By Jessica Hopkins – PhD, LPC, Margaret Bell – MA, NCC, Kristen Burrus – LMFT

How To Let Go of Regret

“Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.”

~ Swami Sivananda

Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures Swami Sivananda Quote
Jessica Hopkins

“Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today, so celebrate it. Don’t let it haunt you.” – Unknown

Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. Isn’t that the truth?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. We aren’t meant to know the future, or have Back to the Future like powers, and rewind to the past. However, oftentimes it feels like our brain and our hearts live as if we do have these abilities- keeping us stuck, with guilt, shame and regret, ultimately, experiencing the pain of regret, without turning the experience into something productive.

It’s incredibly difficult to do this in the moment, so give yourself some time. 

Process through the pain, that moment when you realize, things could have been different if only, sit with it for a while.

Then, MOVE ON.

Challenge yourself to perceive these uncomfortable feelings, as a step towards evolving yourself into a better, stronger, healthier person.

  1. What have I learned from this?
  • In case this, or something similar happens in the future?
  • How would I respond differently?
  1. What made me respond or react in the way that I did, leaving me with feelings of regret?
  • Identify triggers, emotional cues, or cyclic patterns.
  1. Is this a pattern?
  • Have I found myself in a similar situation, with similar outcomes? What do I need to own, and work through, in order to BREAK THE CYCLE.
  • If you don’t take a cold hard look in the mirror here, you are asking for a repeat. The characters may look different, but the outcome, is all the same.
  1. Leaving your heart open.
  • Recognizing that things may have gone down for a good reason, that may be beyond your comprehension.
  • Providing an opportunity for more beautiful and wonderful things in your life.

Jessica Hopkins, PhD, LPC –

Margaret Bell

Regret is like quicksand. 

It stops you, holds you in place and slowly you start to subsume it and start to sink in the quilt, fear and oftentimes shame. No longer do you have to be held prisoner by your regret!

  1. Befriend your regret.

Your regret is trying to get your attention. It’s trying to tell you something. 

Did you not go after a dream? Hurt someone? Do something that’s not in line with who you are (steal, say something mean, have a one night stand, drink too much, the list can go on and on, with things you wished you had done or not done). 

Oftentimes, regret comes from not being true to ourselves. So, were you not true to yourself?

  1. Learn from your regret.
  • Now that you are friends with your regret, what does regret want you to know? 
  • What can you learn about yourself or life from your regret? 
  • Do you need to make amends? Apologize? Be nicer to yourself? 

Look at your situation and see what you can learn and places you can do damage repair.

  1. Set it free.

You have befriended you regret. You have learned a valuable life lesson from your regret. Now, thank your regret and let it go. 

Regret does you no good if you let it take up residence in your life and your heart. 

It’s here to help you on your journey to being the amazing person you are and sharing your awesomeness with the world.

BONUS- Feeling stuck.

Write about your regret. 

Set a timer for 10 minutes and let the words flow. Don’t censor, just let them flow. See what you are holding on to. Places that need love and attention, people you might need to talk to.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people about your regrets (especially if they were involved) write them a letter (you don’t have to send it to them), write your regret a letter. 

If your regret is a person, what kind of person would it be? What would you say to your regret? What would your regret say to you?

Once you have made peace with your regret, let it go!

Rip the paper up, bury it, burn it in the fireplace. Do what feels right to release it and let it go. Your regret has done its job and it does you no good by hanging around, weighing you down and keeping you from your awesome potential!

Margaret Bell, MA, NCC –

Kristen Burrus

What is regret? It is our mind’s way of dealing with what we consider a loss.

Loss of a dream, relationship or something we felt we should have or could have done differently. The words should and could are one way of saying we feel we have failed ourselves. Looking at regret in that way can help shift the thinking from negative to positive.

The first question to ask yourself is; “Why do I feel regret about this particular thing?”

What was the loss experienced because you made the decision you made instead of the decision you now regret?

For example; you wanted to take a day off work to watch your child’s play. You ended up going to work instead. What was the loss? Of course you didn’t get to see the play, but the real loss is the experience of watching your child perform and to have that memory forever.

What can you do about regret?

Sometimes people get stuck in a cycle where they can only see one small part of the whole picture, which in the case of regret is usually negative. 

Take the play example above. Maybe you didn’t make it to that one play but you were there for all the soccer games, class parties and you are a room parent.

If you focus on just the fact that you missed that one event and discount all the other good things you have done, you are filtering your thoughts in a negative way. 

With a little perspective you can poke holes in any always/never/nothing/all the time situation. 

If you can see the positive in the larger picture instead of focusing on the one thing you regret, usually that can help change the thought pattern.

Kristen Burrus, LMFT –

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