How to Make Peace with Your Past? (25 Tips + Expert Insights)

We all have a past filled with memories—both good and bad—that shape who we are today.

However, for some of us, the bad memories seem to overshadow the good ones, making it hard to move forward. We might feel stuck, unable to let go of the hurt, anger, or regret that keeps us trapped in a cycle of pain.

The good thing is, you don’t have to let your past define you. You have the power to heal, grow, and create a better future for yourself. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.

In this article, we’ll talk about some simple but powerful ways to make peace with your past. These are things that have worked for me and for many other people, and I believe they can work for you, too. So, let’s get started!

Don’t Deny Your Pain

It’s totally normal to feel pain when you’re dealing with your past. You might feel sad, angry, scared, or a whole mix of emotions. And that’s okay! 

Start by acknowledging your pain. It’s okay to feel a little fragile, to admit that the past stings. Comfort comes when we stop pretending we’re made of steel and accept that we’re human—bruises and all.

Remember, you don’t have to put on a happy face and say you’re all good when all you are is but. Healing starts with being real with yourself, and that means not turning a blind eye to your struggles.

Move Toward Yourself, Not Away from Pain

When painful memories pop up, it’s natural to want to distract ourselves—scrolling through social media, binge-watching shows, or keeping ourselves super busy. But while distractions might offer temporary relief, they don’t really address the root of the problem.

Instead of running away, try moving towards yourself and your feelings. Slow down, turn inwards, and really listen to what your emotions are trying to tell you.

  • What are you feeling?
  • Where do you feel it in your body?
  • What thoughts are going through your head?

This might sound a little strange at first, but trust me, it works. So next time you feel those painful emotions bubbling up, take a deep breath, and instead of pushing them away, lean in and see what they have to tell you.

Treat Yourself Kindly

When you’re dealing with a painful past, it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-blame and negative self-talk. But remember, you deserve kindness and understanding, especially from yourself.

So, cut yourself some slack. Instead of harsh criticism, offer words of encouragement and support. Remember, healing is a journey, not a destination, and there will be bumps along the road. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress, no matter how small.

Oh, and don’t forget to take care of yourself! Eat nourishing foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and do things that bring you joy. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial for healing and moving on.

Stop Wishing the Past Were Different

It’s natural to wish that things had happened differently in the past. We might think, “If only I had made a different choice,” or “If only that person hadn’t hurt me.” But wishing doesn’t change anything. The past is the past, and we can’t go back and change it.

Instead, try focusing on what you can control—your thoughts, your actions, and your choices in the present moment. Remember, the past is a teacher, not a prison.

The sooner you accept that the past is unchangeable, the sooner you can free yourself from its grip and move forward with your life.

Look for the Silver Lining

When we’re dealing with painful experiences from the past, it can be hard to see anything positive. But even in the darkest of times, there is often a silver lining—a lesson learned, a strength gained, or a new perspective on life.

Perhaps a difficult breakup led you to a deeper understanding of yourself and your needs. Or maybe a job loss forced you to step outside your comfort zone and discover a new passion.

Sometimes, the greatest challenges lead to the most profound transformations.

Break the Silence and Give Voice to the Pain

Sharing your story with a trusted friend, therapist, or support group can provide validation, understanding, and a sense of connection. Giving voice to your pain allows you to release those emotions and begin to heal.

However, not everyone feels comfortable sharing their personal experiences with others—no worries about that. There’s no right or wrong way to process emotions. If you prefer to keep your experiences private, there are still ways to “break the silence” within yourself.

This could involve journaling, engaging in creative expression, or simply having an honest conversation with yourself about your feelings. The key is to find a way to acknowledge and process your emotions in a way that feels safe and comfortable for you.

Seek Professional Help or Therapy if Needed

Sometimes, the stuff we carry from our past is too heavy to lug around on our own. If that’s you, it’s totally okay to ask for an extra pair of hands. Therapists are trained professionals who can guide you on your healing journey and equip you with the tools you need to move forward.

Think of it this way: we go to the doctor when we have physical health issues, so why not seek professional help for our mental and emotional well-being, too? There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s a sign of strength and self-awareness.

Just try one session. You might find that it’s way easier to talk about tough stuff with someone who’s outside of it all. They’re there to help you, not judge. And if you’re not ready for that step, that’s cool too. Take things at your own pace.

