Wishing Things Were Different

Have you been down the road of wishing things were different? I have and it never was worth it.

We get comfortable and then life throws a monkey wrench in everything. That is when we put on our “rose-colored glasses” and long for the past.

Why do we so quickly forget about the not-so-perfect moments? Living in the past is a fantasy with no “happily ever after”. But how do we switch gears and move on?

Why can’t I let go of the past?

“Most people can’t let go of the past because they don’t appreciate their present. Reframing our relationship with our past requires us to stop thinking of how things should be and accept them for what they are.” (1)

The past can be either positive or negative.

Those who have experienced trauma often replay the past in their minds with “what ifs”, often feeling guilty or resentful.

But there are other reasons that people hold onto the past.

“They may long for positive experiences that are now over or dwell on past events because of an unconscious desire to avoid being hurt in the future.” (2)

Wishing things were different quotes

A “nostalgic” is what you call people who live in the past. And wishing things were different is part of it.

Someone once said, “Living in the past is a good way to torture yourself.” (Author unknown)

Reliving the past and wondering “what if I had done things or said things differently” is useless.

It is like holding an apple out in front of a horse with bulletproof glass in between them. The horse sees the apple and wants the apple but gets no benefit from it.

“Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that things will never go back to the way they used to be.” (Author unknown)

Looking back isn’t new though. The Bible also has a quote about the past.

” … forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

Why wishing things were different isn’t healthy

Excessive thinking about the past causes negative thoughts such as “what if”, “if only” or “why can’t it be like it used to be.”

A constant replay of these thoughts can affect our health by leading to physical or mental disorders:

  • self-induced stress
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • obesity
  • fatigue

Living in the past makes us the loser. It prevents us from being productive and enjoying all the little things in life.

How do I stop wishing for the past?

So if wishing things were different is not good for us, what are we supposed to do? Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that will help us accept the past and move on.

  1. Commit to changing your thoughts
  2. Acknowledge the pain
  3. Accept your present circumstances
  4. Take care of yourself
  5. Surround yourself with encouraging people
  6. Find joy in the little things
  7. Build your relationship with God

(1) Commit to changing your thoughts (instead of wishing things were different)

The power of positive thinking or using positive “mantras” are the modern buzz words. But this mindset was originally God’s idea.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Clinical psychologist Carla Manly suggests instead of ruminating on “I can’t believe this happened to me,” think something positive like “I am fortunate to be able to find a new path in life.” (3)

(2) Acknowledge the pain

If our past was painful, hiding from the emotional trauma is like putting a bandaid on a huge gaping wound. It might cover it temporarily, but not acknowledging it will lead to additional problems later on.

Some people never allow themselves to feel their emotions. In contrast, other people wallow in their feelings and never leave them. Both are unhealthy.

In the process of acknowledging pain, we need a good support system found in God and close friends. Not feeling alone helps us better process emotional pain.

However, if this process seems overwhelming, we can benefit from professional counselors. Faithful Counseling and Better Help officer online counseling services.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the pain. It will eventually come out when you least expect it. Jesus invites us to give our pain to Him. (1 Peter 5:7)

(3) Accept your present circumstances (instead of wishing things were different)

Many Biblical characters had reasons for wishing things were different. Being thrown in jail, being sick, losing all their possessions, and being taken from their home and family are only a few of the circumstances they faced.

The Apostle Paul put it this way,

” I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. ” Philippians 4:11

We can’t accept our circumstances until we learn to be content. It is a mindset that truly is the key to our freedom from the past.

(4) Take care of yourself

Taking care of ourselves might seem obvious.

But the truth is that when we are wishing things were different, we often don’t get enough sleep, eat right, or get enough exercise.

Yet these basic needs are the lifeline to our health.

(5) Surround yourself with encouraging people

Good, solid, Jesus-loving friends can be a huge help in letting go of the past. Often these friends have experienced similar feelings or circumstances so can relate to how we feel.

Furthermore, when we have been wishing things were different, the right friends can also give us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Good friends can help us see life realistically.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow … ” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

(6) Find joy in the little things (instead of wishing things were different)

Finding joy in little things is a mindset that needs to be cultivated long before you have a reason to wish things were different.

Finding joy in little things comes from a lifestyle of gratitude. Being thankful leads to joy, and joy leads to further gratitude. It is a reinforcing circle with great emotional and physical benefits.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

(7) Build your relationship with God

As important as all the previous recommendations are, without the presence of God in our life, they are incomplete. Knowing personally the God of the Bible gives us great power to overcome wishing things were different.

If you don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you are missing out on life’s greatest friendships.

If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers. You can text, call, or chat with them online any time of the day or night.

A further resource is “Christian Faith For Beginners.”

Final thoughts

Wishing things were different is a dead-end road leading to personal misery. This in turn affects all our relationships in a negative way.

Fortunately, God has given us a pathway to a healthier way of living. We don’t have to be wishing things were different.

You might also like to read:


  1. Psychology Today
  2. MedicalNewsToday
  3. Healthline

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