Being grateful—or having gratitude—for the past can positively affect your future. You might experience a variety of feelings when thinking about the past—from pride, satisfaction, and contentment to bitterness and anger. These feelings are all actually controlled by your memories, which you can manage. This means that you have ultimate control over your feelings about the past. If you can control your thoughts and feelings, you can influence your happiness. Remember, the past doesn’t dictate your future.
Incorporating gratitude into your everyday life. Keep a small list of the good things you have done and write them down. Read them and see how your emotions change.
Forgiveness. If you have intense and frequent negative thoughts about the past, it’s likely that these thoughts will block any positive emotions like contentment and satisfaction. Sometimes it might seem like there are good reasons for not forgiving and for holding on to bitterness. It might be especially difficult to forgive if you’ve been really hurt by someone. If you reach a point where you’re no longer feeling bitter, forgiveness can give you a much greater chance of moving on and enjoying life.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.