The UK’s top five regrets – and how to tackle them

Regrets, we’ve had a few. In fact, according to a survey of 2,000 people in the UK, we fritter away 110 hours a year lamenting what might have been. Eight in 10 people believe their lives would be better if they had taken more risks, while a quarter of those asked by the consumer research company Mortar, in partnership with KP Nuts, still long for past loves. The psychologist Linda Blair offers advice on how to tackle the most common regrets of the living.

Not saving more when younger
“The human brain looks back and forward. It’s one of the things that makes us different from other creatures. Some people feel trapped by this ability, while others gain wisdom from it. This, like every one of these regrets, you could deal with right now. You can’t go back to when you were younger, but you can start saving. You may need to seek professional advice but the way I work with regret is to say: ‘This is a lesson. Act on it instead of dwelling upon it.’”

Not keeping in touch with old friends
“Again, use your regret and say: ‘Wow, I really learned something from that. Old friends matter more than almost anything for me. So who am I going to contact today?’ I would write a card or send a little photo from when you were together and say: ‘You know what? I just realised we have not been in touch, and I miss that. Could we meet up?’ Or: ‘Could we talk?’”

Not taking the plunge in a romance
“We’re very bad judges of how we felt in the past, and how we’ll feel in the future. The only way to be happy is to judge how you are feeling right now. So stop allowing your past to control the present. You could join a dating app, but first talk to friends who have successfully built a new relationship later on in their lives and ask how they did it.”

Not travelling when life involved fewer responsibilities
“We’re poor judges, too, when it comes to remembering how much we did or did not like travelling. Regret is based on inaccurate information, and is often an excuse to not take a chance. Break things down into doable parts. You may indeed have more responsibilities now, so there are two questions: how can I travel with my responsibilities? And: which responsibilities do I have that aren’t necessary?”

Not pursuing a better-paid job
“Rather than looking at what you haven’t done yet, look at what you are able to do. At any given moment, you have at least 10 choices of what to do, so you will always have things that you can either choose to regret or you can learn from. Remember that every day is a window of opportunity, and every day you are wiser than you were yesterday because you learned from your mistakes.”