Dealing with Regret and Depression (5 coping tips)

This blog  talks about how one can effectively cope with intense feelings like regret and serious mental health conditions like  depression.

How can one really cope  with Regret and Depression?

Recognising self sabotaging patterns of thoughtsAsking for help
Accepting the reality of the situationMeditation and Physical forms of exercise 
Positive Affirmations after learning the lessonsStaying in the present
Acknowledging what we can and cannot controlDistinguishing the condition from the individual
Therapeutic Techniques

Why do we avoid Regret?

According to Sigmund Freud (the pioneer of psychology) people worked on the principle of pleasure and pain. In the sense they were driven to avoid pain as much as possible and attain pleasure as much as possible. Following on the context of this principle, regret is a painful emotion. It makes the individual experiencing it highly uncomfortable as they experience thoughts about what they could have done better in a particular scenario.

What emotions and thoughts are usually associated with regret?

Regret is the feeling which is usually associated with thoughts of ‘what could have been’. It is usually accompanied with other feelings such as 

  • Disappointment: feelings of disappointment over what happened and wishing for a different outcome or what could have happened
  • Shame: feelings of shame over one’s actions in connection to the outcome
  • Guilt: feelings of severe guilt if things didn’t go as planned.

 Can something like ‘Regret’ serve a purpose?

It is difficult to imagine that something like regret can serve a positive role but in actuality, even something like regret can serve a positive role if it is in a healthy amount. Many psychologists also spoke about the importance of regret in their works.

“Melanie Greenberg” in her article “The psychology of Regret” spoke about the work of Neal Roese of the Kellogg School of Management at North western. He found that young adults took regret in a more favourable than non- favourable manner as it provided a source of motivation for corrective action as well as information. The results showed that for these young adults, regret helped by:

  • making sense of the world
  • avoiding future negative behaviours
  • gaining insight
  • achieving social harmony
  • improving ability to approach desired opportunities.

In one of her videos on her channel ‘Dr Allison answers’ she discussed the importance of regret and at what point it becomes harmful. She mentions the importance of regret as a moral compass and an emotion. 

As any other emotion regret too has a purpose and gives information. Her statement “There is no bad emotion.” Implicates that all emotions serve a purpose. Regret too serves a purpose. It is at the point where the emotion is causing more harm than use that makes the distinction between a harmful or useful emotion.

What can be inferred from the words and observations above is that a moderate level of regret is healthy. If we never experienced regret then what is to stop people from hurting themselves or people they may acre about? What is to stop people from chasing their dreams or being in tune with their authentic selves?

Let’s take fear for example. It is required to a certain level so that people stay within some boundaries and not do reckless stunts or break the law. If there was no such fear, then what is to stop people from jumping off a building on a whim?

Regret too, serves a purpose. It helps people stay on track and is a constant reminder of one’s innermost values and principles. It can be considered as a message from the subconscious, reminding us of important things we overlook.

If we hurt a loved one, we regret it. This sense of regret is healthy and is helpful in keeping people on track from crossing certain lines.

At what point does regret actually become a danger?

Regret is always unpleasant, but it is not always toxic or dangerous to the individual. Dr Allison in her video explained about the transition from Regret of I ‘did something bad’ to shame ‘Therefore I am bad.’ Draws up a crucial inference. She talked about dealing with regret on her channel and mentioned the following steps to handle regret:

  • Acknowledge what our regret teaches us
  • Take lessons from hindsight: we didn’t know back then what we learnt now
  • Accept that the situation is over.

It can be inferred that regret becomes a danger  when individuals begin to label themselves based on their regret. For example, If one partied right the day before their SATs and ended up performing very poorly which can impact other areas like securing a good college, they end up feeling regret

Up to this point, it’s healthy as it reminds the individual to be responsible. However if thoughts of regret are accompanied with negative self talk through the process of labelling oneself ‘I am a loser’ ‘I am a screw up’ ‘I can’t do anything right’. 

This is the point that regret becomes toxic as it enables an individual to continue feeling defeated and impacts their self-worth instead of learning the lesson and finding a solution or moving on.

Labelling is a form of negative self-talk where an individual classifies oneself in a particular category based on the outcome of a particular situation. 

What makes labelling so dangerous is that it acts as a source of negative self- affirmation which sets an individual up for failure. Oftentimes with regret we may tend to label ourselves without our knowledge, unaware of what a toxic thing we are doing to ourselves. It thus becomes crucial to be aware of where to draw the line.

   How can we effectively handle and cope with regret?

As discussed above, regret is painful but it is necessary. It becomes toxic when it is followed with ‘labelling’ behaviours because it doesn’t stop with that situation but sets an individual on the path of future failure or defeated behaviours instead of accepting the situation and taking charge of it. Therefore, one can deal with regret by:

Accepting the reality of the situation

Accept what happened as the reality of the present situation. It doesn’t matter how much we regret as the situation has already happened and won’t change. This becomes the first step in getting closure from  our regret.

Acknowledging what we can and cannot control

It can become very easy to self sabotage when we get absorbed in our regret. Acknowledging what we can and cannot control is the first step towards progress and growth from regret. 

Accepting what is in our control is crucial as we may not be able to change what already occurred but we can always decide the outcome of future situations.

Positive Affirmations after learning the lessons

 It is important to positively affirm ourselves by reminding ourselves that all is not lost and we can still rectify the situation if the outcome is not final yet. By accepting that we are smarter now and less likely to repeat old mistakes is a way of positively affirming self.

Recognising self sabotaging patterns of thoughts

One of  the most important precautions is to identify when we begin to self sabotage as we  label ourselves and use this awareness to stop it at the spot.

