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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you deal with the regrets you are having about the past. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.
Do you have regrets about your past choices? Of course you do. Everyone does, though not everyone handles their regrets in a health way.
Some people can easily let their regrets go because they follow an emotional path to process and dismiss them. Others cling to their regrets, allowing them to define their present and future.
But regrets are not anything to fear. They are a normal part of life and growth. Regret is an emotion that helps inform you of actions you should avoid in the future.
However, regret isn’t always light or an easy thing. Sometimes regret can be tied to trauma, making it a much more difficult thing to deal with.
For example, a person with a loved one who completes suicide may dwell on all of the regrets they have about not being able to help the person. They will pick themselves apart, every action, every reaction, what they could have done better. They may spend their time beating themselves up because they may feel that if they had made better decisions, their loved one would still be alive.
That kind of thing is more in the realm of trauma than regret. The regrets are just part of the trauma. So if you’re looking for relief from regrets of that caliber, it’s really out of the realm of self-help and more in the realm of trauma and grief counseling. You’ll want to seek out professional help for that.
However, regret comes in many different flavors. You may not have made good decisions in a past relationship, did the wrong thing when you were called on to do the right thing, or made some bad decisions that still affect your life today.
But while you can’t go back in time and change the past (no matter how much you wish you could), there are ways to create greater peace with your regrets and move forward.
1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
A surefire way to make an emotional problem worse is to ignore it completely. So many people tout that they have no regrets, and maybe they don’t. Or maybe they do have regrets but just haven’t acknowledged and worked on them as they should. And because they haven’t, that regret may manifest into depression or come back to smack them in the face later when it can’t be avoided.
It’s okay to have regrets. It’s okay to feel bad about things you didn’t do or could have done better. What isn’t okay is ruminating on your negative emotions.
There is a common phrase in mental health circles to talk about your feelings and make sure you address your feelings, but it is a loaded statement. No one ever mentions that going around in circles with your emotions or constantly dwelling on them is also bad. This is called rumination, and it should be avoided.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions, but don’t let yourself sit and stew in them. Distraction is a good way to pull your mind off of those negative thought processes and redirect them. Doing things that make you feel good, watching some comedy, meditation, or listening to some upbeat music are all ways to redirect your thoughts.
2. Develop some healthier coping skills for the negative emotions.
Negative emotions need to be handled in a way that will allow you to process and navigate them. Unfortunately, not everyone has the best coping skills for handling those negative emotions when they crop up. So what are some good ways to accept those negative feelings and let them flow?
Journaling is a fantastic way to process your emotions. The best way to journal is whichever way you’ll actually stick with. Some people prefer electronics means, other people prefer a pen and paper. We recommend using a pen and paper. The reason is that physically writing is more mentally engaging than typing. When you write, your brain has to sort things out to present them. Then, it takes time to actually put pen to paper, think about how to properly express yourself, and get it out onto the page. That’s a far different process than backspacing the last three sentences because you didn’t feel you said it right.
Meditation can be a good choice to get through those negative emotions. Just try focusing on your breathing for five minutes. When your mind pulls away from your focus on your breathing, put it right back there where it belongs. It’s difficult, but you should find that it gets easier the more you do it.
3. Counter negative behaviors your regret is fueling.
Regret can cause a person to drastically alter their behavior. You may find that you are taking fewer risks, doing fewer things you want to do, or even punishing yourself for your bad decisions.
For example, a person who has a relationship end badly may not be as inclined to open themselves again as easily. They want to protect themselves, so they aren’t hurt that way again.
Maybe they went to college and didn’t do well. They bombed out of it because they didn’t have good study habits or couldn’t keep themselves on an appropriate schedule with their schoolwork. They are hesitant to try again because they don’t want to have that negative experience again.
You may be able to see the problem with this kind of behavior. Past failures do not mean that your present or future endeavors will end badly. You don’t want to fall into the trap of not living your life for the perceived comfort and safety of inaction. The truth of the matter is that inaction is still an action. It’s forcing a decision on how your life will go without any real input from you.
