Guide to Learning to Let Things Go: Leave the Past Behind

Piece of paper that reads "mindfulness" on a window sill to remind us to let things go

There are many things that regrettably stay with us for the rest of our lives. From traumatic childhood memories, to cruel things people have said, anger or hurt at how others have treated us and many other things. Some more than others struggle to let things go, however there are steps you can take to try and change the way your mind holds on to things that are no longer useful to us. Follow this beginner’s guide to learning how to let things go.


Realise What Is Hurting You

Take a moment to focus on the different negative emotions that you currently hold and identify the source of these emotions. This can be both recently and in the distant past, anything that still crops up into your mind. Although you still feel hurt or anger or sadness from this memory you must take note that it is no longer happening to you at this moment. It’s gone. What is left is your memory of the situation and you reliving it over and over again.

Woman kneeling on yoga matt to try and let things go

Embrace the Emotion

Take the story of the situation or memory and transform it from the emotion you are feeling into a physical feeling in your body. It could be an ache in your head or a tightness in your chest. Usually when emotional pain causes us physical pain we try to run away from it, ignore it or get rid of it. Instead the practice asks us embrace it, explore it in order to realise that it is not the end of the world but simply uncomfortable. If it is too much to bear at first then do it in small doses.



Take deep breaths. As you breath in you must imagine you are inhaling your difficulty, your pain, your trauma, and as you breathe out you are releasing compassion. It is also helpful to try and imagine you are breathing in the same emotion felt by everyone else on the planet. For example, if you are frustrated, breathe in all the frustration of the world, then breathe out peace. This is a Tibetan Buddhist practice called Tonglen. When you breathe in sadness breathe out happiness and when you breathe in regret you breathe out gratitude.

Stack of journals used to write negative thoughts down and then let go of

Be Grateful with Your Present

Once you feel you have spent ample time on this, look back to your story. Do you appreciate it now? Can you be grateful for what is in front of you? This is important as when we are focused on things that happened in the past we cannot pay proper attention to the present.