"Therapy may be the best option for people who desire direct support. Not all therapy or therapists are the same... You at least need a therapist who has specific experience in the area that is keeping you stuck. You want a therapist that will help you tell your truth, not just your story. Of course, no matter how great the therapist, the hard work is up to you."

Dr. Rosenna Bakari, Ph.D. | Author | Poet | Speaker

Focus on the Present Moment

It’s easy to get caught up in dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, but the truth is, the only moment we ever truly have is now. So, let’s make the most of it! 

  • Engaging in mindfulness practices, like meditation or deep breathing, can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Pay attention to the little things—the warmth of the sun on your skin, the taste of your morning coffee, the laughter of a loved one. 

Plus, focusing on the present moment helps you break free from the grip of the past. Instead of getting stuck in negative thought loops about what happened, you can choose to be present and create a brighter future for yourself.

Forgive Yourself

Often, the person we find hardest to forgive is ourselves. We replay past mistakes in our minds, berating ourselves with “should haves” and “could haves.” But holding onto self-blame and guilt only keeps us stuck in the past.

Forgiving yourself is about acknowledging your imperfections and accepting that you did the best you could with what you knew at the time. It’s about letting go of the self-blame and treating yourself with compassion and understanding.

Remember, forgiving yourself is not about condoning your past actions. It’s about releasing yourself from the burden of guilt and allowing yourself to move on.

It’s time to let go of that baggage and embrace who you are today! You deserve it.

Then, Forgive Those Who’ve Hurt You (Totally Optional!)

Now, you might be thinking about those who’ve hurt you in the past. Should you forgive them too? Honestly, that’s totally up to you.

Forgiveness is a personal choice, and it’s important to remember that you don’t have to forgive everyone, especially if they haven’t said sorry or owned up to what they did. We often hear that forgiveness is part and parcel of letting go and moving on, but it’s okay if that doesn’t resonate with you.

Don’t feel pressured to forgive just because it’s what you think you should do. What’s forgivable to one person might not be for another. We all have different thresholds and experiences. And honestly, if forgiving someone feels harder than simply not forgiving them, then what’s the point?

"In spite of popular belief, forgiveness of others is highly overrated. It is neither necessary nor sufficient to make peace with the past. [...] Forgiveness is most valuable when a person forgives themselves, not someone else. [...] Self-forgiveness soothes the conscious to live at peace."

Dr. Rosenna Bakari, Ph.D. | Author | Poet | Speaker

And if you decide to forgive, remember that you can take your time. There’s no rush. You don’t even have to tell the person you’ve forgiven them—it’s an internal process, something you do for your own peace of mind.

Tip: Ask yourself, “Would letting go of this negativity help me feel lighter and happier?” Go with what will make you feel at peace.

Let Go of the Need for Revenge

You’re not quite ready to forgive those who’ve hurt you—totally understandable. But here’s the thing: revenge doesn’t actually heal the pain, and it’s what can actually keep you stuck in the past.

Instead of daydreaming about payback and plotting how you can make them suffer like you did, try focusing on releasing those feelings of anger and resentment. Revenge won’t erase what happened, and it won’t bring you true peace.

In fact, it often backfires, leaving you feeling even more hurt and bitter. It’s like that saying,

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

It’s about refusing to let those who’ve hurt you continue to control your emotions and dictate your happiness. It’s about choosing to move forward with your life, free from the burden of anger and negativity.

Identify Your Emotional Triggers

Okay, so sometimes, even when we think we’ve dealt with our past, certain things can unexpectedly bring back those painful emotions. These are called emotional triggers, and they can be anything—a familiar scent, a song on the radio, a specific place, or even a particular phrase someone says.

Pay attention to your feelings and reactions. When you find yourself getting upset or anxious, take a step back and ask yourself what triggered that response.

  • Was it something someone said?
  • A memory that popped up?
  • A situation that reminded you of the past?

Once you know your triggers, you can develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with them. This might involve deep breathing exercises, taking a time out, or talking to a trusted friend or therapist. Remember, it’s okay to feel those emotions, but you don’t have to let them control you.

"...triggers are everywhere and when someone is going through a rough patch, they are much more susceptible to setbacks. I emphasize that these don’t mean they have gone back to where they were and all their progress has been erased. They are just powerful old feelings emerging due to triggers that can be managed and dealt with successfully.

This is where learning effective coping mechanisms and using meditation and relaxation exercises to deal with the related anxiety and other negative feelings and thoughts become the focus of counseling...

