Understanding Regret and How We Can Let it Go

by Jimmy Warden

If you’re someone who has lived a life with zero regrets, I must say I envy you a bit. There’s minimal “baggage” you’re carrying around in your brain and you’re able to keep your focus in the present, working towards a future goal. You’re not worried about things that you should’ve said or done and things you should’ve said or done differently because you’re living your ideal life. There’s no need to re-examine previous actions and behaviors because you don’t regret what you’ve done or haven’t done.

Most people out there have something (or many things) that they regret. Whether it’s something that they wish they said or did differently or something that they just wish they said or did. This can weigh heavily on an individual’s mind and cause a lot of unnecessary stress, negative emotion, and in some cases depression. It is important that we develop an awareness of our regret in order to lessen the burden that it plays in our day-to-day lives.

The more regret we have, the more our minds are fixated in the past. The interesting thing about it is, the past doesn’t actually exist. It is not tangible, it cannot be tampered with because it has already taken place, and it’s fixed. We cannot change what has already happened, but we can change what is happening now, and what can potentially happen. This means that we can learn from our regrets in order to manifest a better present and a better future. This can also help us manifest more positive emotion because we’ll have a clearer idea of what we want to do and where we want to go in life and it’ll help us steer clear of re-experiencing negative emotion because we will remember what not to do when faced with a similar situation.

In order to begin letting go of some of the negative emotion that comes with having regret, it is important to articulate, in writing or speech, what exactly it is that you regret. Whether it is something you did that was foolish or an opportunity that you did not take advantage of it is important to write it down, that way we know where the negative emotion is coming from. Once you articulate your regret (or list of regrets) spend some time reflecting on why you regret it. No need to spend an eternity with this self-examination, but be thoughtful within the time frame that you are giving yourself for this exercise. Really think about the “why” behind the regret.

Once you start to do this, you can begin to let go of the emotional baggage that comes with regret. It will feel as if a weight is being lifted from you because you’ll be leaving these negative feelings in the past, where they belong. They will come up now and again by nature, but with a heightened awareness, we will be able to recognize these regrets merely as thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the space where we’d like to be if we do not want regret to rule our lives. It is also important to accept the fact you have regrets, but doing so in a way that we are not constantly putting ourselves through mental turmoil. If we cannot accept the fact we have regrets and not accept that we cannot change the past, we will constantly be engulfed in that mental turmoil, rather than living in a manner that frees us from it.

It’s okay to have regrets, but we cannot let those hold us back from living our best life. Far too often we think of the “should’ve, could’ve” scenarios to the point where we cannot sleep at it. Saying or thinking we should’ve taken a chance or should’ve done something differently can literally drive a person mad. However, if we can accept the fact that we are not alone in this fight and that we can start to figure out why we have regrets, we can begin to start the emotional healing process, so that we can let those regrets go, leave them in the past where they belong, and live a life where we have learned from our regrets in order to manifest a beautiful present and future.

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