It’s hard to get through life without some regrets. But researchers from the University of California, Berkeley may have found a way to help people get over some of them.
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that self-compassion might be the key to overcoming regret. Having self-compassion helps you accept that you can’t change the past and it also helps you learn from mistakes so you don’t make them again in the future.
The study authors suggest that self-compassion is a more powerful strategy than self-esteem to overcome regret. Boosting your self-esteem allows you make excuses for the action you might regret, but it does not allow you to accept that it was wrong or move on from it.
For the study, 400 people aged between 18-49 were asked to complete writing exercises
at a computer. Half were assigned to write about regretting an action, something they did but wish they hadn’t. The other half wrote about regretting an inaction, something they didn’t do but wish they had.
The participants were then split into three groups: a self-esteem group, a self-compassion group and a control group. Each group was asked to respond to a different prompt.
The self-esteem group members were asked to write a response to the prompt: “Imagine that you are talking to yourself about this regret from a perspective of validating your positive (rather than negative) qualities.” The self-compassion group members were asked to respond to: “Imagine that you are talking to yourself about this regret from a compassionate and understanding perspective. What would you say?” The control group was simply asked to write about a favourite hobby.
When the participants finished writing, each group was asked questions to gage self-forgiveness, personal improvement, and acceptance of the event they had regretted.
The study participants that were given the prompt designed to induce self-compassion demonstrated the most self-forgiveness, personal improvement, and acceptance of all three groups.
The researchers think that this self-compassion method lets people frame the action they regret in a more positive way and treat it as a learning experience. Accepting the regret actually makes it easier to deal.
So next time you find yourself regretting something you did, try to face up to instead of pretending it didn’t happen and be compassionate with yourself. You might just be able to get over it.
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