People who let go of regrets are happier and more satisfied with life

The Bible teaches, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry …” (Ephesians 4:26). In other words, let go of your anger, regrets, bitterness, sorrow, etc. Why? Wallowing in these emotions is always harmful to our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. 

Now comes a study illustrating the modern application of this ancient wisdom. Researchers found that people who tend to focus on regrets and negative experiences are not as satisfied with their lives as those who maintain a more positive view of the past. In other words, those who see their past experiences through a positive lens (i.e., “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” [Romans 8:28]) are much more likely to be highly healthy and t o “experience greater happiness in the present.”

Here are the details in a report from HealthDay News:

Personality has a lot to do with how one recalls the past, according to the study, which examined how people’s levels of extraversion, neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness relate to their attitudes and life satisfaction. The study’s findings suggest that people with certain personality traits are happier than others because of the way they think about their past, present and future.

“We found that highly extraverted people are happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets. People high on the neurotic scale essentially have the exact opposite view of the past and are less happy as a result,” Ryan Howell, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, said in a university news release.

The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Over the past three decades, many studies have suggested that personality is a powerful predictor of a person’s life satisfaction. The latest findings help explain why: People who are able to change or “reframe” how they perceive painful past memories might be able to enhance their own happiness and sense of satisfaction with their lives, the study authors suggest.

“Personality traits influence how people look at the past, present and future, and it is these different perspectives on time which drive a person’s happiness,” said Howell.

In my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy, I discuss ways to turn “toxic” attitudes into highly healthy ones using a variety of time- and clinically-proven antidotes to reduce sadness, bitterness, regret, and anger. For example, I discuss:

  • The Gratitude Antidote
  • The Humor Antidote
  • The Kindness Antidote

I also have a chapter on seeing yourself and your past as your Creator does. I call this the “Essential of a Positive Self Image.” To do this, I discuss:

  • Placing a relationship with God at the center of your life,
  • Reading, memorizing, and meditating on Bible wisdom daily,
  • Spending some time each day meditating and praying,
  • Avoiding negative self-talk,
  • Building family intimacy,
  • Spending time with highly healthy people,
  • Doing things that bring joy and satisfaction, and finally,
  • Serving others.

I have another whole chapter on how to “Practice Acceptance and Letting Go,” or what I call “the essential of forgiveness.”

So, what are some practical steps you can take to be not only happier (more blessed), but more highly healthy?

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