Photo credit: Jason Wong,
Photo credit: Jason Wong,

Is there a way to stop living in the past and enjoy life now?

The past is that place where we were happy, life was sweet, the sun was shining… wait, was it?

As humans, we’re wired for survival, which includes, in most cases, deleting all the painful memories we experienced. Take a relationship and most of us will always remember the warm cuddling nights, but completely forget all those days we fought, were waiting endlessly, or the phone wasn’t answered.

It might also go the other way. In some cases, living in the past keeps us stuck in painful memories. Maybe if we don’t forget them, we won’t be doomed to repeat them. Either case, being stuck in the past represents a disconnection from the whole experience of living: a self-imposed jail.

This jail not only leaves us stuck in a reality that doesn’t exist, it also (albeit unconsciously) forces us to try to find that reality in the present moment: either by unconsciously looking to recreate the good memories in other people or by running away from the painful ones.

How can we stop living in the past?


Awareness isn’t only mindfulness.

If you notice, part of mindfulness is “mind”. We’re not only a mind, we’re way more than that. We’re holistic beings made up of several parts and in order to stop living and recreating that past, we need to work on all these parts at the same time: body, mind, and heart.

Here are three ways to bring your whole being into the present:

First Way to Stop Living in the Past: Body Awareness

Body awareness is what I call “inhabiting your own body”. This includes really feeling what you’re feeling without trying to escape from it. Whether you find the feeling pleasant or unpleasant, that’s a judgment you’re creating.

A great exercise to do in terms of body presence is to allow yourself to really feel… to dig deep into the feeling. Try the following:

  1. Where in your body are you feeling it? Place your hand there.
  2. Breathe in and out a few times.
  3. Allow yourself to go inside the feeling, until the very end of it.
  4. How does it feel?

You’ll probably notice that once you give yourself permission to feel, it’s not as scary as it looked like.

Second Way to Stop Living in the Past: Mind Awareness

Thoughts have a life span of 90 seconds. The moment a thought’s crossing your head, you have two options:

  1. Follow your thought and recreate a whole Mexican soap opera (we’re looking at the 300-plus-episodes kind here with all sorts of twist and turns), or…
  2. Be aware of your thought and say “Okay, it’s just a thought and I don’t need to follow it.”

Very, very simple. Catch the thought in the moment. One battle won. 😉

Third Way to Stop Living in the Past: Heart Awareness

What’s it about this present moment that you’re trying to run away from? Might it be guilt? Might it be fear of loneliness? Might it even be… love?

When your heart’s not living in the now, it’s only half-opened. Regardless of other people, this is a punishment that you’re inflicting on yourself for the sake of… what exactly?

What about giving yourself a chance in life? Come on, what can you lose?