Will you regret doing that?

By David Joel Miller.

Does anticipating regret increase protective actions and reduce risky behaviors?

Regret.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Regrets happen when you find out, or imagine, that the results would’ve been better if you had made a different decision. What behaviors are you doing today that you may regret in the future? What positive, healthy, activities did you leave undone today that in the future you will wish you had done?

Thinking about the positive advantages of exercise and healthy diet doesn’t seem to be enough to get many people to engage in these activities. Thinking about the regrets you will have in the future provides additional motivation to do proactive healthy behaviors and to reduce risky behaviors. People who think about the regrets they will have the morning after casual sex are more likely to alter their behavioral plans.

Will you regret not protecting your health?

People who have thought about the need to maintain good health and could anticipate the regrets they will have in later life for not protecting their health are more likely to make the effort to eat a healthy diet.

We all know that getting more exercise would benefit our health. Being able to anticipate the regrets you will have about your appearance and your health in the future because of not exercising increases the chances that you will exercise today to avoid those painful regrets in the future. It takes a long time for regrets about not protecting your help to develop. People go through life not exercising or eating a healthy diet, telling themselves there’s always time to start healthy living tomorrow. The regrets take up a lot of your time when you’re older and out of time to have lived a healthy life.

There has been a lot of controversies recently about vaccination. Regardless of how you feel about getting your family members vaccinated, it’s important to think about the regrets you might have if you fail to get vaccinated. The larger regret is not that you might catch the flu, but that because you did not get vaccinated, you might transmit an infection to a baby, young child or older adult. Thinking about the possible regrets of infecting others might be just the motivation you need to get yourself vaccinated.

Will you regret not helping others?

When you’re busy with your life, you’re likely to forget about donating blood or designating yourself an organ donor. Thinking about possible regrets you might have because you didn’t donate blood and someone died may motivate you to make that donation.

Will you regret risky sexual behaviors?

Recent research tells us that the possibility of regretting unsafe sexual behaviors has strongly influenced some people’s sexual practices. Thinking beforehand about the possible regretted consequences of unprotected sex, both from contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies increase the chances someone will use protection or abstain.

Will you regret your use or abuse of nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs?

Prevention efforts around alcohol consumption and drug use have been generally disappointing. Having people think about drinking or drug use is unlikely to reduce the risk they will consume substances. One promising prevention effort has been having people think about possible regrets. Are there things you might do while drunk or high that you would later regret? As you grow older, raise your children and live your life, will you regret having abused drugs or becoming addicted to them?

Knowing that tobacco consumption is hazardous to your health is almost universal. That hasn’t been enough to keep most young people from trying cigarettes or other products containing nicotine. One promising approach has been asking people early in the nicotine using experience about possible, anticipated regrets. Thinking about health risks off in the future is not much of a deterrent. Thinking about the anticipated regrets from having contracted emphysema, heart disease, or cancer offers a different perspective.

Thinking about anticipated regrets from binge drinking has been shown to reduce the rates of intending to binge drink (Cooke, Sniehotta, & Schuz, 2007). There has been limited recent research on whether anticipated regrets related to substance use changes behavior. What little research there has been, shows that anticipating future regrets increases the intent to avoid or stop using substances.

Will you regret not keeping yourself safe?

In the spur of the moment, it’s easy to ignore the risks from taking a phone call or answering a text while driving. Take a moment to think how you will feel if your distraction results in an accident and someone loses their life.

When we don’t think about risks, they don’t alter our behavior. Considering possible risks in life and anticipating the regrets you will have from engaging in risky behaviors and neglecting to engage in healthy ones may help you put the way you are living your life in perspective.

Why doesn’t anticipating regrets change behaviors?

People who drive dangerously, speed or weave in and out of lanes, report they would have severe regrets if that behavior resulted in an accident. Unfortunately, in the moment, the urge to get somewhere more rapidly and the excitement of the speed, outweigh the anticipated regrets of a potential accident. Excitement and pleasure also offset the anticipated regrets from alcohol and drug use.

