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Are you in a habit of dwelling on past mistakes? Do you think of past missteps often and regret about what you did. Do you dwell on the tasteless joke that you told at a family event, the stupid comment that you posted on social media, the time that you let your guard down when you shouldn’t have, or the rejection from the people that you cared about? Do you ask yourself questions like why did I do it, and what was I thinking? And make comments like silly me, I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, or everyone must hate me!
If you overthink, obsess, get fixated on something or whatever you want to call it, you are dwelling on the past and ruminating according to the psychology experts.
Dwelling is when you focus on your anguish, its causes, and consequences rather than the solutions. It is not just noticing the negative experiences but re-living the past negative experiences over and over again. The biggest problem with dwelling is your mind can not differentiate between actually experiencing the negative moment and thinking about it later.
Also don’t confuse dwelling with self-reflection. Self-reflection is self-acceptance where you accept who you are and what you did, you learn from your mistake and move forward with life whereas dwelling is self-criticism where your self-image takes a beating. Think about a moment when you experienced something negative and then you kept re-living the same moment again and again for years and said to yourself, I always do that, I can’t get anything right, why did I say that, why did I do that, why did I ask her out or why did I tell her that. You berate yourself and every single time you think about the same experience again you berate yourself even further.
Here are two ways to stop dwelling on your past and start living in present:
1. Practice Mindfulness
Humans tend to spend most of their time in dwelling on the past or worrying about future. With all the distractions like social media, mobile, radio and TV around, you spend even less time in the present moment. Mindfulness will not only help you to live in the present and stop dwelling on the past but studies have shown that it reduces stress and helps you to live a more present and happy life.
You can practice mindfulness by attending a meditation class, or simply meditating at home, or carrying out these simple practices for example pay close attention to your breathing while sitting in the office, feel the door handle when you open the door, smell the food when you cook or taste the toothpaste when you brush your teeth.
So whenever you find yourself dwelling on past, practice mindfulness by meditating for a couple of minutes, and noticing what’s happening around you.
2. Observe Your Thoughts
Observe your thoughts and as soon as you become aware that you are dwelling, stop it and start doing something that needs some thinking to do.
Whenever I caught myself dwelling, I use the term “Alt, Control, Delete” which as with your computer, tells me to re-start my thinking afresh. Come up with your own stop sign to shift your attention from dwelling to something constructive.
Remember that mistakes and missteps are unavoidable, but dwelling on past mistakes and re-living the same experiences is certainly avoidable. So choose self-reflection over self-criticism and use the above two methods to give yourself the gift of living a present and happy life.
Please share this with the people in your life who might get most out of it. Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if there is anything that I could do to assist you in living a life free of worry, stress, and anxiety.
Find more about Amit on www.amitdhull.com