Regret is a fickle thing. We all harbor some. Even those who live with no regrets still have small moments or words they wish they could take back. But we can also learn how to overcome and deal with regret healthily.
No matter how much you know the truth, regret follows you. Yes, the life choices you made *whether good or bad* brought you all of the good things you have today. But we always wonder if we would be stronger, happier, or better off if we did something different.
It is human nature to wonder. But, when you let that regret eat away at you instead of living in reality and looking ahead, that is when regret is a real problem. So, how do you overcome regret?
Regret is a powerful feeling rooted in emotions such as sadness, guilt, or disappointment in past actions. When someone is feeling regret, they are grieving about the past, wishing that they had made a different decision.
Oftentimes, we feel regret when we feel like we have made a mistake. We are regretful of doing something we felt was wrong, or not doing anything at all. If only we had made the “right” decision in the past, we might experience a better outcome. [Read: 55 secrets & self-love habits to build confidence & realize your worth]
What makes the feeling of regret more intense than just feeling “bad” or “sorry” is that regret involves self-blame and guilt. The weight of the consequences is carried on your shoulders because you think that you could have done something to prevent them. You feel as if it’s your fault.
It brings feelings of shame, embarrassment, and self-condemnation because of a past decision. These feelings only intensify when regret isn’t faced but repressed. [Read: How to forgive yourself & free yourself of the weight of guilt]
Repetitive thought patterns and negative self-talk that comes from regret can lead to mental conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression as well as affect our physical conditions. The only way to prevent regret from taking over your life like this is to learn how to deal with and overcome regret before it spirals out of control.
Did you do the right thing? Would things be different if you made another decision? Was this the best choice for you? These are all thoughts that come from decision-making—thoughts that lead to regret.
The feeling of regret often comes from having control over the decisions we make, and if and how they affect those around us. Below are common types of choices we make that lead to regret.
Not only does this lead to arguments, sadness, and general feelings of misery, but it also breaks trust. Trust is one of the hardest things to earn back after you’ve lost it, which is why it can lead to feeling so much regret.
But it is possible to rebuild trust, remember that when you’re dealing with regret. [Read: 42 reasons, types, signs & steps to stop lying to yourself & everyone else]
This can lead to arguments, yes, but in the heat of the moment, you might also end up saying things you can never take back.
Not only does that open the door to abusive behavior, but it can also lead to simmering feelings of resentment that can bubble over and end your relationship with loved ones.
When you cheat, you are violating your commitment to your partner and saying they aren’t good enough and aren’t able to give you what you need from a relationship. It’s a nonverbal attack on your partner, and it’s a hurtful one to recover from, even if you get a second chance. [Read: How to forgive yourself for cheating & not telling]
This could mean physical, emotional, or mental abuse. While not everyone is guilty of physical abuse, many people don’t realize that mental and emotional abuse are also easy to commit.
Neglecting your partner’s emotional wants and needs is a form of emotional abuse. Berating a loved one and always bringing up their shortcomings is an example of mental abuse.
These things may not seem that big a deal at first, but just imagine what it would be like to feel neglected and criticized daily. [Read: Emotional abuse – what it is & 39 signs this relationship is breaking you]
It’s unfortunate how common this is. When someone puts their heart and soul into their relationship, oftentimes, the other person may feel like they can take the backseat and fall asleep.
It’s not auto-pilot, it’s not a road trip, this is a relationship. If one person does everything, but the other barely does anything or barely acknowledges the effort their partner is putting in, resentment will build up over time.
Everyone goes through a period in their life when they feel lost. Problems at work, arguments at home, and lacking a sense of direction are examples of situations where one can feel almost helpless. It’s during these times that your relationships with those you care about are strained.
Many people make the mistake of attributing their unhappiness to their relationships, and they end up pushing the people they care about away. And later on, when they realize they were actually happy and stable, they regret their actions.
Every time you find yourself in this predicament, take the time to see what external factors are bringing you down. [Read: Why do I push people away? 37 signs, reasons & ways to stop pushing]
Why are you wearing that? Why do you always make that face? Why did you clean up and make the bed 3 inches too close to that wall? Why are the papers not in an exact, neat pile?
After a while, the person hearing this daily, constantly, or at least multiple times a day can start to get resentful. You know what motivates people? Telling them how good they are at something.
This could mean that when you interact with someone, you focus too much on your own expectations of what they should and shouldn’t be doing. And when they fail to measure up to your perception of who and what they are, you feel let down.