Any behaviors whose consequences will happen far in the future, such as poor health behaviors, tend to remain unchanged because people tell themselves that they will begin living in a healthy manner in the future.

Potential regrets from risky sexual practices respond poorly to potential regrets when people tell themselves that it will not happen to them, but sex will be less enjoyable when they use protection or that stopping for protection will ruin the spontaneity.

Stop and ask yourself what things you are doing today you regret in the future. Consider the things you’re not doing now which will be major sources of regret as you get older. The more aware you become of anticipatory regrets more likely you will be to change your current behavior.

The things you may be regretting now may be very different from the things you will regret in the future. You might want to look at the things that older people say with their biggest regrets in life which were described in the post – Top 6 life regrets.

https://counselorssoapbox.com/2018/03/28/top-6-life-regrets/

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

You can recover. You are cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Top 6 life regrets

By David Joel Miller.

Will you regret your action or inaction?

Regret.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Regrets are a common human problem. Some regrets, for some people, are relatively minor, others can cause you a great deal of pain and may require professional intervention. Both economists and psychologists study regret, and they come to very different conclusions about the nature and behavior of regrets. Economist study regrets you might have after making a major purchase, buyer’s remorse, or failing to make a purchase and then seeing that item increased dramatically in price. Most economic regrets fade with time. Emotional regrets, jumping into a relationship or dropping out of school prematurely, are likely to become more painful as your life progresses.

Lifespan regrets happen when you look back at the past and wish something had happened or you wish that something that did happen had never occurred. Some regrets are a normal part of life others can be destructive of your mental and emotional health.

Troublesome regrets can lead to anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem. The most painful emotional regrets are about bad choices, things done and things undone. In the short-term, more people regret taking actions that turned out badly. Pessimists are more likely to accumulate regrets and to judge their action or inaction harshly.

Over the long-term, particularly as people grow older, for many people, their biggest regrets are the things they wish they had done, but their fears kept them from acting.

Unfortunately, sometimes regardless of what you decide, you will face regrets. If you choose to do something you may regret the outcome, and if you choose not to do it you may forever regret not taking action.

Regrets over life’s mistakes, the bad decisions, that involve action fade with time for most people. There are ways to correct or accept the results of many actions. People grow to love their children even when they regret the impulsive sex with an undesirable partner. It’s possible to end most bad relationships; you can break up or get a divorce. Remediating the effects of bad decisions can be painful, but they are possible. The regrets most likely to haunt you, as you grow older, are the regrets over your indecision and inaction.

Healthy regrets or Unhealthy regrets?

Regrets can affect you positive or negative. Regrets when someone has died remind us of our relationship with that person and can be a normal part of grieving. Regrets can also spur you to change your behavior or move in a new direction. The primary difference between regrets and all other negative emotions is that we regret things about which we had choices. Without a possible choice, you may dislike the outcome, but you are unlikely to regret the choices you made.

Some regrets can be just the push you need to change your course of action. If you regret shopping at a store or eating in a restaurant, you can easily change that decision the next time. Self-blame and rumination fuel unhealthy regrets. Beating yourself up over past choices will lower your self-esteem. In regret, you feel that you have made a bad choice rather than that outside forces have caused something undesirable to happen.

What decisions cause the most long-term regrets?

You are most likely to regret the decisions you made when you had lots of choices (Roese, N., Summerville, A., 2015.) Some choices are irrevocable, like having a child because of impulsive sex. Another major source of regret is those things you always wanted to do, told yourself someday, but just never got around to. Are there things you’re doing now, or things you’ve left undone that will be major sources of regret in the future? Below is a list of the things people frequently report as major causes of regret compiled by adding together the results of multiple studies.

