Regret is a common emotion that can be both good and bad. The key to your general wellbeing is learning how to overcome these feelings and draw lessons from them.
The emotion of regret is the concept that you could have acted differently to generate a more desirable result over something in your life.
Guilt, shame, and self-blame can accompany regret. It may entail a lot of hypothetical questions such as, “What if I acted differently? What if I seized that chance? What if I had said anything different? However, unfortunately, none of us can go back in time and make such changes and that can cause us to obsess over our mistakes, repeating the same thoughts and wondering what might have happened.
How regrets can damage mental health
Cortisol levels increase during feelings of regret. Cortisol – also referred to as the stress hormone – supports you when you go into fight-or-flight mode. Problems with mental and physical health are linked to persistently elevated cortisol levels.
Many people dwell on their regrets. Rumination is the inability to quit thinking about the past, especially when you find yourself thinking the same things repeatedly which can cause distress. Although most of us ruminate from time to time, repeated, persistent rumination is linked to certain mental illnesses, such as:
While it’s not realistic to think we can avoid feelings of regret as we live our lives, we can learn how to view regrets in a positive light and see them as opportunities to learn from.
How to manage regrets
It can be helpful to remember that regret is normal. It’s a healthy emotion that most individuals experience occasionally. Sometimes, regret is even a good thing.
The advantages of regret can be as follows:
- Regret can help you make better decisions:
Even while you can’t completely avoid making mistakes, reflecting on your previous choices might help you make wiser, more deliberate selections going forwards.
- Regret can provide motivation –You might sometimes be motivated by regrets to work harder, take healthy risks, and concentrate your efforts on what is important to you to accomplish personal goals.
- You can become more self-aware through regret:
You could learn about your principles, qualities, and flaws through your regrets.
Gratitude can be sparked by regret: You can channel your regret into a greater appreciation of the choices you made that you don’t regret and the good things you have in your life.
How to stop thinking about past regrets
Here are four strategies for interrupting unhelpful thoughts:
Put your attention on enjoying the now rather than dwelling on past or future events. Although it’s not always simple, practising mindfulness can really make a difference in your life. Learn more about mindfulness in our post here.
Direct your attention elsewhere:
When the persistent thoughts come, distract your mind by working on an interesting art project, reading a captivating book or some other preferred hobby.
A 2018 study discovered that individuals’ moods improved and rumination was reduced when they engaged in brief bouts of exercise. Even just a simple walk could be helpful.
Write about it in a journal:
Expressing and processing your ideas on paper might be helpful. You might find it simpler to mentally move on once you’ve “gotten” those thoughts “out” of your head and into your notebook.
However, if feelings of regret continue to interfere with your daily life and routine, it may be time to seek the help of a mental health professional. We have an experienced team of psychologists ready to help – all from the comfort of your own home. To book, click here or call our friendly reception team on 1800 327 477 (AU)/ 0800 327 477 (NZ).