Everyone is different, and a certain level of acceptance is required in a relationship. If someone really does bother you with who they are as a person and what they do, then they’re not the right person for you to have in your life. [Read: How to be less critical – 15 reasons why you judge & how to stop it]
Workaholics, those with time-consuming hobbies, and people who would simply rather do other things instead of work on their relationships are examples of people who end up neglecting the people they care about, and in turn, end up regretting it.
A relationship isn’t a part-time job. Whether it’s a relationship with your partner, your friends, or your family, it requires time, sacrifice, and effort. It doesn’t mean you should make your relationship your entire life, it simply means you need to balance all the other aspects of your life.
Unless someone pushes your boundaries or does something potentially dangerous or damaging, you should be supportive.
If your loved one has an issue at work, decides to go back to school, or decides on a spectacular career change, be supportive. There will be times when you will be hesitant, probably due to caution, worry, and some good intentions, but properly voicing that is the key.
It takes trust to be supportive of each other. Trust their ability to make good decisions. If you don’t and they succeed in their endeavor, you’ll regret not cheering them on.
When you feel regretful, your body is trying to cope with the negative feelings that are accompanied by regret. If you are experiencing an overbearing amount of negative feelings and regret, you will experience physical and emotional symptoms.
Disturbances in your sleep and eating habits, head and body aches, muscle tension, and even hair loss are all physical symptoms of unmanaged regret. If you are struggling with the emotional turmoil of regret, you may also have problems upkeeping your personal hygiene and maintaining enough energy throughout the day.
Regret also impacts your emotional health and behaviors. You might experience self-deprecating thoughts, stress and anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem. These symptoms will greatly affect the decisions you make and encourage self-sabotaging behaviors. [Read: How to take care of yourself emotionally and avoid falling apart]
See why it’s so important to learn how to deal with and overcome regret and let go of the emotional burden?
There is no time limit on regret. The feelings and symptoms associated with regret are subjective to you, and they will last as long as you don’t know how to overcome regret.
Many factors impact your regret, including who you are, what you regret, and why you regret it. Despite all of this, the only way to overcome regret is to work through it first. Embracing your regret and creating new experiences will shorten its lifespan.
Regret comes with so many negative thoughts, but these thoughts and negative self-talk are counter-productive to the healing process. When facing regret, you need to work through the negative thoughts rather than let them control you. [Read: How to be successful in life]
Being regretful is a way of grieving. Everyone’s grieving process is unique to them, but these eighteen steps can improve your ability to deal with and overcome regret.
Regrets of all sizes come with the idea that we will never do the things we regret again. We see the negative outcome and make a promise that it will never happen again, but if this is a pattern, it likely will happen again.
Can you see how this doesn’t help? Instead of promising to never do something again, think of useful and practical ways to achieve what you hope and avoid those regrets in the future.
Instead of just saying, “Wow I’ll never charge up a credit card again”, take the time to work on a budget and stick to it. Hold yourself accountable by actively bettering yourself instead of trying to avoid the same behavior.
Regret is all about the past. We wonder what would have been and we think back at what we could have done differently. But, releasing all that energy on thoughts that make no true difference won’t help you deal with the regret you’re facing now.
Look to the future. What can this regret lead you to? Can it teach you something? Will your past choices alter your future ones? How? Maybe don’t think of this as you learning how to overcome regret but really as you learning how to carve out a better, more exciting future for yourself.
[Read: Honest secrets to let go of the past, be happy, and look to the future]
Feeling regret about something can occupy your mind into an obsession. Focusing on what you can’t change is beating your mind into a negative space with no way out.
Sitting with your mistakes and allowing them to control you is a messy game. This gives your regrets power over you. Whatever it is that you regret was done in the past. Dwelling on it will not change the outcome, but dealing with your regret will.
The easiest way to overcome regret and not obsess over your mistakes is to occupy your mind with better thoughts.
Instead of sulking in your room about your regrets, dress yourself up and head outside to your favorite store or restaurant. Do hobbies that you enjoy, and surround yourself with things that make you feel good. Whatever you do, stay active.
Don’t feel guilty for distracting your mind with better things. We are all human and make mistakes, but this doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to have a good life. [Read: 34 steps to stop being sad & break out of the comfortable misery of sadness]
Regrets are often caused by patterns or bad habits. Maybe you regret something you did when you were drinking but continue to only do those things when you’re drinking.
