Stop Romanticizing The Past

(Last Updated On: March 25, 2018)

We’ve all been guilty of replaying our favorite moments just a tad bit too long– to the point where they produce a sort of melancholy yearning rather than pure good feelings. Even worse, we have a habit of reframing events of the past as being perfect or ideal when in reality they were just as imperfect as any other moment. If one wishes to be not only successful but also happy, it is vital to let go of the past, only calling on it briefly for good feelings and life lessons.

We are taught to represent time as past, present, and future. Of course, there really only is the present moment while the latter two live in our minds. A historian may tell you otherwise but generally speaking, the preferred way to prioritize the three “states” of time is present, then future, then past. The present is where everything is happening, so our primary focus should always be rooted in the here and now to best serve our goals. The future will soon be our present, so it’s in our best interest to do everything we can now to best ensure the future we want.

The past however, is gone forever. It can never really be relived, not even through our memories. Every time we remember something, we tweak it in a small way before placing it back in our memory. Anything from the mood we are in at the time of recall, whether we were hungry, who we were around, or what we were thinking just before can and will have an effect on your perception of memories. Thus, relying on our recollections is actually fairly unreliable. Use this to your advantage and frame your memories in the most positive way possible.

When we focus on a memory, one of two things should happen. We either recall the lesson we learned from the experience (this should only happen once or twice, and from that point on be internalized) or feel good feelings from our positively deluded recollection of the event or time period. Is this going to work with everything? Probably not, life isn’t perfect. The more memories you can do this for though, the easier it will become. Further, being in a positive mood will help ward off the unnecessary recollection of anything particularly negative or traumatic. The key in all of this is to not long for the memory to be now again. Extract the positive emotion and use it to enjoy the present– don’t romanticize.

Romanticizing the past, though pleasurable in the moment, will harm your mental health in the long run. The present is all we have, and you want to avoid anything that’s going to dampen your appreciation of it. Telling yourself you miss the past, is admitting your best days are behind you. This is a negative mindset that will produce unhappiness. Though hard at first, rooting your awareness in the present will cultivate a deeper appreciation for what’s going on in the now, and in turn will lend you a greater sense of well being. Build enough momentum, and you’ll start doing this naturally.

Life is short, and meant to be enjoyed. Focus on the here and now and create the reality you want, good luck!

Suggested reading:

The Power Of Now

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