Thinking About The Past Too Much? Try This

thinking about the past too much

If you are thinking about the past too much then you are stuck in a habitual thinking pattern where your mind is seeking the familiar – even when it is filled with unwanted or destructive thoughts or memories.

To stop thinking about the past you have to change what these past thoughts mean, ‘scramble’ the actual memories or create a compelling new future for your life – one that will distract from the past.

Learning to truly embrace the present moment and throwing yourself 110% into something that will keep your idle thoughts at bay are all proven and highly effective strategies.

As human beings we have three realities within our consciousness. The past and the future tends to be the ones we obsess about most, but it is the illusive present that contains the greatest sense of peace.

Everything you experience is experienced in the present. Wasting your present moment experiences by re-living the past can be both fruitless and destructive.

You cannot fix the past, but you can create a distance with it.

– Sadhguru

It is impossible to change anything about your past. We all know that, yet we tend to obsess over it – especially past mistakes or regrets.

No matter how hard you try, you simply can not force yourself to stop thinking about the past too much. Why is that? Why is it so hard to take charge of your own mind?

While there are some very strong psychological principles at play, for the most part you probably have a habit of thinking about the past.

Habits are ‘automatic’ thoughts that often lead to specific behaviours and these thoughts are rooted firmly in your subconscious mind.

Is It Normal To Think About The Past A Lot?

While it is normal to think about the past a lot, it is not normal to obsess over past events and circumstances that you either regret or that you wish you could change.

The past can be a beautiful source of memories and re-living them can bring us joy, reignite love or remind us of the joy and happiness in life.

The way you manage the memories of your past is what makes the real difference between people who are always feeling sad or depressed and those who live with a sense of love, gratitude and joy.

Every single person has memories that could drag them down, but every single person also has memories that can lift them up.

What you choose to think most of the time is entirely up to you.

For the most part, living in the past is a bad idea. Using your past memories to relive joyful times is an uplifting strategy. Obsessing over past events, missed opportunities or mistakes can only lead you down a destructive path of thinking.

As human beings it is normal to spend some of your time thinking about the past and some of your time thinking about the future.

Most people however obsess over either the past or the future and although it is quite normal in our culture, it is not natural and it is not empowering in any way.

Living your life in the present moment, being fully aware and awake in the present is where your life is really happening.

Your present moment, thoughts and awareness is incredibly powerful.

Not only does it dictate how you feel and how you experience life NOW, it also invokes the law of attraction and ultimately becomes responsible for the future you create.

When you are thinking about the past too much then you need to shift your thinking and your awareness at once otherwise you will create an endless loop of experiences that simply repeat itself in some shape or form.

Why Can’t I Stop Thinking About The Past?

Trying to suppress a certain thought – especially one that is loaded with emotion actually creates the opposite effect.

Try to not think of a pink elephant. Now that you have this image in your mind it is hard to shake it.

In psychology, it is called the Ironic Process Theory and it revolves around this idea that when you deliberately try and suppress certain thoughts it actually makes those thoughts more prominent and more likely to surface.

The main reason why you can’t stop thinking about the past is not just because you are trying to resist these thoughts.

Your brain is designed to seek what is familiar. What is familiar is what feels comfortable even when the past is destructive.

Out of familiarity, your mind will often ‘seek out’ thoughts from your past because it feels familiar, safe and it represents the known.

The unknown is strange and unfamiliar. The brain needs to figure new things out again. It does not want to do that naturally because it is always looking for short-cuts.

While the familiar past is what feels good, you need to push yourself out of the lazy corner of your mind and force your mind to think new thoughts.

The familiar past will always be your ‘automatic thoughts’ and unless you deliberately choose to think new thoughts you simply will be stuck with thinking about your past too much.

The Past: A Blessing and A Curse

Thinking about the past too much is not the problem. The real problem is when the memories of the past are filled with negative and destructive emotions.

If you are obsessing over beautiful memories full of love and joy then your thoughts about the past can actually be a source of strength.

The problem however is that most people who think about the past too much are doing it because of two main reasons.

1. Regret:

When you regret something you’ve done or something you haven’t done then it is easy to start obsessing over it. You wish you could change it but no matter how much you think about it, you simply can not change the past.

Whether you regret a mistake you’ve made, a missed opportunity or even feeling that you should have lived a part of your life differently – regrets can only accomplish one thing and that is to make you feel bad.

Nobody has ever felt better or changed anything by feeling regret.