Break that pattern by paying attention to your behavior and what leads to regret. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must quit drinking, but give yourself a drink limit.
Have a friend remind you to take it easy, pace yourself, and drink water. If you know you’re emotional or at risk of doing something you’ll regret, think about how this is your chance to change.
Before you can deal with regret in a healthy way, you need to be able to look your regret in the face and own up to it. Whether it was something you could have prevented or not, it is done and it can’t be undone.
These are things we tell ourselves were purposeful. Someone might say, “Yeah, I missed all my kid’s baseball games but I worked hard so they could go to college without debt.” Even so, it doesn’t mean they don’t regret spending so much time at the office.
Admitting to those regrets and facing them is what pushes you forward to make better decisions. Acknowledging your regrets makes you a better person. [Read: How to be yourself – 26 steps to un-fake your life]
Once you have admitted your regret, then it is important that you acknowledge your feelings. Look inwards and really examine how you feel. To break the habit of doing something regretful, you first have to understand how your behavior affects you.
Sulk in your emotions for a moment. Feel sad, angry, and upset. Once you acknowledge these feelings, then you can move on. Don’t dwell on these emotions, but use them to better yourself.
A part of acknowledging your feelings is acknowledging how you cope with regret.
Do you turn to substance abuse? Do you lash out in harmful ways or do you self-isolate? Take notice of how you cope with regret so you can find mechanisms that work for you instead of self-sabotaging.
If you find that your self-destructive coping mechanisms are difficult to break, reach out to a friend or a trusted loved one for guidance. [Read: How to stop self-destructive behavior & change your life for good]
You’re not perfect. As people, we are always learning and growing. We have weaknesses, and we fail and try our best and sometimes we fall short.
Don’t expect to never have another regret by working through your current regrets. Realize that as you keep moving forward, other things happen and they could lead to regret too, but you’ll deal with them as they come.
Self-compassion is about practicing kindness, empathy, and understanding of ourselves when we make mistakes. The only way to make progress in overcoming regret is to be patient and understanding with yourself.
Instead of being unforgiving and judgmental of your bad behaviors, offer yourself support and encouragement when you have good behaviors. Highlight the great aspects about yourself instead of critiquing your less-than-favorable ones.
Our mental state is connected to our physical state. With that being said, if you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, your emotional well-being is sure to worsen.
We aren’t saying you need to have a workout schedule to overcome and deal with regret, although working out does help improve your mental state. [Read: 26 secrets to get motivated to workout & exercise your way to a better life]
What we really mean is you need to supply yourself with enough energy by eating healthy food and drinking enough water. You need to take initiative to keep yourself clean and the space around you free of clutter. If you neglect your physical state, your mental state doesn’t have support or encouragement.
Regret is so powerful because we feel like we’ve lost control. Something happened, we wish something else had happened, and we can’t turn back time. We have no control over the past.
But, you can deal with regret by controlling what you can. Maybe you can’t change the past, but you can make things better. You can apologize to someone and work on being more mindful of others. You can take care of yourself more carefully. [Read: 28 heartfelt ways to say you’re sorry & apologize to someone you love]
This is the hardest part of learning how to deal with regret but is the most vital if you want to live in the moment and accept reality.
Regret prevents you from moving forward by pulling you into the past. Letting go of what has happened is how you move forward and focus on the present. [Read: How to stop ruminating – 18 ways to leave your past and be present]
After you have let go of what is out of your hands, start fresh by making new goals for yourself. These goals don’t have to be related to your regret, just goals in general.
Setting objectives and goals for yourself keeps you active and busy. It also fulfills your life in new meaningful ways that can greatly improve your mental health. Creating and following through with new goals is a healthy way to overcome regret.
Your brain is trained to regret. As kids, we are put in time out to think about what we did. We are grounded, punished, etc. These things all push us to think about our past mistakes and feel bad about them.
Instead, we need to retrain our brains to learn from those mistakes rather than dwell on them and punish ourselves. So, instead of wallowing in the things you wish you didn’t do, take it as a lesson to never do these regrettable actions in the future.
Finding a support group is a healthy coping mechanism when it comes to dealing with regret. Humans are social beings; it fulfills our emotional needs when we are able to connect to each other.
Meeting other people who can relate to you makes you feel seen and valued. It also gives you a safe and judgment-free space to express your feelings and find strategies to overcome them.
You can find support groups through the internet as well as through therapy. If you are thinking about seeing or already seeing a therapist, they will be able to refer you to a support group that can help.
