How Regret Poisons Happiness (and the simple antitode that stops it)


“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.” ~Jonathan Larson

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had done things differently in the past? Do you long to go back and repeat some part of it, to do things a different way, choose a different path, change your mind, do over the thing you did or was done to you?

As much as it feels like the thing you regret is the reason you’re stuck at whatever level of happiness or unhappiness you’ve plateaued on, in all likelihood the real culprit, believe it or not, is the wishing itself.

The Numbing Effect of Regret

When you become so burdened with memory that the very moment you’re living in gets swallowed in the dark shadows of regret, when your mind gets stuck on what happened that you miss everything that is happening right now, when you live so much of life in the rear-view mirror that you can’t see what’s coming over the horizon in front of you, happiness is compromised and potential is undermined.

Every moment becomes a reflection of past wrongs and past mistakes, carried over into the current experience of life, effectively snuffing out the now in the flood of yesterday’s regret.

Regret cements you to the past by keeping you focused on the circumstances you regret at the cost of focusing on actually doing something about the present to change the very circumstances you’re stuck mulling over.

The Antidote to Regret

Instead, free yourself of the shackles of memory by filling your thoughts with the right-now-ness of living.

Don’t let a second more of this instant get pushed to the back of the line as the ruminations of yesterday crowd out the possibilities and potentials of today.

Try to concentrate your attention on the current moment as a gift. You have been given something precious: a fork in the road, a fresh canvas, a blank page on which to write the next chapter of your life. Each moment is a sacred opportunity to change course, to take new steps, to choose the rebirth of Now over the dead history of Then.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the events of history happened. There’s no changing that. So now what?

You want to learn from your experiences, to be sure. But don’t allow yourself to dwell there. Learn the life-lessons they are meant to teach, then thank them and dismiss them. Hanging out with the past you regret does nothing to serve you. No amount of regret will change what happened in the past. But it can prevent the potential of this very moment from becoming what it could have been.

So choose well and start basking in the light and the joy of the moment, fully absorbed, fully awake, fully present, fully alive and fully happy.

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