Bad things happen to everyone, everyone has regrets and occasionally travels the road of what might have been. It’s how they manage their feelings and behavior during that time that makes all the difference."

Toni Coleman | Psychotherapist | Relationship Coach | Divorce Mediator

Create a Safe Space for Emotional Release

We all need a place where we can be ourselves and let our emotions out without judgment. Creating a safe space for emotional release is essential for healing and well-being.

This could be a physical space, like a cozy corner in your home, a quiet spot in nature, or even a warm bath with calming music.

It could also be a mental and emotional space where you feel comfortable expressing your feelings. This might involve journaling, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or engaging in creative activities like painting or dancing.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to create a safe space. The important thing is to find what helps you process your emotions and find inner peace.

Challenge Negative Self-Talk

We all have that inner critic, that voice in our heads that likes to point out our flaws and remind us of our past mistakes. Well, it’s time to challenge that negative self-talk!

The next time you catch yourself thinking things like “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never get over this,” stop and question those thoughts. Are they really true? Or are they just old stories you’ve been telling yourself based on past experiences?

One way to challenge negative self-talk is to replace it with positive affirmations. Instead of telling yourself, “I’m a failure,” try saying, “I’m doing my best and learning from my mistakes.”

Set Firm Boundaries With Toxic People or Situations

As you’re working towards making peace with your past, it’s important to create a healthy environment for yourself in the present. This means setting firm boundaries with toxic people or situations that drain your energy or trigger negative emotions.

Remember, you have the right to say “no” to things that don’t serve you. This might involve distancing yourself from certain individuals, limiting contact with toxic family members, or removing yourself from unhealthy environments.

Setting boundaries isn’t always easy, but it’s essential for protecting your mental and emotional well-being. It’s about taking care of yourself and creating a safe space where you can heal and thrive.

Create a Gratitude Practice

Shifting your focus from what went wrong to what’s going right can do wonders for your mindset. This doesn’t mean pretending everything’s perfect. It’s more about finding bits of sunshine on cloudy days.

Want to start a gratitude practice? Here’s a simple way to do it:

  • Every night, think of three things that were good about your day, even tiny things.
  • Keep a notebook by your bed where you can jot them down.
  • Look back on your notes when you’re having a tough day to remind yourself of the good stuff.

Making this a habit helps train your brain to spot the positives. It’s like keeping score of life’s wins. Before you know it, it gets easier to notice things that go well, and those past troubles start taking up less room in your head.

Connect with Supportive People

One of the best things you can do for your healing is to connect with supportive people who understand what you’re going through.

Think about the people in your life who always have your back, no matter what. The ones who listen without judgment, offer words of encouragement and remind you of your own strength and resilience. These are the people you want to lean on as you navigate the ups and downs of healing.

It’s pretty cool, too, that when you hang out with positive and encouraging people, their vibe can rub off on you. They can help you see things from a new angle, lift you up when you’re feeling down, and give you that kick to chase after your own goals.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about living in the now. It’s about paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without getting caught up in them.

When we’re mindful, we can observe our thoughts and emotions without getting swept away by them. This means that when those painful memories from the past pop up, we can acknowledge them without letting them control us. We can simply observe them, feel the emotions, and then let them go.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or simply taking a few moments each day to focus on your senses and appreciate the present moment.

Engage in Meaningful Activities

When we’re dealing with pain from the past, it’s easy to get stuck in our own heads. We might find ourselves thinking about the same old things over and over again. One way to break out of that cycle is to do things that make us feel good and give us a sense of purpose.

It could be anything—volunteering for a cause you care about, pursuing a creative hobby, spending time in nature, learning a new skill, or simply connecting with loved ones.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Whatever it is, make it something that feels special and rewarding to you. The goal here is to recharge your batteries and give you something positive to look forward to.

Prioritize Self-Care

Making peace with your past is hard work, and it can be tough on your emotional, mental, and physical health. That’s why it’s so important to make time for yourself and do things that nourish your mind, body, and soul—aka self-care.

This could include:

  • Getting enough sleep: When you’re well-rested, you’re better equipped to handle stress and challenges.
  • Eating healthy foods: Nourishing your body with nutritious foods gives you the energy you need to thrive.
  • Moving your body: Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, yoga, swimming, or simply going for a walk in nature.
  • Spending time in nature: Connecting with nature has a calming effect on the mind and body.

When you take care of yourself, you’ve got more energy, more patience, and more room for the good stuff. It’s about setting yourself up to handle whatever comes your way—with your tank full and ready to roll.