If you feel like you’re unable to make progress when trying to overcome regret, consider seeking out therapy. A mental health counselor can supply you with solutions to deal with your fixation on your past.
Behavioral therapy *such as cognitive-behavioral therapy* is a type of counseling that helps people identify and change disturbing thinking and response patterns. It focuses on changing negative thoughts that otherwise feel like an automatic response.
Along with behavioral therapy, a counselor can help you identify and practice self-healing. If you have difficulties goal setting or practicing self-compassion outside of therapy, a counselor can help you through self-monitoring techniques.
All of these tips will help you overcome regret, but they can’t be done efficiently unless you allow yourself to heal from the past. [Read: 28 self-improvement secrets to improve yourself & transform into your best self]
This means you need to look in the mirror and say, “I deserve and am allowed to heal.” If you are harboring any resentment toward yourself for what you’ve done in the past, you’re essentially lying to yourself and you won’t be able to overcome anything. You have to truly, deeply allow yourself to heal.
As time goes on, our feelings of regret will change. This is because we are always growing and changing as people.
With new life experiences come new thoughts, ideas, and relationships. All of these things alter your perception of yourself and your past decisions.
Looking back on a previous or even a current relationship, there are a few moments that make you cringe, perhaps something you learned the hard way not to do anymore, or even something that you did in a moment of weakness. Whatever it is, big or small, it hopefully led to a lesson learned.
Yes, regret can leave you wishing for ways to erase your past forever. But it can also teach you important lessons you need for your future. [Read: What is my purpose in life – 33 secrets to find meaning when you feel lost]
It can offer a lot of valuable information, depending on how you view yourself and the situation you’re in. Here are a few lessons that regret can teach you:
Regret has the opportunity to offer a very accurate and deep understanding of one’s self. Desperation to change the past can open your soul and help you understand what led you to that moment and what your emotional needs are. [Read: Sense of self – what it is, 36 signs, tips & steps to raise it and feel great]
Regret allows you to reflect on your past decisions and missteps. You’ll find out very easily what habits and behaviors are unhealthy for your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
When you view regret in this light, it is a valuable feeling. It improves your decision-making skills and helps you avoid poor choices you once made.
Regret teaches us that it is important to address what happens in our lives actively. You should make your own decisions and be assertive in expressing what you need and want.
You know what it feels like to be regretful, so you will want to do what you can to avoid looking back to the past. This means you will value your relationships and other aspects of your life more greatly. Regret encourages you to take advantage of the good opportunities you have on your plate because you know how it feels to lose them.
Regret teaches us very clearly that people make mistakes. Regardless of the expectations and standards we create for ourselves, we are only human and it is impossible to “get it right” every single time.
By making mistakes, we learn lessons. And by learning lessons, we grow as individuals. The biggest lesson to be learned from regret is how to finally forgive yourself for the choices you’ve made. [Read: How to stop ruminating – 18 ways to leave your past and be present]
To fully move on from a regretful situation, and let go of the regret you’re harboring, you have to allow yourself to be excused for what you have done. It may be the most difficult part of dealing with regret, but it is one of the most important.
Regret is all about what you take from the emotion.
It can be a purely negative experience where you plummet to very low lows, but it can also be an uplifting experience that teaches you about yourself, forces you to grow as an individual, take responsibility and action for what happens in your life, and learn to let things go.
Most people feel regret at some point in their lives, but if you can get through the initial intensity of the emotion and embrace the value in what regret forces you to see, it can be an enlightening experience.
Don’t hate your past just because you have regrets. Embrace it and overcome it. And if you choose to, you can use regret to learn lessons that can change your future for the better. [Read: 45 truths & real questions to get to know yourself on a much deeper level]
Regret can be mind-consuming. It will fill your head and occupy your thoughts more on some days than others. It often leaves us with tunnel vision, hyper-focusing on our wrongdoings and failures. Because of this, we miss out on opportunities to grow and heal.
A way to combat the pollution of regret in your thoughts is to practice mindfulness. So, practice opening your mind to the things outside of self-blame.
Don’t repress the feelings of regret, but instead, become curious about them and try to approach them from another point of view. If your friend was feeling this way, what would you tell them? Try changing your perspective on your regret instead of minimizing your needs.
[Read: 25 honest, self-reflection questions to recognize the real YOU inside]
Regret feels like an unshakable emotion. But the truth is, you can shake it. Learning how to deal with and overcome regret and face reality in the present takes time and adjustment, but it can be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.
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