Why Focus on Regret? Regret is a feeling of distress and grief as you bring awareness to something that you wish you did differently. Because regret can be a major loss in your life it’s important to focus on how you reacted to it and consequences of it. Typically, regrets can happen in your personal life, environment, possessions, workplace and relationships.
Personal Life. You can regret that you did not take better care of yourself when you were young, ate a poor diet or got a preventable disease. Regrets can also pertain to broken dreams such as a miscarriage or adoption.
Environment. You can regret accepting a job where you have to deal with traffic congestion or that you purchased a home in a flood area. Perhaps you moved from another country and lost your cultural identity. You can be unhappy that you got married young or moved into a nursing home as you aged.
Possessions. Maybe you regret buying your car, not buying your dream home or buying a home you couldn’t afford. You may have too many possessions and have become a hoarder. Perhaps you feel distress because you didn’t save for retirement.
Workplace. It could be you are disappointed you didn’t get proper job training. Perhaps you regret that you did nothing to stop the school or workplace bully. You may regret that you retired too early.
Relationships. Perhaps you alienated a friend, broke up with someone or divorced. You might be thinking about not being closer to your grandchildren. You may feel regret due to a loved one’s heart attack that you didn’t take better care of a pet. You can regret not being honest with your physician. Distressing events such as hospital errors, domestic violence, car accidents, falls, injuries, homicide and suicide can cause remorse.
Palette of Grief® Reactions Caused by Regrets The Palette of Grief® includes emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physical and spiritual reaction caused by loss. Being that regret is considered a loss, some of the emotional reactions may include anger, shame, guilt, anxiety and blame. Cognitively, you might feel confused, frustrated, and dwell on one negative detail instead of the whole picture. You could be indecisive and have difficulty making plans.
With a pessimistic, negative attitude, all-or-nothing thinking or exaggerated thinking you may speculate about what you should have done differently. With an impaired self-esteem you might believe that you did something wrong. Unwanted memories may possibly make you feel worthless, disgusted and helpless.
Behaviorally, you might compulsively exercise or gamble. You may become intolerant of others, work too much, become a perfectionist and consider yourself a failure.
Physically, you could feel restless, exhausted or fatigued. Regrets could wreak havoc on your body causing you to grind your teeth, have muscle tension or a peptic ulcer. You may refuse to talk, drink too much alcohol and become self-destructive.
Spiritually you possibly may abandon your faith, feel judged and be angry at God. You may feel empty, have lost your life’s purpose, feel apathetic and hopeless.
It’s no secret that it takes 21 straight days to create a habit. So, focus on self-soothing thoughtful activities that will minimize regret for 21 days in a row. If you reframe your thinking, at the end of that timeframe regret can become contentment. Here are 10 ways to let go of regret.
1. Rather than avoiding your feelings, be a flexible thinker and brainstorm choices to cope with them.
2. Be open-minded as you retrieve regret from your brain and reorganize your thoughts about it.
3. Recognize whether you are focusing on actions you did but wish you didn’t or actions you didn’t do but wish you did.
4. As you problem solve, write down assumptions about the regret and focus on whether or not these beliefs are correct.
5. Keep a check on thinking patterns for inaccurate and twisted perceptions of the facts.
6. Pay attention to your perception of how much control you believe you have over what happened.
7. Be tolerant of mistakes you believe you made as you let go of negativity and create positive self-talk.
8. As you take a walk or do something relaxing, think about regret with a positive attitude.
9. Challenge irrational thoughts with reality by creating a list of things you could have done differently based on what you knew at the time or what you know now.
10. Talk about your regret with a friend or family member or utilize professional resources.
Future decisions will be based on past regrets. Living with regret is not useless as it teaches you that the choices you make have consequences. There is a connection between regret and positive growth. Appreciate life, identify your blessings and remain grateful for the ability to let go of regret. The key point is that you can find meaning in what the regret has taught you about your inner strength and resilience.
Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh and within the story Christopher Robin echoes the importance of a positive attitude to Pooh, “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” When you find yourself thinking about regret, focus on what you have learned from it as you are probably stronger than you seem.