Trust me, you’re not alone if you’re wondering how to let go of regret – and if that’s even a worthwhile goal. Especially after a year of changes and losses, it’s appetizing to look back and think of all the things you could have done differently. Whether your regrets are significant – like choosing to turn down a scholarship in your senior year of high school – or involving daily interactions where you said something mean, figuring out how to learn and let go of regrets, it’s beneficial.
Regret is a negative emotion that is based on counterfactual thinking, says Dr. Roese. Counterfactual thinking basically means looking back and concocting imaginary scenarios to convince ourselves that things could be better. If, for example, you would like to put more effort into your last relationship, regret might make you think that your actions alone could fix everything, or you might come to a wild conclusion that you will never find anyone else. . “Our brains are really good at crafting or building these alternate worlds where we would have done different things,” says Dr Roese. “And a lot of it is really based on our wants or needs. It’s basically a reflection of our willingness to go somewhere.
Even though regrets are a part of life, they can outlive their usefulness. Why? A starting point for change and growth can be wanting to go somewhere but it can also keep us in a cycle of hopelessness and even negativity. So if you’re struggling to let go of regrets, below are four little things you can do.
1. List the lessons you’ve learned, then read them when you need this refresher.
Often times, people who say “I have no regrets” are not in deep denial (although they are). There is a chance that they could have used any experience of regret to learn from their behavior, says Robert Allan, Ph.D., LMFT, trainer in emotion-centered therapy and assistant professor of couples therapy and family at the University of Colorado, Denver. In fact, Dr Roese says regret is an instrumental part of goal setting because it’s a time to think about how you can avoid a similar outcome in the future. Therefore, if you are drowning in what you could or should have said, consider listing what you have learned and how you have changed instead. Or, if all you can see is how life stinks right now as a result of your accident, you can use the present moment to find the lesson. Instead of thinking, Ugh, everything would be different right now, ask yourself what the anger, disappointment, or regret you are feeling right now is teaching you. You can’t change the past, but your feelings might give you solid advice on what you can do differently in the future.
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2. Rethink your “best case scenario”.
The truth is, you don’t know everything would have been better if you had made a different decision. If you regret that you didn’t save more money, for example, avoid thinking that “everything would be fine if I had stuck with a savings plan.” Sure, the savings can be useful right now, but other factors could get you to the same place. Maybe, while it’s not clear yet, there are parts of your life that have worked better because you splurged a bit more. So instead of creating a storyline that emphasizes positive thinking, Dr. Roese suggests that you think about how a different choice might have negatively impacted you as well.
Dr Roese explains, adding that even among the choices you regret, there’s probably some evidence that you did something brilliant along the way. And, if you find it hard to think of just one smart choice in the midst of your regrets, try remembering the first tip: maybe this particular situation arose so that you learned the lesson before the stakes were even higher. more important. If you are reading this, there is still time to change course.
3. Try to forgive yourself.
Regrets indicate that you have personal standards for the way you live your life, but being a human sometimes means not meeting those expectations, says Dr. Roese. When this happens, you probably need to forgive yourself.
There is no magic bullet to make you immediately agree with everything you regret, but by dealing with and forgiving yourself for perceived slights, you can start to let go. It might help you decipher self-compassion so that you can move beyond regret.
4. Try something new to distract yourself.
Our regrets can turn into ruminations when we feel stuck in our current situation, says Dr. Roese. If the pandemic is forcing you to think (and overthink) regrettable situations, Dr Roese suggests trying something new. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. “The cure is to break out of your routine somehow and try new things,” says Dr. Roese. Consider turning your usual walk into an adventure by taking a different route or ordering something online that you wouldn’t normally do. Breaking up the monotony helps distract you from ruminating, but there’s an added benefit: Dr Allan says try new things and finding little ways to surprise yourself can help you “believe in your ability to grow and learn”. And when you think there is more life to live (and mistakes to make), there is the potential to create space between you and regret.