Day 190 (A Hundred & Ninety)of 365 days

Throughout your life thus far, you’ve probably done a thing or two you regret. Most people have, since mistakes are normal to human growth. Still, the guilt that creeps in and stakes out space in your consciousness can cause plenty of emotional and physical turmoil.

We’ve all felt it: That sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we make a mistake. When we let someone down. When we don’t uphold the commitments we’ve made. It’s called guilt — and if you’re overcome by this powerful emotion, you’re overdue for a lesson on how to stop feeling guilty.

You might know guilt best as the nauseating twist in your stomach that accompanies the knowledge you’ve hurt someone else. Perhaps you also struggle with recurring self-judgment and criticism related to your memories of what happened and your fear of others finding out.

Many things can cause feelings of guilt. Whatever the reason, long-lasting feelings of guilt can affect your health. Feeling guilty increases negative thinking. This can have a bigger impact if you’re already experiencing depression. When you’re in a depressive state and also have feelings of guilt, this can lead to negative cognition. Negative cognition is when you think about and negatively talk to yourself.

If you’re feeling guilty about something and know what’s making you feel guilty, first recognize that you can’t do anything to change what has happened. Secondly, understand where you are now and what has changed. For example, maybe you hurt a friend who doesn’t accept your apology and decides to end your friendship. You’ve done everything that you can, but now the friendship is over. Once you acknowledge the truth about the present situation, you can begin to forgive yourself and give yourself another chance.

No one is all good or all bad. If you’ve made a small mistake, you don’t have to spend your life repenting for it. You don’t get life in prison for speeding, and you don’t need to punish yourself that badly for most offenses. Forgiveness is powerful. When we come from a place of self-criticism, we can feel paralyzed about taking action. But when we come from a place of self-compassion, we realize that we can fix our mistakes — and that we can learn how to overcome guilt.

One thing that most emotionally healthy people have in common is the ability to find the lesson in their mistakes and failures, then get up and try again. Don’t “should” all over yourself. Getting stuck in the past, thinking “I should have done this” or “I shouldn’t have done that” isn’t productive. Instead, find the lesson — and then don’t let it happen again. Discover how to get rid of guilt by using it to help you grow, rather than an excuse to stay unhappy.