How to deal with regret?-3 Simple steps

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Regret, a common human experience, frequently sprouts from the soil of our past decisions. While this post focuses on parenting regrets, the ideas and methods are useful to anybody seeking to get through the regret. Whether you’re a parent contemplating your parenting decisions or simply a person troubled by life’s “what-ifs,” this discussion of “how to deal with regret” provides helpful ideas for everyone. We will look at the psychological basis of regret as well as common areas of concern and present tangible methods for everyone, regardless of life stage, to turn regret into an opportunity for growth and self-compassion.

The Psychology of Regrets: Unravelling the Whys and Hows


Why Are We Regretting?

  • Exploring the Human Tendency to Reflect on Choices: 
  • We have an exceptional ability to reflect on our actions and decisions. This introspective tendency is a double-edged sword: it allows us to learn from our mistakes while also making us susceptible to second-guessing. In parenting, we frequently find ourselves wondering about the “what-ifs” of our decisions.
  • The Role of Imagination in Envisioning Alternative Outcomes: 
  • By vividly showcasing scenarios where potential pathways were not pursued, our imagination fuels sorrow in us. It’s as if we had a mental movie reel playing out different lives that we could have lived, creating a sense of longing for what might have been or not.

Related post: Make peace with your past.

Why Is It Painful?

Regret can be emotionally draining, resulting in distress, guilt, and self-doubt. Constantly replaying past decisions can cause anxiety and even despair, negatively impacting general well-being. Regret has a cascading impact that affects parents’ connections with their children. This can make it difficult to communicate with the child, bond with him or her, and provide emotional support to the child.

Related posts: How to control your emotions

What does Regret Do to You?

Impact on  Well-Being, Self-Esteem, and Mental Health: 

The weight of regret can have a negative impact on parental mental health and self-esteem. Inadequacy feelings can outweigh the joys of parenthood, producing an undesirable cycle.

The Impact of the Ripple Effect on Children’s Emotional Development: 

Children are observant, and they frequently sense their parents’ emotions and internal problems. Parental regret can unintentionally influence a child’s sense of self-worth and security, potentially influencing their emotional development.

The Common Regrets We Share

Regrets are a natural aspect of a person’s life, serving as lessons from our previous choices and decisions. Certain regrets emerge with remarkably shared characteristics that connect us together. These regrets frequently focus on missed opportunities, neglected relationships, career choices, and unfulfilled personal aspirations. They produce an array of “what-ifs” that go beyond individual experiences, reminding us that we are all humans connected in our ability to ponder the pathways we did not follow. 

Common Parenting Regrets:

Certain regrets in parenting are universal, echoing the thoughts of parents from all walks of life.

1. Missed Milestones and  Quality Time: It’s a common complaint among parents: losing out on important times in our children’s lives. The demands of modern life can sometimes rob us of the simple delights that define childhood, whether it’s a first walk, a sincere conversation, or a bedtime story. Regret tears in our hearts when we realise we can never turn back the clock and recreate these fleeting moments.

2. Parenting Styles and Discipline Choices: Parents wrestle with decisions about how to raise their children, frequently second-guessing their chosen methods. Regret might originate from concerns about the impact of our parenting approaches on our children’s growth or from questions about disciplinary choices. Balancing consequence and nurturing may be a difficult matter, and hindsight often fuels regret.

3. Work-Life and Career Balance: Finding the perfect balance between work and family life is a daily challenge. Many parents are haunted by the guilt of prioritising one over the other. Whether it’s missing a child’s school event owing to work commitments or feeling pulled between career ambitions and family obligations, these regrets reflect the continuous battle to find balance.

kids activity for negative thinking

Is Regret Bad?

Regret, which is often perceived negatively, possesses a duality that enhances our human experience. While it can cause emotional distress, it also has the capacity to cause deep personal growth and change. Regret indicates a path to reflect on our actions and learn from our mistakes. It’s a normal aspect of life, a reminder that we’re constantly changing. 

Regret, when used constructively, can act as a compass, directing us towards smarter decisions, better relationships, and a more happy existence. Shifting our perspective towards regret as an opportunity for positive growth can help us shape our character for well-informed future decisions.

How to deal with regret?

It’s good to know that these strategies for dealing with regret are universally applicable, extending their benefits to everyone who struggles with the weight of past decisions.

