How to Let Go of Regret and Guilt

The story of regret and guilt reads differently for all of us. While some have a chapter or two of “could-haves” or “would-haves” stored innocently upstairs, others find a perpetual series of “bad decisions lining their shelves; the latter often causing relentless emotional anguish. But at the end of the day, the mental and physical stress that amounts in our lives by holding on to negative, unproductive, and often painful feelings from the past, affects us all in a very similar way—regardless of the number of sequels we have laying around.

Regret can be defined as: “A negative emotion that occurs when a person believes his or her past actions or behaviors, if changed, may have achieved a better outcome. Regret is often closely associated with feelings of guilt and shame.” (Good Therapy, 2015).

Although regret and guilt can appear in small quantities throughout your daily life—missing the bus to work because you hit snooze one too many times or feeling bad for taking the short route home when walking your dog—it’s troublesome when these feelings become excessive, debilitating, and/or prevent you from moving forward.

The combination of mental and physical side effects brought on by ruminating over feelings of regret and guilt are markedly undesirable to say the least. Some of the various mental health effects that can arise from living in a place of regret and guilt may include (but are not limited to) the following: increased levels of anxiety, symptoms or periods of depression, difficulty concentrating on everyday tasks, mood fluctuations, and changes in behavior (e.g., isolating, lashing out at others, obsessing over small details or tasks).

You may even notice physical symptoms arise from the stress caused by living in a place of regret and guilt (e.g., headaches, chest pain, fatigue, muscle pain, or stomach upset). Long-term stress on the body could potentially result in: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and/or diabetes (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Though many of these are connected to stress, never assume your symptoms to be caused by stress alone. Contact your doctor if you notice changes to your physical health and do not hesitate in calling 911 if you have a medical emergency.
If you feel like you’ve entered an emotional slump due to feelings of regret and guilt; have a negative hold on, or way of relating to, events from your past; or are finding it difficult to gain dynamic insight from your previous patterns of thoughts and behaviors: try reframing your focus towards a place of peace and healing. This article will help you take back control of your narrative, and in turn, let go of regret and guilt for good. After all, you deserve to be free.

*Remember to reach out to your doctor and/or a mental health professional if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and need support. If you find yourself in crisis: call 911 immediately.

3 Helpful Steps You Can Take To Let Go of Regret and Guilt

Forgive Yourself
Though this may feel like one of the most difficult things you’ve ever had to do, you need to do it. Start by reflecting about the events in your life which are causing you pain and/or suffering. Be vulnerable with yourself and embrace the emotions you experience; let it out—the pain, anger, sadness, tension—and release it. Take a deep breath. Despite how drastic, terrifying, or unforeseen the events in your life have been, they’re in the past and cannot be changed. Be kind to yourself: understanding that you are not the same person you were years, months, even days ago.

With every day that passes, you have the chance to learn, grow, and be a healthier version of yourself. Allow yourself this fresh start. Allow yourself to be human. During our lifetime, we’ll make mistakes that we aren’t proud of, often ones that shift the direction of our own lives or another’s, but be comforted knowing that no one is perfect. And today, you are forgiven.

Practice Gratitude
Often we fall into negative patterns of thinking that cause us to focus on the parts of our life that we don’t like or desperately want to change. As a result, by focusing on things outside of our control, we neglect to pay attention to the positive parts of our life. Try focusing on the abundance of goodness in your life today, even if those things had fallen to the waist side for a while. Feelings of regret and guilt can put a damper on the enjoyable aspects of our life, adding to the many reasons for letting it go. We all have something to be thankful for; sometimes you just need time to allow yourself to remember.

Live for Today
Now that you’ve forgiven yourself and remembered the abundance of good things in your life today, it’s important to practice mindfulness. The development of healthy coping mechanisms can help keep your mind focused, present, and better equipped to handle stressful situations. During your journey here, you may have sought support from friends, family, or a mental health professional; you may even be considering starting therapy now. Whichever path you find yourself on, it’s important to continue surrounding yourself with positive people in your life. Utilizing different forms of self-care and stress-reduction techniques can also help to alleviate any undesirable feelings or situations that arise.

Examples of self-care you may find helpful:

  • unplugging from social media
  • practicing meditation and/or yoga
  • creative outlets of expression
  • exercise
  • quality time with family and friends
As you start to let go of regret and guilt you’ll find that the days become easier and your spirit becomes stronger. When you take back control of your narrative, adopting new techniques to better manage the stress of unforeseen situations, there will be less time spent traveling backwards and more time to be had for today. 


  1. Regret. Therapy Blog (2015).
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, April 4). How stress affects your body and behavior. Mayo Clinic.

New Dimensions Can Help!
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, trauma, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, alcholism, or other mental health issues, New Dimensions can help.  Our Internet Based Intensive Online Treatment Programs are open to anyone who resides within the State of Texas, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Arlington, El Paso, Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Plano, Lubbock, Irving, Garland, Amarillo, Grand Prairie, McKinney, Frisco, Pasadena, Odessa, Midland, Beaumont, Huntsville, Waco, Abilene, and College Station. To learn more about our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and Houston or to schedule an assessment, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.  You can also visit our website at

24 May, 2021

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