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There is a time for regret, a time to let go

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There are people who refuse to forgive someone who hurt them. And, oddly, there are people who refuse to forgive themselves for a regrettable action.

Fred Luskin, Ph.D., says the main obstacle to self-forgiveness is a need to feel the guilt. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, people may punish themselves by feeling miserable, sometimes for years.

That decision affects others. Luskin, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, says people close to them also suffer because the miserable person is often withdrawn and critical.

There is a time for regret, but after that it's time to move on. Luskin recommends:

* Do a reality check. If the regret is for something you didn't do, look at the situation realistically. Decide whether there was something you actually could have done, and whether it was the right thing to do.

* Realize that what you regret is not what's making you feel awful. It's your reaction to thinking about it again and again.

* Decide to put it aside. When you find yourself replaying your "sins" in your mind, stop! Refocus your attention on something more positive or pleasant.

* Practice PERT, Luskin's acronym for Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique. It takes only 45 seconds and can be used whenever you start beating yourself up. Close your eyes, draw in a long breath that gently pushes out your belly, then slowly exhale as you relax your belly. Then draw another breath and slowly release it.

* Learn to be thankful. In his book Forgive for Good (Harper San Francisco) Luskin suggests being thankful for the abundance of food when you're at the supermarket and being thankful for your good health when visiting a hospital. Give thanks for good drivers when you're on the road and thank your significant other for caring about you every day.

* Be thankful each morning for the gift of your life for another day.

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