Recently, my husband and I had a discussion about our home and the choice we made to purchase over rent. After a quick analysis, it became clear that the decision to buy seven years ago, may not have saved us any more money than if we had rented. And if we want to sell, we might have to take a loss. This frustrated me and I found myself starting to regret our decision. As our conversation continued, I realized I had to let go of the negativity of the past, and possible mistakes, so that I could make room for the future. My happiness depended on it.
To live without regret means focusing on the present and not dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. In other words, you live life in the moment. This translates into experiencing more positive thoughts and feelings since most of our negative thoughts are rooted in past disappointments or regrets, and the worry we feel about the future. If you find that you are regretful…and regretful often, try practicing some of the following:
- Let Go: Let go of what happened in the past that is now out of your control. There will always be circumstances and people that you can’t change, and that is okay. Worrying and obsessing over them, however, will only cause you more stress and negativity.
- Look Forward: Instead of focusing on what you can’t change from the past, think about how you can make things better for the future. Whenever you feel yourself starting to regret, try to re-frame your thoughts to those that are more productive, such as asking yourself: “What have I learned from this for the future?” “How can I change myself or my actions so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes?”
- Focus on the Positive: There may be things that we have experienced that we wish we could change, but focus on the things that have gone well. Be grateful towards yourself and to others. A negative attitude can make you feel more negatively. A positive attitude, however, makes you feel better and draws positive energy your way.
- Stop Thinking: Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School tells us, “ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall.” Part of our inability to live consciously is that we let our thoughts overtake our minds, precluding us from living in the moment and experiencing life. Instead, allow yourself to “just be.” Focus less on your thoughts and more on what’s going on around you at the moment. Actively take part in the present, while shutting out negativity of the past or future.
- Breathe: When you feel the urge to be impulsive or have a knee-jerk reaction to something, stop and take a few deep cleansing breaths. Deep breathing provides a lot of wonderful benefits. When it comes to letting go of regret, however, deep breathing helps you hit the “restart” button. Instead of reacting emotionally, you’re able to gain self-control, and have more rational and appropriate responses to situations and circumstances.
Do you have any regrets? Have you tried overcoming your regret? If so, how?
Adapted from 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You. Make real, lasting change with this easy to follow, week-by-week guide to healthy change. Get it now at Amazon.com.