10 STEPS TO OVERCOMING REGRET
You may never outrun your one big regret, so don’t try. It’s the opposite of the “Get Over It” school of regret management, but a better place to start when it comes to managing the pain. “It’s going to be part of you, part of your experience, maybe for the rest of your life,” says Hirning. “So instead of trying to subtract from it, add on. Add on wisdom. Add on the belief that it’s shaped you in some positive way.”
SHARE THE BLAME
Self-compassion is a life’s work, but while you’re learning to be kind to yourself, refuse to take all the blame for what you did or failed to do, suggests Greenberg. Other factors, other people, different circumstances, stress or time pressure got you there. It wasn’t just you.
The best way to get out of the emotional brain where regret plays on loop is to create a logical response, says Heys. “You said one stupid thing at a party and it’s all you remember afterwards. But write down every conversation you had and you’ll see 98 per cent of them are positive. Make a conscious choice to focus on that. Even if just for five minutes.”
LOOK FOR THE POSITIVE
Regret sends addicts to recovery, or leads a couple to reconcile, or estranged friends to forgive each other. Every now and again, regret has a tangible outcome.
TALK TO SOMEONE
Choose the person well since the intensity of your feeling may not be understood. “A therapist can help process the grief and reframe the experience,” Hirning says. “Being alone [with] it for too long can be dangerous,” adds Ferrari.
START AN EVIDENCE FILE
Meaning, an actual physical record of your good choices so that every time your brain goes to town on you, you have a list of stone-cold clapbacks. Also apply the “And then what?” principle. “Acknowledge the truth of what you did, that you made a bad call,” says Hirning. “But ask, ‘And then what? What’s the next step forward?’”
MAKE DOWNWARD SOCIAL COMPARISONS
It seems like a cheat, and it kind of is, but for a temporary spike in positive feeling, actively compare how much better you’re doing than the next girl who made an even dumber choice. One study proved that it works, for a moment at least (and that upwards comparison does the precise opposite).
DOWNLOAD THAT MINDFULNESS APP AGAIN
One of the core practices of mindfulness is steering the brain back and back to the present moment. Since regret keeps you stuck in the past, the same technique can help you learn to move on from way-back-then. Stay physically healthy, too, because a stronger body and mind results in increased levels of resilience.
Your keenest regrets can tell you something about your core values. “Be curious about why this one won’t go away,” suggests Hirning. “What can you learn from it about what’s most important to you?”
AIM FOR NEUTRAL
When you’re mired in remorse, trying to leap straight to “I’m amazing! I have no regrets!” won’t work. This shift is too extreme. “Go from, ‘I make stupid decisions all the time’ to ‘I make decent decisions some of the time’,” says Heys. “Incremental steps strengthen that pathway in your brain. Implant one sustainable new belief and then go further.”