Living Without Regret: The Key to Happiness Later in Life

04/26/2012

No regret photoMy husband isn’t a worrier, and it’s a trait I’ve grown to love. He always says, “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it takes energy, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” And he’s right, we spend way too much of our time living with regrets. When we’re young, it can help us to avoid mistakes and make better choices later on, but too much of it is a worthless proposition. 

New research reported in Live Science says that as we age, living without regrets can lead to a happier, healthier life. Regrets can weigh us down. Researchers analyzed the brains of young adults averaging 25 years old and older adults averaging 65 years old. 

Participants played a computer game where they opened a series of boxes with either money inside or a picture of a devil that symbolized that the game had ended and you had to give up your winnings. 

Each time players had the choice to continue or stop and take their winnings. Afterwards, they could look and see how far they would have made it. Young adults and depressed older adults took more chances the next round when they saw what they could have had in the previous rounds, though the results did not depend on previous results.

Regret = Poor Emotional Health

"Given that unsuccessfully aged people demonstrated a more 'youth-like' behavior, it seems to be essential for our emotional well-being to adapt to changing life-demands when we are older — that is, to not look back in anger and to focus on the positive," researcher Stefanie Brassen, a neuroscientist at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, told LiveScience.

Those that didn’t regret their decisions had better emotional health, according to the study, showing that it could be helpful to teach older adults strategies for avoiding regret later in life. It could also be helpful to find out when that specific age transition actually is, according to the story

“The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~ Unknown

No regret inline
Photo: Maria Teijeiro/Thinkstock

Here are some tips for living without regret in your life:

1. Realize that if you didn’t go through a past experience then you wouldn’t be who you are today. 

2. Make holistic wellness a top priority so that you can care for others as well. 

3. Set your own path; don’t live the path of others.

4. Move with the flow of life.

5. Laugh everyday.

6. Be curious and try new things.

7. Be positive.

8. Be compassionate.

9. Be thankful for what you have.

10. Stop trying to change others, look at yourself. 

Photo: Jupiterimages

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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