“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” – Sydney Smith
Many people may have a few things they regret in life, whether they are opportunities they didn’t take or mistakes that have been made. But in order to live a happy and healthy life, it is important to put the past behind you and live your life without regret.
While this may be difficult to do, we have put together some helpful strategies that you can follow to leave the past in the past and live your life to the fullest, with no regrets.
Why is it bad to have regrets?
No one can change the past. Having regrets can cause psychological and even physical issues for your health. According to this study, “regression analyses indicated that experiencing regret more frequently was associated with poorer health and life satisfaction.” It can lead to depression, anxiety, elevated stress and can even make you ill.
What are the biggest regrets people have in life?
The NY Times reported that missed romantic opportunities were the most common regret for women, while men most often had regrets concerning education, their career, or money. But what was worse, regretting doing something that didn’t turn out as well as hoped, or missing an opportunity entirely? It seems that not taking chances in life caused bigger emotional voids in the long-term.
The other big regrets people have in life is around relationships. Holding a grudge against a family member or friend is high up on the list. Don’t let pride get in the way of maintaining important relationships.
No pattern emerged on the reasons for regret. Just as many respondents expressed regret for something they had done as those who felt regret for something they had not done. However, people whose regrets involved something they didn’t do or a missed opportunity were more likely to hold on to the regret over time.
“The longer-ago regrets tend to focus on lost opportunities, things you could have done or should have done different,” said Dr. Roese. “More recent regrets tend to focus on things you did do that you wish you could take back.”
Looking at regrets from a different angle, Bronnie Ware worked closely with people to ease their suffering during the last days of their life, and learned a lot of lessons about how to live with no regrets. Her patients were at the end of the line and shared their deepest regrets with her.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Amongst them was the concept of spending too much time working and not enough with family and friends. Work should be a means to an end, and although it is important to be passionate about the work you do, it is also important to not let it get in the way of living your life. Relationships with those around you are important, and fragile. Don’t take them for granted.
“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets” ~ Oscar Wilde.
Strategies to Live Life Without Regrets
The no regrets mindset.
In order to reprogram your mind to not having regrets, you must first develop the right mindset. Every experience, good or bad, should be looked at as a learning experience. That is the stuff that builds character and makes us better people.
Unfortunately most of us aren’t as good at letting go of the past as we’d like. And holding onto the past can cause a lifetime of pain. So what can you do about it? Change your mindset. Practice gratitude. Appreciate that you can’t change the past and learn from it.
People that have regrets are frequently living their lives in the past. They think about things that went wrong. They think about what they should have done differently. They let it fester and grow in their heads which could lead to depression. As previously mentioned, you can never go back and change the past. The most important thing you can do is learn from your past and develop a habit to live in the moment. This is where meditation comes in to be a powerful tool to help you move past your past.
Learn to say “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes the way to heal the past is as simple as saying two words, “I’m sorry.” And yet, due to ego and pride, many people don’t do it. If this sounds like you, this is an important habit that you need to change today. It is never too late to apologize and make amends for something that you did wrong to someone. Forgiveness will help heal relationships and allow you to easily repair damage made to a relationship or even to those you don’t have a relationship with.
Think before you act.
Part of making sure that you live your life with no regrets is making sure that you make choices that allow for that to happen. If you are someone that tends to “react first, think after,” it is important to acknowledge that and change your behavior. Although it may be fun to be spontaneous, all actions have consequences. If you take a moment to think through a reaction, action or decision before doing it you will be saved from a lot of heartache down the line.
Can you live a life regret-free life?
Researchers in Germany analyzed the effect regret had on emotional health, and the findings were powerful.
“Regret is a powerful mental energy which can be your best friend or worst enemy. You can harness it to improve your future by learning from it, but if you let it grow inside you, it is destructive to both healthy aging and emotional resilience,” said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor and head of the division of biological psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine. He was not involved in the research.
The answer is, yes. With work, practice and a change of mindset, anyone can leave the past behind them.