Step 1: How to Overcome Obsessing Over Regrets

When left unchecked, regret can become persistent and stressful, giving way to obsessive thoughts and mental trouble. Thus, it must be dealt with immediately. This is the first step in weeding them out of their roots. Here are some practical techniques for breaking free from the ruminating cycle:

  • Thought Redirection: Consciously shift your thoughts away from past regrets. When you find yourself thinking about “what-ifs,” gently redirect your thoughts to the present or enjoyable topics. It takes practise, but you may reclaim control of your mind over time.
  • Engage in Immersive Activities: Immerse yourself in tasks that require your whole concentration to break the cycle of compulsive thought. I am not asking you to shove your thoughts away and run. This step is very helpful when you find yourself falling into the trap in spite of a lot of thought redirection. Pursue hobbies that interest you, read a good book, or get involved in creative initiatives. Exercise is especially useful because it not only shifts your attention but also releases endorphins, which promote a sensation of well-being.
  • Mindfulness: This involves being totally present in the moment, without judgement. To begin using mindfulness to deal with regret, acknowledge your feelings without labelling them as good or unpleasant. Allow your regrets to pass as passing thoughts, coming and going without attachment.
  • Mindful Breathing: When regret arises, take a few moments to breathe mindfully. Concentrate on your breathing, inhaling deeply and gently exhaling. This might help you stay in the present moment and relax your thoughts.
  • Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding that you would extend to a close friend facing regret. Keep in mind that making mistakes is an essential part of the human experience. Recognise your flaws and forgive yourself for past decisions.

Related posts: Steps to identify your triggers

Related posts: Steps to heal your emotional trauma

Step 2: The Power of Forgiveness

In general, forgiveness acts as an effective barrier to the reappearance of regretful feelings. We release emotional attachments that bind us to previous mistakes by forgiving ourselves and others. This release makes mental and emotional space available for growth and joy, making it impossible for regret to resurface.

 Furthermore, forgiveness is a proactive attitude that pushes us to embrace the present moment and future possibilities rather than focusing on the past. It enables us to transform regret into a powerful force for self-improvement and resilience, reinforcing us against the constant recurrence of regret. Some suggestions for embracing forgiveness

  • Accept Imperfections: Forgiveness isn’t just something that you give to others; it’s also an important act of self-compassion. Recognise that, as a parent, you did your best with the knowledge and resources you had at the time. Imperfections and faults are a part of the human experience. Accept them as possibilities for your development and learning.
  • Release blame: Let go of self-blame and guilt for prior choices or acts. Understand that there is no manual for parenting, and everyone makes mistakes along the way. Acknowledging your mistakes and forgiving yourself allows you to go forward with a lighter heart.
  • Apologise and Communicate: If your regrets involve another person, think about having an open and honest talk with them. This applies well for children. Accept responsibility for any actions or decisions that have brought them pain or discomfort. Express your emotions as well as your earnest wish to heal any emotional rifts. Clear communication can help to close gaps and restore confidence.
  • Model Forgiveness: By displaying forgiveness and reconciliation to your children, you are teaching them essential life lessons in empathy and healing. They learn that mistakes may be recognised, forgiven, and transformed into growth opportunities.

Related posts: Eight keys to forgiveness.

Step 3: What to Do When Regrets Resurface

  • Speak with a Trusted Confidant: Don’t bear the burden of regrets alone. Contact a reliable friend, family member, or therapist. Sharing your emotions with someone you trust can provide emotional relief and a new perspective. They may provide useful insights or simply lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Journaling: Writing is a therapeutic outlet for processing and letting go of regrets. Honestly describe your feelings, thoughts, and reflections. This process not only assists you in gaining clarity, but it also allows you to externalise your regrets, making them less overwhelming.
  • Set Specific Goals: Determine your parenting goals and priorities. Set specific, attainable goals for your family life using the insight gained from past regrets. Having a plan in place will help you avoid reverting to old habits and reduce future regrets.
  • Establish Clear Boundaries: Set clear boundaries for yourself and your parenting journey. Setting boundaries allows you to focus on the present and future rather than the past. It prevents the chances of regretting incidents happening again.
  • Gratitude Practise: Develop a gratitude practise in your life. Reflecting on the positive aspects of your parenting journey can combat regret when it comes back.
  • Continuous Improvement: Make a commitment to constant  growth and self-improvement. To improve your parenting abilities, read parenting books, go to workshops, or join support groups. By being proactive, you can better negotiate obstacles and keep learning to better handle regretful situations.


Regret, a common acquaintance for all people, need not be a burden. Understanding the psychology of regret and accepting its nature enables us to tap into its management in parenting and life in general. We repair the gaps that regret might cause by forgiving ourselves and making amends where necessary. 

We can also progress with resilience and purpose by developing coping methods and seeing regrets as opportunities for growth. These techniques provide a way to recovery, introspection, and a better future, whether you’re a parent or anyone else who is dealing with regret. 

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