The best way to overcome regret is to rewrite the past event you feel regret over. Change the meaning by redefining it. Create a lesson from that event and turn it into a powerful motivator to inspire you to be better.

2. Guilt

Guilt is one of the most destructive emotions there are. In Dr. Richard Hawkins’ scale of human consciousness, guilt is the second lowest level of consciousness you can live in.

You blame yourself. You condemn your own life and guilt often leads to apathy or even depression.

As long as you feel guilt over anything from your past, you will be held hostage by your past. You can not move on.

The best way to overcome guilt is through forgiveness. Sometimes the most important person to forgive is yourself.

Blaming yourself for things from your past can not be changed but by forgiving yourself you acknowledge the blame, you look it in the eye and you set it aside. You then move on. You put distance between yourself and the source of the guilt.

Your past can be both a blessing and a curse.

It is a curse if you are thinking about the past too much when the past is a source of any negative or destructive emotions.

Don’t judge me by my past. I don’t live there anymore.

– Zig Ziglar

It is a blessing if your past becomes a teacher. The past can give you wisdom. It can be a source of great motivation and inspiration.

To turn your past around from a source of negative and destructive emotions to a source of power and possibility you simply need to manage your memories.

What the past means is entirely up to you. If you assigned a specific meaning to your past and that meaning causes negativity in your life then you need to rewrite the story.

Nothing has any meaning except for the meaning that you give it. You may have done it subconsciously but still you have done it to yourself.

How Do I Get Rid Of Thinking About The Past Too Much?

So how do you then get rid of thinking about the past too much? It is easy to say, just don’t think about it but that actually does the opposite.

To stop thinking about the past too much, you have to stop trying to suppress these past thoughts.

Trying to fight a dominant thoughts is fruitless. You have to distract your mind and give it a new and a more alluring thought to redirect it towards something else.

From the law of attraction we know the power of thought. Your dominant thoughts will create your reality.

If your thoughts are dominated by the past then you can not help but re-create similar events and experiences.

How To Stop Thinking About The Past:

  1. Address the persistent issue
  2. Get busy
  3. Talk about it
  4. Scramble the thought
  5. Do new things
  6. Meditation
  7. Create a compelling future goal

1.Address the persistent issue (if you can)

If there is anything at all that you can do to change that which you are thinking about too much then you should.

Do you need to say sorry? Do you need to forgive yourself or someone else? Do you need to confess about something?

If there is anything at all that you can do, you should do that at once. It will dissolve the bad memories faster than anything else you can do.

2. Get busy

An idle mind is prone to drift to habitual thoughts and many of the thoughts from your past that you can not seem to shake will surface when you are doing nothing.

Get busy. Throw yourself 110% into a project, your work, a hobby or a charity. This is the best way to distance yourself from persistent thoughts from your past.

3. Talk about it

When you keep things from your past bottled up inside it can often vester into a toxic brew. Getting them out into the open, talking about it and exposing it often gives you a new perspective.

Find a professional or someone you trust to talk about it. Get it out in the open!

4. Scramble the thought

In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) there is a technique called a “Swish Pattern” which is a technique that ‘scrambles’ past memories or events.

Thoughts from your past is often built around a specific image (or ‘video’) and corresponding emotion in your mind. By changing this image and or emotion by distorting it you can diminish its meaning or the hold it has over you.

5. Do new things

If your life is dominated by stale routines and you rarely ever try something new then your mind is prone to habitual thoughts as well.

Doing new things, trying something new and snapping yourself out of your familiar ways is a powerful way to provoke new thoughts.

Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. If you don;t give your mind the opportunity to drift to the old and familiar thoughts then you will be far less likely to experience them.

6. Meditation

Meditation is a powerful practise that allows you to cultivate a present moment awareness. Through meditation you can learn to be in the present moment.

When you are completely present, you are free from the past and the future. As you get better and better at meditating you will start living more in the present and less in the past.

7. Create a compelling future goal

One of the best ways to stop thinking about the past too much is to start thinking about your future more often.

These past thoughts that plague you usually represents something you do not like.

When you build a vision for your life and create a compelling goal – one that excites you, your mind will want to drift more to this exciting future than to regress back into the familiar past.


With a passion for spirituality, self discovery, and understanding this life, Neod spends his time musing about what is, what could be and what might come about. After writing for 20 years he's still growing, learning, exploring and sharing with love, joy and compassion.

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