What Science Tells Us About How To Overcome Regret


Regret is more than just a feeling; it’s a tangible reaction to past events or choices that can increase stress and negatively affect our health.

Research shows that regret, especially from inaction, can lead to serious mental and physical health issues.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome regret through therapy and evidence-based strategies.

The Impact of Regret

Regret is a heavy and intrusive emotion.

It can cause stress, disrupt our hormone balance, and affect our physical health.

Studies show that regret activates the medial orbitofrontal cortex in the brain, which is linked to negative emotions like remorse, sorrow, and helplessness.

Action vs. Inaction Regret

Regret can come from actions we’ve taken or things we didn’t do.

While action-related regrets can be painful, they often motivate us to learn from our mistakes and move on.

Inaction-related regrets, however, are harder to overcome and can lead to depression, anxiety, and a feeling of being stuck.

Four Steps to Manage Regret

  • Accept Your Feelings: Acknowledge that you are experiencing regret. Accepting these feelings can help you deal with them more effectively.
  • Identify the Cause: Determine why you are feeling regret. Understanding the cause can help you address it.
  • Learn from It: Use the experience to learn and grow. Reflect on what you can do differently in the future.
  • Release and Move Forward: Let go of the regret and focus on moving forward. This step involves self-compassion and forgiveness.

Practicing Self-Compassion

Self-compassion involves being kind to yourself and recognizing that everyone makes mistakes.

By practicing self-compassion, you can accept your feelings of regret and move past them.

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, and remind yourself that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time.

Cognitive Reappraisal

Cognitive reappraisal is a technique where you restructure your thoughts to see the situation differently.

For example, if you regret a decision, remind yourself of the rationale you had at the time.

This can help reduce feelings of regret and improve future decision-making.

The REACH Model

The REACH model is a cognitive psychological method to overcome regret. It involves:

  • Recall: Face the regret.
  • Empathize: Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
  • Altruistically Forgive: Offer forgiveness to yourself.
  • Commit: Share your decision to forgive publicly.
  • Hold On: Stay true to your decision to forgive.

Research shows that working with a trained professional using the REACH model can have a positive impact.

Gaining Knowledge

To avoid future regret, it’s important to gather as much information as possible before making decisions.

Learning about opportunities and the major players in your field can help you make more informed choices.


Regret is a natural but challenging emotion.

By accepting your feelings, practicing self-compassion, and using strategies like cognitive reappraisal and the REACH model, you can overcome regret and move forward with resilience.