Why dwelling on happy times from your past is hurting you now

The past is a beautiful thing. We can learn from our pasts and use it to make our futures even better. But when we fall into the trap of dwelling on the past, even good times, it can hurt our futures.

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  • When we look back on our lives, we all have times when we were happy and times we were sad. It is important to remember the trials we've gone through, mistakes we've make and fun times we've had. Take pictures, write in a journal and recall those times every once in a while, but make sure you do not dwell on them. Most of us realize that lingering on our mistakes can destroy our future, but did you know that same is true if you long for your life to be just as it was when you feel it was the happiest? Dwelling on these moments and longing for them again is actually hurting you. Here are some reasons why.

  • Time moves on

  • As humans, we grow, we change; we go through different phases of our lives and so do the people and places around us. It can be hard to understand that even if you move back to the same location you once were or if you work at the same job you did when you were the happiest, it will not be the same. The same people will not be there, the place itself will have changed and we cannot make things as they once were. Spending our time trying to get things to align the exact same way they were 20 years ago, is just a waste of time. That is one reason it is hard to return to where you grew up, or how unfamiliar the college town where you had so many good memories is now. When you left, things were not frozen in time as your mind leads you to believe, rather they change. Stores go out of business, people move, there is new construction and new management. It simply will not be the same as you remember.

  • We tend to romanticize memories

  • The longer we are removed from a situation, the more likely we are to forget the bad parts. We remember the good things that happened and build them up in our memories as greater than they actually were. This makes us feel as if those times were better than they were. We still had trials, struggles and difficulties, but those are buried underneath all the happy feelings we keep in our minds. Now, not only are you longing for a time that is different than your present situation, but you are longing for a time that does not really exist.

  • It can destroy your present

  • Constantly longing for a time in your past can destroy your present. The people you now surround yourself with may feel they are not making you happy, which can cause strife in your relationships. It can cause tension at work if your performance declines, and it can cause you to fall into depression. All of these factors can put at risk the things you do have going for you at the moment, a happy marriage, kids, a home, good credit, and an established place in your career. Some of these things may feel like responsibilities you don't want all the time, but, believe it or not, years from now you will look back at this phase of life and long for it. When your kids were young, when you had a lot of life yet to live and you were still working towards your big life goals. The present can seem hard at the moment, but look for things you enjoy now, things that make you happy at this time of your life. Your child's giggle, snuggling with your spouse while watching a movie, playing a pick-up game of soccer, it's these little things that you will remember and long for one day.

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  • It prevents you from looking towards the future

  • It is natural to plan for the future. The decisions we make every day impact our future. Some of them we make consciously like putting money aside for retirement, and some of them we do subconsciously like going to the gym, which makes us feel good now but also prevents health problems in the future. If we are constantly thinking about the past, it affects our ability to plan for the future. We may not feel the importance of maintaining our health, planning for retirement or even keeping a stable job. By not living in the present and planning for the future, it can cause you problems you may not have thought about as you longed for better days.

  • Memories are precious. Memories are important. They make up who we are. They shape our futures. If there truly is something you long for in your past — less debt, a better physique or living close to family, then it is not too late to make some changes in your life in order for those things to be possible again. Take charge of your life and put yourself on a path where the parts of your past you long for are possible. But do not think you can make things exactly as they once were. Realize things will be different, but they can be even better than before.

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Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in anthropology and a masters in psychology. She is a mother of twins.

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