While writing our first published book, Missed Ops, we researched and studied the effects and importance of regret and it's relationship and relevance to missed opportunities. While much of this research on regret did not make it into the book we felt that it is significant and should be shared.
Psychological effects of regret
The cumulative effect of living with regret can have a debilitating impact on your psychological health, and one of the common symptoms of chronic regret is a feeling of helplessness. Since you cannot travel back in time and change that moment, helplessness may take hold of you and consume your thoughts – making it difficult to cope.
Feelings of helplessness often spiral into a state of depression – and then you may lack energy, lose interest in things that used to give you pleasure, and even have trouble eating and sleeping. As your psychological health deteriorates it can lead to physical ailments, and that causes you more regrets that lead to even more bad decisions. Your will and motivation to move forward can be crushed, and it can take a huge toll on your life and the lives of those connected to you. So be wary of regret because it can lead you down a long and difficult road to nowhere.
It can also contribute heavily to unhealthy stress, which is the most common and arguably the most powerful negative force when it comes to undermining physical and mental health. Unwanted stress can lead to tension, anger, and fear – and contribute to behavioral changes like overeating, smoking, or drug and alcohol abuse. You can become overwhelmed and lose your ability to focus on important issues, your relationships can be strained, and you can find yourself caught in a cycle of declining health, emotional instability, and mental distress. So don’t obsess on trying to change things that are beyond your control – including those choices made in the past that led to regret.
Adverse physiological effects of regret
It is believed that more than half of all visits to doctors are prompted by stress, and health care professionals consider stress one of the fundamental causes of illness. Scientists and other researchers have already proved that humans under stress are more vulnerable to illnesses such as the common cold or the flu, and that stress causes the release of hormones such as cortisol that are detrimental to health. These hormones can speed up the heart rate, raise blood pressure, disrupt the digestive process, and disturb normal blood glucose levels. Even though they are temporary, such reactions can cause physical harm and lead to more severe damage. Headaches and migraines can also be attributed to high levels of stress, as can panic attacks and even heart attacks.
Depression, meanwhile, can lead to physical ailments that compound the condition, making it all the more difficult to regain composure and break the cycle of hopelessness and despair. Exhaustion and chronic fatigue can be triggered by hormone imbalances, and depression can also lower the libido, causing sexual dysfunction in both men and women. A sustained spike in stress levels can suppress the immune system, making your body more susceptible to disease and illness or aggravating preexisting ailments.
“I have no regrets in my life. I think that everything happens
to you for a reason. The hard times that you go through build character, making you a much stronger person.”