Sometimes our pasts affect our present day in unexpected ways. Without knowing it, our regrets and past disappointments might be influencing our present day relationships, careers and general life contentment. This can be hurting you more than you know.

Try this: hold your face in its current position and go check out your expression in the mirror. (Seriously. Go look. I’ll wait right here).

What do you see? This is how you are presenting yourself to the world. Are you projecting “Hey, lovely day! I’m loving life!“ or “Stay away from me! You’re about to screw me, aren’t you?” How would you respond to the face you see in front of you?

Now: pretend it’s your best day ever. Think of a particularly wonderful experience you’ve had – a glorious day that was a highlight of your life. Feel any different? Now – go look at your face. Notice anything different? If so, consider how people might treat either version of yourself. Can you see how happy-looking people generate a whole lot more help and a whole lot less negativity in their lives?

If you’ve been carrying around the past – consciously or unconsciously – and would like to stop doing so, there is good news. You can overcome your past by focusing on what you do in the present. Here’s how:

1. Practice being happier in the here and now.

Set a timer to go off once per hour. Every time you hear the buzzer, pause, smile and think of the best day you’ve ever had. Hold yourself in that space for a minute.

Look for other regular cues that occur in your life that can act as triggers for you to practice being content. For example, anytime you’re at a stoplight. Anything there’s a commercial on TV. Every time the dog needs to go out. Every time you check your email.

2. Identify sources of irritation – and choose to respond differently.

What are the things that tick you off? Can you change them into triggers for warm friendly feelings? For example, if you find yourself getting irritated with passive-aggressive postal clerks or with cashiers that seem to be moving in slow motion, then ‘waiting in line’ might be a good time for you to re-purpose. Upon finding yourself in an unavoidable queue, rather than seething,“Oh no! I’m wasting time standing here in this godforsaken line at the mercy of a petty bureaucrat abusing their power! I’ll never get this twenty minutes back!” try something completely different: “Oh goody. A line! I can smile, meditate, imagine I’m in my favorite place in the world or reliving my Best Day Ever! Yay! A line! I can’t do anything to shorten it but I can make it as pleasant as possible.” To the extent you can take pleasure in the 'now' moment, in just being, you will feel much better.

3. Analyze the source of the negativity you carry from the past.

Do some digging: ask yourself what’s really going on. No doubt you’ve got good reason.

Maybe you’ve been burned in the past. Okay: that was then, this is now. How can you let it go? Is there someone you need to forgive? Do you need to forgive yourself? Is there a lesson you can take from the experience? What can you do to let it go? Can you rewrite the story? Let it go. Move on. Press the re-set button.

Maybe you’re dealing with some challenges that are spilling over into every waking hour. Ask: is there a way to compartmentalize? Can you devote a portion of the day to dealing with those issues but leave the rest of the day free?

It’s a habit that’s grown and permeated your life: doesn’t matter when it started or how it grew. Now that you’ve recognized it, you have the opportunity to develop a different habit if you so desire. What is it you really want?

4. Rewrite history.

There is more than one way to view negative incidents in your past.

Studies show that one of the best ways to increase happiness is to literally rewrite those life stories that cause you pain. We’ll talk about this technique in more detail in an upcoming post but for now, you can think of it as being your own spin doctor. Take a past disappointment and ask if there’s a more positive way to look at it: You didn’t get fired, you left an uncomfortable job for an opportunity to be more creative. Your co-workers didn’t hate you – they were just intimidated by your many talents and couldn’t keep up with your energy.

5. Monitor your thinking.

When you notice yourself dwelling on past regrets or disappointments, stop yourself by gently shifting your attention to something more positive. Avoid beating yourself up – there’s no need for name calling. Just realize “Oops – I’m thinking about something that isn’t helpful” and shift to more pleasant thoughts or – better yet—focus on what you’re doing at the time.

Activity: This week, monitor your thoughts. If negative incidents in your past come up, try one (or more) of the techniques above.

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Author's Bio: 

Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. is the go-to coach for smart, creative people who want to overcome challenges, get organized, get things done and get more out of life (

Liisa Kyle is also an internationally published writer/editor/photographer as well as author of books including "Get Over It: Overcome Regret, Disappointment and Past Mistakes"(

If you are a creative person with too many ideas and too much to do, check out her other helpful articles here: