Raise your hand if you’ve never regretted anything you’ve ever said or done. If you raised your hand, you are a very unusual person!
Regret is a universal feeling that the vast majority of people struggle with on occasion. For most of us, there definitely are things we would do differently… if given the chance.
It is perfectly normal and natural to feel regret now and again, but experiencing an endless cycle of regret is NOT okay. In fact, research has shown that people who carry a lot of regret around with them throughout life often face added health issues, become depressed more easily, have trouble sleeping, and even find it difficult to concentrate at times.
Thankfully, advancing age can sometimes bring a perspective that helps thwart the heavy influence regret can have over us. As we get older, we are often able to see ourselves, our expectations, and the goals we set for ourselves in a more realistic light. We get better at accepting our own limitations, imperfections, and things we can't change. We come to truly understand that we are ONLY human and NOT super beings with the power to redo the past or “scale tall buildings in a single bound.”
While it is impossible to change things that have already taken place, one of the really wonderful things about human beings is that we have the ability to learn from our mistakes…. and we can decide not to repeat them. Best of all, we have the power to let go of negative feelings and move on from them so we can enjoy our imperfect, happy lives.
Seek help if regret overwhelms you. You do not have to carry the burden and pain of living with constant regret. Help is available. Speak with your doctor.
Learn from mistakes. If you learn from something, even something you regret, it then becomes a productive experience. Many important life lessons are learned thanks to a mistake. Look for lessons in your missteps and appreciate the wisdom you gain from them.
Say “I’m sorry” when it’s warranted. If your regret is over something you should apologize for, do it. Say the words and your regret will feel a whole lot less heavy on your shoulders.
Be realistic. Remember that you are but one tiny speck of paint on the canvas of humanity. Almost any mistake you could possibly have made is probably miniscule in relationship to the bigger picture.
Stop being harder on yourself than you are on other people. Do not beat yourself up for things you would excuse or accept in someone else. Your friends and loved ones have certainly made mistakes that you do not hold on to… so let your mistakes go as well.
Take a step. Ask yourself if a regret is actually a message telling you that there is something you need to do, say, or change to help you move forward in life. Perhaps your regret is actually more of a push than it is a pull. Don't let age hold you back from taking a step.
End the continuous cycle of regret. Reprogram yourself to feel, acknowledge, and accept feelings of regret and then be conscious and determined about moving on. Tell yourself that whatever is bothering you is in the past. Unless there is something you can do about the situation, do not hold on to it. Do not carry it into the future with you.