1. Not getting education causes regrets.

In study after study the top regret people report has to do with education. On average one-third of the people surveyed regretted not getting more education They regret not staying in school, not studying hard enough or not pursuing a degree in a subject that interested them. Conflicts between education and finances cause some of these regrets. People drop out of school and take a job because the current income is more attractive than the larger income staying in school might have resulted in.

Many other people regret being seduced by the prospect of making a lot of money in one field, and as a result, pursuing a degree in a field they did not enjoy. They commonly regret not pursuing a degree in an area for which they had a passion. It’s easy to let the cost of more education keep you from following your dream. Following an education in a field because your parents or others talk you into it can also be a huge source of regret. Getting your education in a highly paid field can be a great mistake if you have neither the aptitude nor the interest in that field.

In middle and late life many people report their greatest life regret is not getting that degree in the subject they were most interested in. One reason, failure to get more education, is number 1 on the list of common regrets is the wide availability in the United States of additional or advanced education. Making the decision not to pursue education is not a one-time decision, but something people must continuously do.

In a survey of senior citizens, the number 1 regret of men was that they hadn’t gotten more education. The primary regret of women was similar; they wished they spent more time developing their mind or intellect (DeGenova MK, 1992.)

Researchers suggest the reason failing to get more education is the number 1 regret in America is because it is seen as the one thing an individual can do that greatly increases their opportunities in all the other life domains.

2. Career choice regrets.

Between 20 and 25 percent of all the people surveyed regretted their career choice. This regret is often linked to failure to get an advanced education or job-specific training. Starting out in life, you need to earn a living. For example, if your uncle owns a landscaping business, you might get a job working for him mowing lawns. After years of doing this kind of work, you may have severe regrets that you didn’t explore other possible career choices.

Other commonly reported regrets about career choices involved letting others talk you out of a career dream. If you always wanted to be an artist, dancer or other performer, you may have let people talk you out of following your dream. Many people avoid aiming high. Later they regret not having made an effort to become a doctor, lawyer or other respected professional.

3. Regrets about romantic decisions.

Surprisingly, given all the literature about love, and the number of divorces, only 15 percent of those surveyed reported ongoing regrets about their romantic decisions. One possible reason regrets in this area were less significant may be the frequency with which people can change romantic relationships. Young people were far more likely to express regrets about romantic decisions. Failure to ask someone out or to pursue a relationship with someone were reasons cited for regrets about romantic decisions.

4. Parenting choices can cause regrets.

Parenting choices were a source of regret for 10 percent of survey participants. In studies of the regrets of college students, they were more likely to regret choices involving friendships. As people age, regrets about social relationships become more focused on decisions having to do with children.

5. Self.

Just over 5 percent of people reported regrets in this area. People with regrets in this area are likely to show up in therapy or seek self-help materials to “find themselves.” Losing yourself in relationships and becoming alienated from your feelings can be sources of regrets in this area.

6. Regrets about leisure time activities.

Recreation and hobbies can contribute to good mental health. Surprisingly only about 2 ½ percent of people ever report regrets about their leisure time activities. When I have had clients mention regrets in this area, it usually involved working too much and giving up sports and hobbies that used to bring them joy.

Other areas of regret.

The literature on regret includes six other areas of life about which people sometimes express regret. While these areas can result in painful regrets, they all turned out to be less common than researchers had expected. The other areas of your life that might cause you regrets include finances, family, health, friends, spirituality, and community.

Decisions you are not likely to regret.

When the choice you make seems clearly superior to the alternative, you are less likely to regret that decision. If you fail several classes in your chosen major, you are less likely to regret giving up on that major. When there have been repeated problems in your relationship, breakups, cheating or violent fights, you are more likely to regret staying in that relationship then leaving it.

Do you have a life regrets? Which of those regrets are things from the past you need to accept that which are things in the present you need to change?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life.

You can recover. You are cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. If you have gone through a divorce, breakup, or lost a job, your life may have gotten off track. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Other books are due out soon; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.