3 Ways to Use Journaling to Let Go of the Past

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go. ~ Hermann Hesse

Letting go of the past is never an instant process. Your past is an important aspect of your life, and of who you are. You don’t need to forget your past, nor eradicate it. Letting go means, freeing yourself of its hold, so that your past remains firmly in the past, and does not rule your present or your future.

How can you tell if you are holding onto your past for unhealthy reasons?

Consider some of these questions:

  • Do you spend your time dwelling on the past rather than the present?
  • Does holding onto the past cause you more pain, discomfort, regret instead of happiness?
  • Are you constantly waiting for your situation to change, and for something to be different?
  • Do you feel that you are stuck, unable to make progress, unable to move on with your life, unable to break away from patterns that no longer serve you?

Only by letting go of your past, you can be free.

Think of holding onto your past like this – you keep trying to run, to explore new horizons, but with one leg tied to an unmovable tree trunk. You are not going to get far. But once you untie that leg, you can run like the wind.

No, it won’t be easy. But it is not impossible. As Guy Finley said in his book The Secret of Letting Go, “Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.

Journaling can help you achieve let go of the past.

It is a medium; a tool you can use to help you let go of your past.

Instead of just telling yourself you will do it, or instead of just trying to sort it out in your head, by using journaling, you can work your way towards it. It is a measurable method so you can evaluate your progress, and yourself.

Also read: 7 Ways to Let Go and Find Peace Right Now.

Here is how to use journaling to let go of the past


1. Accept that you can’t change the past.

Sounds obvious, right? Yet, people hold on to the past as if by sheer will they can alter it.

  • If you keep returning to the same relationships or situations that did not work for you more than once before, then you may be expecting your past to change.
  • If you are churning over failures in your mind, and just berating yourself, then you may also be expecting your past to change.
  • If you are pining for lost loves, for roads not taken, and opportunities squandered then you may be wishing for your past to be different.

It’s not just about negative memories though. You may also be holding onto your past if you keep relieving one past glory instead of moving on.

Memories are malleable. The human mind has the power to alter memories with imagination. This can be a dangerous thing, if you keep using that imagination to remain firmly in the past.

Journal about the things that you are holding onto.

  • What are the things that you wish you had done differently?
  • Are there events in your past about which you still repeatedly blame yourself?
  • In what way does your past prevent you from moving forward?
  • How long has this cycle been going on?

2. Grow beyond your current boundaries.

You can’t even begin to create the life you want, or start achieving your dreams, if you are always looking backwards.

You can’t recognize new opportunities that may be all around you if you are dwelling on opportunities you missed out on. By holding onto your past, you allow yourself to remain stuck in it.

In your journal, write about these limitations.

  • Do you feel stuck?
  • Do you feel like you haven’t moved on in various areas of your life?
  • Why do you think you are stuck?
  • What is stopping you from moving on?

Be as specific as possible. If these reasons are emotional, write about what emotions you feel. If you think its other people, write about those people.

3. Take responsibility for YOU.

It’s irrelevant whether or not the things that keep you trapped in the past were your fault or someone else’s. You can’t change what’s happened. But you are now responsible for your future self.

To make the best of every moment, you can take this responsibility, and start making choices that are positive and empowering.

In your journal, record actions you can take to break out of your past patterns. Create action plans for things you want to let go of.

  • How will you move forward?
  • What do you need to let go of?
  • How exactly are you going to do that?

Take baby steps. Every day, aim to take at least one small step to let go of the past.

Write down in your journal what that step is going to be. If you are having a really tough time, write down how you feel about it.

  • Does it scare you?
  • Does it make you resistant?
  • What is your emotional state?

Once you have taken the step, record your state of mind again.

When you do all of the above exercises, be honest with yourself. That is a key advantage of journaling. It is private.

You don’t need to share or discuss your answers with anyone else. But by journaling, by writing things down and unravelling the strands of your behaviour and thoughts, you can gain deeper self-awareness and figure out whether you are stuck in your past.

Letting go of the past gives you the opportunity to become a heathier you.

Life is short, and very uncertain. You don’t know when your last day on earth may be, so why would you want to spend your limited time chained to the past, rather than enjoying your present, and nourishing your future.

Dolly Garland is the founder of Kaizen Journaling where she teaches Kaizen Warriors how to use journaling for personal and professional development. She is the author of 365 Days of Journaling. She also runs journaling workshops.

Learn more about Kaizen Journaling by downloading FREE resources for your success arsenal at www.kaizenjournaling.com