As the holiday season is upon us – with friends and families making plans to get together, stores filled to the rafters with gifts to give to loved ones, airports and train-stations jammed with travelers hurrying to their joyful destinations – some may feel lost in all this happy celebration.
After all, once we hit 60 or more, some of our family and friends have probably made their transition into the Great Beyond, and however you define that passage, the truth is, we miss them. And with that, some of us may have regrets.
Things we left unsaid, harsh words never taken back, choices made we wish we hadn’t. The holidays can feel glum and depressing rather than a time of joy and laughter.
You would think that the older we get, the more regrets we would have. Sometimes, it sure feels that way. Yet, science shows that isn’t necessarily the case.
On the contrary, research undertaken by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany demonstrated that healthy older adults feel less regret than younger folk, not because they are uncaring or unfeeling, but because they have learned to put their experiences in the larger context of life.
One example is understanding that there are things outside of our control, therefore useless to regret. It’s a good lesson to follow whenever regret begins to creep in.
Learning to accept our imperfections and those of others, along with accepting that there are things we cannot change and forgiving others and ourselves, is what maturity is all about.
Maturity most often comes as we travel through life, absorbing the lessons and being willing to let go of what does not serve us, including regret.
How different Annette Callahan’s experience would have been had she regretted breaking up with her high school sweetheart, Bob Harvey, back in the 1950s, to marry another man.
If she had clung to whatever guilt or bad feelings she had about her choice at the time, she would not have reached out to try to find Bob a few years after she was widowed. She, in all probability, would have bemoaned her fate, figured her first love was long gone and left it at that.
Instead, Annette proactively searched for Bob through social media. In the meantime, Bob, unbeknownst to her, was looking for Annette, after his spouse passed away. Bob and Annette met, fell in love all over again, and, 63 years after their initial breakup, wed.
There is no upside to regret. Oh, certainly, regret can sometimes motivate us to change unwanted behaviors, and that’s great. But regret over what cannot be changed is useless, and only depresses our hearts, minds and immune systems.
A great counter to regret is mindfulness. Staying present in the moment, being grateful for what is good right here and now.
Even when it looks like there is little good in our lives, with just a little effort, we can usually find something positive worth focusing on. With that, we can lift our spirits and experience the holiday season with joy in our hearts.
What is your current state of mind during this year’s holiday season? What are some of the things that bring you the most joy during the holidays? Please share with us in the comments below.