Living Without Regrets

Regret is something everyone experiences from time to time.

Regret can significantly impede our happiness because it often causes us to feel shame, sadness, or remorse about our past decisions.

And while regret can have some benefits to your personal growth and development, ruminating too long on the past can have negative impacts on your emotional and physical health.

Luckily there’s some steps we can take, from altering our mindset to changing our lifestyle, that can help us cope with regret and ultimately leave it behind.

Living Without Regrets

Why Does Regret Hurt So Much?

The reason why regret feels so painful is because it implies that there’s something we could have done, or some choice or action we could have made, that would have made something good happen or avoided something bad.

Is Regret the Most Painful Feeling?

Regret can actually be one of the most painful emotions in the world. Even though such feelings are rooted in the past, they can have a profound influence on your current life today.

Specific feelings can include disappointment, guilt, or remorse for bad things that have happened.

Understand the Psychology of Regret

Regret is a powerful emotion, and learning to deal with it means understanding the psychology behind it. Generally, regret conjures up negative feelings of guilt, sadness, or anger over past decisions.

We all experience regret at some point in life, but it becomes a problem when worrying over past mistakes results in disengagement with our life, career, and personal relationships.

Regret can be most intense when you feel you’ve come close to a major success and missed the opportunity because of poor planning or inaction.

In addition, people frequently engage in cognitive exercises trying to understand why they made a poor decision or acted as they did, and what other choices they could have made to achieve a better outcome.

Regret Can Have Negative Emotional and Physical Effects

Regret can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and the chronic stress associated with it can even lead to hormonal imbalances and a weakened immune system.

Sometimes regret can contribute to depression, but depression can also cause feelings of regret that were not previously there.

Regret is often accompanied by other negative emotions such as guilt, disappointment, self-blame, and frustration.

Imaging studies have revealed that feelings of regret show increased activity in an area of the brain called the medial orbitofrontal cortex. Likewise, guilt is associated with activity in the prefrontal cortex, known as the logical-thinking part of the brain.

Guilt can also trigger activity in the limbic system, and that’s why it can feel so anxiety-provoking.

How Do I Stop Obsessing Over Regrets?

Let yourself feel it. Because regret can be so painful, it’s tempting to try to bury the feeling.

Draw something positive from the experience. In many cases, regret can be valuable. Be self-compassionate. Try to avoid thinking about what-if scenarios.

How Do You Deal with Feelings of Regret?

  • Learn to forgive yourself.
  • Let yourself feel regret, without avoiding it.
  • Acknowledge your feelings.
  • If your behaviour caused harm, try to make amends.
  • Reframe your experience of regret.
  • Question your thoughts.
  • Clarify what your values are.
  • Write about your regrets.

How to Let go of Regret

  • Seek mental health counseling.
  • Readjust your life’s goals.
  • Work on enhancing your self-esteem.
  • Try meditation.
  • Understand your triggers, distract yourself.
  • Give yourself time to heal from a past regret.
  • Plan to take action.

Final Thoughts

Regret is not only unpleasant, it can also be quite unhealthy.

It can increase our stress, negatively affect physical health, and throw off the balance of hormone and immune systems.

Try understanding that everything happens for a reason, and trust in that maybe the Universe has a bigger plan for you. 

What may have seemed at the time to be a negative event or decision could end up leading to something infinitely more positive.

I wish you the best, thanks for reading.

*Mac Miller, pictured, was an American rapper and record producer. He was known for his larger than life personality, and living life unapologetically on his own terms. He struggled with addiction, and died from an accidental drug overdose at the age of 26.

Sources and other reading:

Living without Regret

Dealing With Addictions

Why Future Worry is Pointless

Dealing With Stress

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