What is Depression and what can it do to a person?

Depression or Major Depressive disorder is a mental health condition that impairs the psychological wellbeing in an individual’s life.

 There is a common misconception that depression is a condition of extreme sadness. While sadness is one of the traits of depression, it is not the only characteristics associated with the disorder, depression is also characterised by lack of emotion or numbness, lack of energy and an overall sense of defeat in life.

How can we identify depression in an individual?

The DSM-5(Diagnostic Statistical Manual) outlines the following criteria to make the diagnosis of disorder to be categorised as depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more the following symptoms for a period of two weeks or more with a sense of either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.

  • A sense of persistent depressed mood throughout the day, almost every day.
  • Drastic decline in pleasure in every or almost every activity most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Loss of appetite and Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • A sense of lathery or lack in energy marked by decline in physical movement (which may or may not necessarily be observable by others,).
  • Recurring Feelings or thoughts of worthlessness or uselessness 
  • A sense of excessive guilt nearly every day for no particular reason.
  • Lack of focus and decline in ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, almost every day.
  • Suicidal thoughts or recurring feelings of ‘It won’t matter’ or ‘everyone is better off without me’ even marked by failed attempts. 

  How can someone effectively cope with depression?

  Unlike Regret which everyone faces at any point of time in their life, it is not normal or extremely common to experience depression. The following Suggestions are useful in treating depression.

Asking for help

Acknowledging the problem is the first step to finding the solution. Asking for help is a way of acknowledging the problem as a confidant can be a form of support system to help get through this. This can be a therapist, a close friend or family member, a support group or anyone whom the individual feels safe enough to confide in.

Meditation and Physical exercises

 one of the most crucial simple forms of therapies is the ability to breathe peacefully even for a few minutes. Guided meditation is one such tool that helps do exactly that. Physical exercises of any form are natural techniques to release endorphins which help regulate mood and stay optimistic as well as energetic which becomes extremely  difficult when you are depressed.

Staying in the present

when someone experiences depression, getting through the day may seem like a challenge. Taking it one day at a time and positive affirmations such as ‘I am worthy’ can be some of the simplest but effective ways of tackling the condition. Staying in the present helps in dealing with overwhelming feelings associated with the condition as well.

Separating the condition from the individual.  

Labelling is dangerous not just with regret but with mental health conditions as well. It is important to distinguish that the individual is not a depressed person but a person fighting depression. A distinction like this can help an individual regain faith in him/herself.

Therapeutic Techniques

  • COGNITIVE THERAPY: Cognitive therapies such as CBT and REBT involve identification of thoughts and feelings the individual experiences and studying them in depth. Under the guidance of a trained professional therapist, the client is faced with the practicality of their cognition and is guided to admit the logic, reasoning and usefulness of his/her thoughts and emotions. Once the client is comfortable enough to do this, he/she feels prepared to release them and obtain closure and move on. It is a form of therapy completely designed to help an individual be in the present effectively. 
  • SUPPORT GROUP/GROUP THERAPY: The benefit of this form of therapy is helping the individual understand that there are others who experience similar thoughts and he/she is not the only one.
  • CREATIVE FORMS OF THERAPY: Therapies like art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, storytelling helps channel depressive feelings in a more creative outlet. They also act as a form of ‘Mindfulness’ which help them focus on the task at hand.

FAQs: Dealing with Regret and Depression

How do I stop feeling regret?

Acceptance is key. Accept what happened and take the lesson from the situation.

Why is regret so painful?

Regret is usually accompanied with feelings of disappointment, shame or guilt. We only regret when we are not happy with an outcome. Additionally, Regret is always associated with feelings of what could have happened making it unpleasant

How do I let go of regret and guilt?

Acknowledge the hand you played, accept the situation, acknowledge the lesson and move on.   

Is it OK to regret things? is feeling regret normal?

Absolutely. It’s normal and human to regret things. But it becomes dangerous when we get so absorbed in our regret and start living in the past in what should haves and could haves, rather than taking charge of the present situation which we actually have control over.

Does regret last forever?

Only if you dwell on it. It is very possible to succumb to toxic patterns where we regret so much that it blocks our present progress, thereby  creating  a vicious cycle of regret of one regret after another.

How does regret change a person?

Accepting the lessons from regret which in turn triggers growth. Regret teaches us about things we value, what kind of people we want to be and how far our present actions are in accordance to that. 
Regret helps us identify that and by accepting the lessons, we grow. However, if we let regret consume us, we lose every bit of self-control we have over our present and lose our power, confidence, direction and joy in the process.

How do I stop punishing myself for past mistakes? How do you stop dwelling on the past and start moving forward?

 Accept that the past is over and the present and future still remain         and acknowledge what you can or cannot control.

What are the four types of depression?

Major Depressive disorder/Depression
Clinical Depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression.
‘Situational’ Depression or PTSD

Does depression count as a disability?

Depression is a mental health condition not a disability. While it limits the individual’s drive and cognition to a certain extent, with therapy and medication, it can definitely be cured.

How do I know if I am bipolar?

You are likely to be bipolar if you feel extremely happy and driven one minute and completely defeated the next.

What is the number one mental illness?

In all honesty, there is no such thing as every mental illness is challenging. No individual with any mental illness claimed that they had an easy time with it.


In this blog, we talked about how we can effectively deal with intense feelings like regret and mental health  conditions like depression.

 It should also be noted that it  is important to acknowledge painful emotions. It is no longer important to get through either regret or depression but in order to really function, one has to acknowledge the problem, accept it and find a way to effectively treat it.


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