past events.
  • Shift Focus to Gratitude: Cultivate a mindset of gratitude by acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of your life in the present. (This is widely under estimated but so incredibly powerful)
  • Redirect Your Thoughts: Whenever thoughts of the past arise, consciously redirect your attention to something constructive or uplifting in the present.
  • Patience and Persistence: Be patient with yourself, as breaking this thought habit takes time and effort. Stay persistent in implementing these steps to foster lasting change and a renewed focus on the present and future.

Ruminating over past mistakes is one of the biggest challenges that my clients experience.

The process is all about changing the thoughts and feelings that we have. It's truly regaining control over life and beginning to see ourselves in a different light that creates the biggest change. 

stop selling on the past, get control over your life

Now that you have the steps to stop dwelling in the past, let's go deeper.

You wouldn't be reading this article if you were denying that it's affecting you negatively.

Moving on from our past mistakes takes a lot of inner strength and courage. You'll want to practice acceptance, and grace for yourself.

What we do instead is practice being a bully to ourselves. Moving on from past mistakes is all about recognizing that mistakes and failures are normal. You wouldn't beat up your sister or your child for making a mistake, so stop holding on to these mistakes and forgive yourself.

Try Meditation and Learning Resilience

Let go of mistakes

What to do if you think, "I can't move on from the past"

First, know that you'll need to talk to someone you trust.

Secondly, learn to practice being intentional. Being mindful of your behavior is critical for healing.

Finally, learn to have compassion for yourself. You would forgive a friend or family for their transgressions, so be kind to yourself and accept it happened but have self-compassion and let go.

Here are some journal questions to help you.

First, write down what happened. Describe in detail as much as possible.

When did this happen? (Today, yesterday, one month ago, a year or longer ago)

Did it make you sad, scared, angry, unsafe, or worried for example?

How often did this happen? (Once or a few times)

How stressful was this? (Not very, a little stress, or very stressful)

How much change did this cause?

How do you feel now? (I can handle it, I need some help)

What kind of help would you like?

What is the EXACT thought you're ruminating about?

What feeling does it give you?

What is a better feeling that you'd like to have?

What thought do you have to have to experience this feeling?

Guilt Plays An Important Role In Dealing With Past Mistakes

If you feel guilty about the past or ashamed about what you may have done or not done-perhaps unintentionally hurting someone as an example, realize that you're just human.  

Guilt and shame over our actual or perceived transgressions are normal human emotions that can help us learn, grow, and, through forgiveness, deepen our relationships. Guilt and shame can serve to remind us of our flaws, our vulnerabilities, and make us humble, which can be a wonderful thing to know—that we are imperfect.

Guilt can also be a motivator—if I messed up this time, maybe I can do better next time.

John Bradshaw, an author, counselor, and motivational speaker, said that guilt leads us to think, “I made a mistake,” but shame often leads us to think, “I am a mistake.” Guilt says “What I did was bad,” whereas shame says “I am bad.”

Questions you may want to consider are:

What could I have done differently in that situation? What did I learn from it?

Have I apologized if I have hurt another person? Why or why not?

What do I need to do to have closure about this situation for myself and/or with the other person(s)?

What do I need to do or say to be able to forgive myself?

Ultimately, our results are up to us. When we CONTINUE to be our own worst bully and ruminate ugly words and thoughts over and over, we're setting ourselves up for mental chaos. 

Imagine a future where you change nothing, what will your life be like in five years? How about 10 years? If you continue thinking this same thought and have the same feelings which make you feel bad, sad, anxious, shameful or guilty, THIS is exactly who you'll be. 

I know you don't want that so what's the answer? Simply put, you need to practice new thoughts.

I know this is harsh but you've got to take control of your life NOW! Dwelling on the past can often mean that you've LOST control of your life.

Take some time to do the inner work to drastically change your life!

Sharon Lee - Your online life coach


Mindfulness: How do I focus on the present moment?

What happens in the brain when we think about the past?

What are the negative effects of dwelling on the past?

How do I live a more mindful life?

Why do we sometimes get stuck dwelling on the past?

About The Author: Sharon Lee

Career | Wellness | Business | Relationship

It's my life’s purpose to help you identify, clarify and realize your dreams. To help you create new goals and dreams and keep you accountable in the process. Come open yourself up to the possibilities.

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