Take the Time to Heal

Healing doesn’t work overnight, and that’s totally fine. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of self-compassion. And here’s the thing: healing isn’t always a linear process.

There will be ups and downs, moments of progress followed by setbacks. Some days, you might feel like you’re on top of the world, while other days, the weight of the past might feel heavy on your shoulders. And that’s okay.

Don’t beat yourself up for having a bad day or feeling like you’re taking a step backward. No rush. Everyone heals at their own pace and in their own way. What matters most is that you’re moving forward, one step at a time, and taking care of yourself along the way.

Healing takes time, but with patience, self-compassion, and a little bit of faith, you can overcome your past and create a brighter, more fulfilling future.

Write a Letter (Just for You)

Sometimes, the words we need to say to make peace with our past aren’t meant for anyone else’s ears. You don’t have to send it—this is just for you.

Tell them how they made you feel, what it did to you, and then, if you can, try to let it go. You might say things like:

  • I felt hurt when…
  • I wish you knew how…
  • I’m moving past this by…

It lets you express all the emotions without the fallout that might come from a face-to-face confrontation. And when you’re done? You can keep the letter, rip it up, or even burn it (safely, of course) as a way of letting go.

Challenge Limiting Beliefs

Our minds can trap us in beliefs that hold us back, like thinking we’re not smart enough to go after that dream job or not deserving of love. 

It’s time to challenge those limiting beliefs! To get started:

  • Spot those not-so-helpful beliefs by writing them down.
  • For each one, ask yourself where it came from and if it’s really true.
  • Think about what an empowering, positive belief might look like.

For example, swap “I always mess things up” with “I’m learning every day and getting better.” Every time a limiting belief creeps in, catch it, and replace it with your new, uplifting mantra. It might take a bit of practice, but it’s like rewiring your brain for happiness and success.

Plan for the Future

To truly move forward, it’s important to start planning for the future. What are your dreams and goals? What kind of life do you want to create for yourself?

Start simple with something you’ve always wanted to do—maybe it’s a trip, learning a new skill, or setting health goals. Break it down into steps you can start taking right away. Even the smallest action today gets you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.

It might look something like this:

  • Decide on the goal you’re excited about.
  • Make a list of the small steps needed to get there.
  • Pick one step to start on this week.

When you’re focused on building a future you’re excited about, your past can’t hog the spotlight. Having plans and goals helps to remind you that there’s a whole lot ahead of you, and that’s where your energy is best spent.

Create a New Narrative for Your Life

We all have a story we tell ourselves about who we are and what our life is all about. But sometimes, that story can be based on past hurts and negative experiences. If you’re ready to make peace with your past, it’s time to create a new narrative for your life!

This means letting go of those old stories that no longer serve you and choosing to focus on the positive aspects of your life.

  • What are your strengths and accomplishments?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What brings you joy and purpose?

Focus on what you can do today to tell a story that feels true to who you are now, not just who you were. You’ve got plenty of blank pages ahead, ready for you to fill them with new adventures, lessons, and growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to make peace with your past?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Healing takes time, and the process is different for everyone. Be patient with yourself and focus on progress, not perfection.

What if I can’t forgive myself for something I did in the past?

Forgiving yourself can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Try to practice self-compassion and focus on the lessons you’ve learned from your experiences. If you’re struggling, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor.

What if I’m afraid to confront my past?

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about facing painful memories but remember that you are stronger and more resilient than you think.

Start by taking small steps, such as journaling about your experiences or talking to a trusted friend. Seeking professional help can also provide you with the support and guidance you need to navigate this process safely.

Can you really forget the past and move on?

While completely forgetting the past may not be possible, you can definitely move on from it. Making peace with your past is not about erasing memories but rather acknowledging their impact on your life while choosing to focus on the present and create a positive future.

How do I know if I’ve made peace with my past?

You’ll know you’re making peace with your past when thoughts of it no longer bring up intense emotions that disrupt your daily life. You might feel lighter, find it easier to focus on the present, and feel more hopeful about the future.

Final Thoughts

Making peace with your past is a process. It takes time, effort, and a willingness to face your pain head-on. But believe me, it’s all worth it.

You deserve to live a life that’s free from the weight of past hurts and regrets. You have the power to choose how you let your past affect you.

And no matter what your past may hold, your future is still yours to create. So, be kind to yourself, take that first step, and trust in yourself. You’ve got this!

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Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.