Instead of fearing your regrets and repeating those bad decisions, embrace them as learning experiences. Now you know what not to do. Now you know more of the red flags to look out for, what areas you may need help with, and you can make a plan to do things differently.
4. Allow yourself time to heal.
The process of healing can be a long one. Sometimes it can take months or years, depending on how severe your regret is and the intensity of your situation. But, again, this can cross over into the realm of trauma when it is so severe.
Whatever the case may be, regret is not something that will disappear overnight. In fact, you may find that you need to regularly address these negative feelings so you can process them and allow yourself to heal.
Don’t be surprised if it takes time. It will.
5. Set some new goals to counter the regret.
Once you feel ready to start moving forward again, set some goals that will help push you against your regret. Maybe it’s time to start dating again, re-enroll in college, or get sober. Whatever your regret may be, there are likely goals and experiences you have stopped looking for because of your regret. Push against them with your new goals.
This is likely to be a painful process. You may find that you trigger negative emotions by being in those new situations. This is normal. Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, afraid, or whatever it is you feel, and then do the thing anyway. Growth and healing are rarely ever comfortable things. In fact, they are often quite uncomfortable because it’s totally new territory.
What is it that you want to accomplish? What is your regret keeping you from reaching out for? Set goals and get after them.
6. Consider therapy.
We touched on this at the beginning of the article, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you find that your regret prevents you from engaging in life in a way that makes sense for you, it would be good to talk about the situation with a qualified mental health therapist. It may be a problem that you need professional help to heal and overcome.
A therapy option we recommend is the one offered by the website BetterHelp.com. You can speak to a trained and experienced professional from anywhere in the world via video, phone, or instant message. You can get help and advice tailored precisely to your requirements and situation.
Click here to learn more or to book your first session.
How do I accept my present?
Accepting the present that you’re currently living is a challenging thing to do. Acceptance can be a complicated word because it implies a positive outcome. People tend to think, “Oh, if I could just accept it, then I would feel okay with it!” And that’s just not true.
Acceptance is embracing your current experience for what it is and loving it as it is. Okay, you made some bad choices, did some things you shouldn’t have done, and now what can you do about it? Anything? Nothing? If you can figure out a way to address the harm that’s been done, take the opportunity to make it into something better. But if you can’t, then all you can do is sit with it in your discomfort until you can pull your thoughts away.
Don’t try to drown it in bad habits. Don’t try to drink it away, eat it away, or engage in risky behaviors to distract yourself from the discomfort. Just let it be because trying to cope with it through those negative means will only make it harder to find peace. And then you also end up sprinkling a whole different problem on top of whatever unhealthy decisions you’ve made. That’s not going to bring you to a good outcome.
Engaging in those negative habits also prevents you from healing. Suppose every time you feel those negative emotions, you decide to drown them in alcohol. In that case, you’re not allowing yourself to actually feel those emotions. The brain typically knows what it needs to do to work through negative emotions; we just interrupt its natural processes. And rightly so, who has time to be sad? There’s housework to do, jobs to work, kids to take care of, and so much more!
Still, you need to make time. The time you devote to addressing your regrets is a significant factor in your ability to heal from them and move forward with your life
As much as you may wish you could go back in time and change the past, you’re better off spending that emotional energy working to overcome the regrets you currently have. After all, we all have regrets, and redoing a part of your life won’t mean you can live completely free from regrets; you’d just have a different set of regrets to process.
You may also like:
- How To Deal With Regret: 7 Essential Tips!
- How To Let Go Of The Past: 16 No Bullsh*t Tips!
- How To Stop Feeling Bad For Past Mistakes And Things You’ve Done Wrong
- 5 Things From Your Past That Will Poison Your Future (If You Let Them)
- 16 Quotes To Help You Let Go Of The Past
- How To Learn From Your Mistakes: 8 Very Practical Tips!
- “I’ve Ruined My Life, Now What?” (7 Pieces Of Advice)