Two of the biggest roadblocks to happiness share a source. For some, it’s regret. For others, it’s obsessing about the “good ol’ days” – the way things once were.
For both groups of people, though, a focus on the past is preventing them from being happy in the present. It doesn’t matter if those memories of the past are positive (good ol’ days) or negative (regret), they both create an unrealistic and unhealthy approach the present – and the future.
If you’re stuck on the past because of something you regret, you’re walking around with your own personal raincloud. It will prevent you from seeing your own self worth, or even accepting that you’ve grown and changed – and may not even be the same person who behaved so regrettably.
Now, you shouldn’t forget your past entirely, especially if you harbor some guilt over something you once did. You should, however, accept the fact that what’s done is done. You can do your best to make amends for your mistakes, to right whatever wrongs you may have caused, but after accepting responsibility and making an effort to put things right, there isn’t anything else you can do!
It’s good to remember your mistakes in order to learn from them, but they don’t have to define who you are, or how you assume others think of you.
Looking to the past with too much fondness and nostalgia can be equally poisonous, though. When you think your best is behind you, you stop having something to look forward to. If you think your life has already “peaked,” how do you find joy in the present?
This mentality actually minimizes the happiness people experience because, no matter what happens, it always seems less significant than the “glory days.”
Remembering past accomplishments with fondness can be helpful – it can fill you with confidence, and help you make use of the lessons you learned along the way – but if it’s getting in the way of your ability to experience happiness in the moment, it’s a serious problem.
Instead of looking to the past, whether that past is full of sunshine or shadow, accept that it’s done and over with. It will always be a part of your life, but what happened yesterday can only affect today so much. That’s the thing about the past – there’s no changing it, and no getting it back.
You do control the present though, and it’s up to you to find your own happiness in the here and now!