When a relationship comes to an end, the process of healing and moving on hopefully begins. The person you’re trying to let go of may be a recent part of your love life or an old flame. Now comes the task of wiping the slate clean, so you’ll be ready when a new partner enters your life.
Here are 15 practices that will help you leave the past behind:
1. Keep a realistic perspective of the person. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and every relationship has good and bad times. Acknowledging both assures you that your old love was not, in fact, ideal.
2. Clean your emotional house. Honestly inventory the strong feelings left over–pain, anger, regret–and then take time to heal. Proven techniques for doing that abound. Find the ones that make sense to you and get to work.
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3. Clean your physical house. You might still have reminders of the relationship you’re trying to leave behind — photographs, mementos, and letters. Boxing them up can have a cleansing effect, a signal to your subconscious mind that a new beginning is underway.
4. Burn the bridge completely. If you know the relationship with your ex is truly over, then there’s nothing to gain from trying to be “just friends” or other variations. The best break is a clean break.
5. Watch your language. Meaning, watch how much you talk about your old relationship. The more your ex’s name comes out of your mouth, the more that person stays in your thoughts.
6. Close anything left open-ended. Whether they left your life weeks ago or years ago, you might have things you still need to say, amends you need to make, items you should have returned, or feelings you want to convey. Bring closure by taking care of what you need to.
7. Turn off the instant replay. Your mind can get stuck reliving the past, either adding fuel to your smoldering anger or romanticizing your memories. Either way, remember that you have sole possession of the remote control and can choose to direct your thoughts elsewhere.
8. Get involved in new activities. The process of leaving an old love behind is helped greatly by finding new pursuits that bring you joy, especially those that connect you with interesting people.
9. Resist the urge to follow the person via social media. Yes, of course you want to know what they’re up to! But if you really want to get that person out of your head, don’t fill it with current images and updates.
10. Tighten your ship. Let the breakup be an opportunity for honest self-assessment — so you’re that much better prepared for your next relationship. Are you a little too controlling? Argumentative? Clingy? Now’s the time to deal with it.
11. Forgive your ex. Holding a grudge ties you to the past, keeping you psychologically connected to the person and experiences you are trying to put behind you. Let it go — and set yourself free.
12. Forgive yourself. It’s just as likely you’ve said and done things yourself along the way you are not proud of — and equally important to put them behind you.
13. Practice gratitude. One time-honored way to move on from the past is to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Like magic, the words “I am thankful for …” will empower you to step forward.
14. Activate your support group. Enlist trusted friends and family to your cause, people who will inspire excitement about the future.
15. Expect new love to appear at any moment. Looking ahead with anticipation will help you stop looking back with longing. Romance can appear anywhere, anytime. Your job is to be fresh and ready when it does — not stuck in the past.