Four Ways to Go Past the Past

by | Jun 20, 2024 | Self-Care, Spirituality, Tips, Uncategorized

Image caption: Nadine Mendis. Background – Adobe Firefly, Girl – 

Traumatic and distressing experiences from our past can weigh us down. We all have a past – some memories are happy, whilst other memories may be sad and may haunt us. You may have heard the famous saying ‘why do good things happen to bad people and why do bad things happen to good people.’ The truth is that in this world, distressing and painful situations visit everyone. So, instead of feeling miserable when situations don’t go our way, it is important to focus on how we can change our perspective on circumstances to make them positive, as according to an academic paper conducted by the University of Missouri (Why positive psychology is necessary, 2001) states that a positive outlook is an attempt to urge people to adopt a more open and appreciative perspective regarding human potentials, motives, and capacities. Moving from the past can be done in four ways. 

P- Purpose 

A clear purpose can help you move ahead from a distressing situation. Clear and attainable goals can help distract you from distressing memories. A paper from the American Journal of Health promotion (2022) points out that an overwhelming amount of research confirms that having a sense of purpose is associated with better health outcomes. Goals can be short-term, such as finishing an assignment on time, planning a weekend getaway, or organising an outing. Long-term goals can be finishing a program of study at university or saving money to buy a house. 

The sad, upsetting emotions that are associated with certain memories, tend to cause us pain. You might ponder about those memories with intrusive questions such as “why did this happen to me?” “Why did my partner do this to me?”  

Painful situations in your life may strip away your possessions but cannot erase your purpose.  So, live your life with a clear purpose of what you want to do and who you want to become, and this may help create a brighter future for yourself! 

A- Association 

According to Huppert in 2008, science proves that an effective way of positively improving our lives is by developing new connections with people around us as well as reaffirming those we already know. Be around people, most importantly, who bring out the best in you. Keeping a social circle where one feels safe, cared for, and optimistic can help one heal from past traumatic memories. The kind of people you associate with may shape your mind and thinking habits. If we get caught in negativity, we may lose enthusiasm. Therefore, look for people who have positive traits, like kindness and empathy, who will inspire and uplift you. 

S- Spirituality 

Spirituality can help you process the past.  From possible mechanisms, research from the Handbook of Positive Psychology, Religion and Spirituality (2022) states how it may help lead to healthier and more positive life outcomes, such as social support, physiology through psychological processes (prayer and meditation) and behavioural pathways involved when relying on spirituality and religion. Prayers, meditation and having faith in a higher being can provide guidance and strength for individuals who are trying to heal wounds created by past traumatic circumstances. Wounds may not disappear completely, but with faith, previous traumatic incidents have the potential to gradually heal. 

T- Time 

Time is a healer. Look at time in terms of phases: a good phase and a bad phase. A bad phase will not last forever and will pass. Being aware that our present situations are just a part of our lives and that our lives are much bigger can help build resilience. 

We may be the products of our past, but we do not have to be imprisoned by them! 

As you read this article, you will relate to having faced difficult moments during your life. By keeping a clear purpose in mind, associating with more positive people, being spiritual, and trusting in the passage of time, these methods have the potential to help us move away from those distressing situations. 

Western Sydney University offers many resources to students seeking support for mental health challenges. If you encounter any obstacles that may impede your ability to fully engage in university life, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance! You can see the full range of student wellbeing services below.

Author: Payal Shah | Edited by Anya Wikramanayake

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