Living a life of “no regrets” can be more beneficial than you think – for both young and old.
Whether it is regretting something you have done or haven’t done, holding on to this regret can affect the way you react and handle situations. According to Healthland, new research has revealed that while it’s normal to dwell on feelings of regret in our youth and allow them to factor in future decision making, as we grow older, “the likelihood of second chances diminishes, and feeling regretful doesn’t do as much good”.
As part of the research, the brains of 21 healthy young people, 20 healthy adults (past their middle age) and 20 depressed adults above the age of 55 were scanned and imaged while they took part in a simple video game involving money and risk. Primarily, it was a game of chance and not skill, but as it involved risk, it paved way for possible regret among the participants.
It was found that the young and the depressed tended to take more risks as they went along the trials, particularly if they failed to win the maximum amounts of money. The healthy adult participants however were quick to not let regret affect their decision-making at the next level of the game.
This was apparent in the brain responses. While all three groups displayed a reduced activity in the ventral striatum, a brain region associated with reward; this happened for the young and the depressed when they missed an opportunity to make more money, while for the healthy, it only happened when they actually lost money.
Further, when the healthy adults missed a chance to win more money, what showed was an activity increase in the anterior cingulate, a region associated with emotional control. This brain activity was not shared by depressed adults who perhaps chose to blame themselves instead.
The verdict? Here’s what the authors have the to say: “Disengagement from regret experiences at a point of life where the opportunities to undo regrettable behavior are limited may be a protective strategy to maintain emotional well-being”.
Having regrets and things, it just takes your time away.
In our opinion, although the study does not draw direct evidence to explain why healthy older adults are better at dealing with regret, it is fairly clear that depressed older adults are more vulnerable to it, and are unable to distinguish between actions they should account for and factors that they cannot control.
What does this mean? If you can disengage from experiencing feelings of regret you can help maintain your emotional well being and make choices that are not tainted by you regret. After all you cannot control or change everything so why beat yourself up over it?
What are your views about regret? How are they good or bad? How do you think you react to regret now, compared to when you were younger?