Regretting the past leads to an unhappy present and future

By Sheryl Kay • Published: September 13th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Everyone has a memory or two that causes some pain and may be difficult to confront, but new research shows that those of us who come to terms with our negative experiences and carry no regrets actually lead happier lives.

In a study just published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers established that people with outgoing, positive personality traits are more contented than others because of the way they perceive yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Researchers interviewed more than 750 people via written surveys, inquiring about the participants’ personality, life satisfaction and perception of time. In order to determine a person’s perspective on time, questions centered on whether the individual enjoyed reminiscing about days gone by, or whether the person was more fate-oriented. Each person was also given a rating according to the Big Five paradigm, which psychologists use to determine how extroverted, neurotic, open, conscientious and agreeable a person is, and rates individuals as high or low on each.

The reports came back showing that those who were considered to be extroverts, or more energetic and talkative, were much more likely to recall the past as being a positive time in their lives and were happier in general as a result. Those who rated high on the neurotic scale and who were more moody and pessimistic were far more likely to view the past in a gloomy way, therefore less happy in general.

Though it may be hard to change your personality, the investigators say their findings show promise for those who have had traumatic experiences in the past How? Well, finding a way to reframe how you see a bad experience from the past could help you live a more positive and happy life going forward. And that is something to really be happy about.