5. Ask yourself what your guilt is really about. If you’re guilty about not serving on the church landscaping committee, is it because you really don’t have the time, or because you don’t like the other women? Maybe you want to do more for the church, but landscaping just isn’t it. Take some time and really examine the motivation behind your guilt, rather than just wallowing in it.
6. Recognize that a feeling of guilt doesn’t always mean that what you did was wrong. For instance, if you’re feeling guilty because you decided it was more important to relax with a book than to have coffee with your always-in-a-crisis friend, that means you’re learning to set limits and take time for yourself. In cases like this, have the confidence to admit that you made the right choice.
7. Commit to saying no at least once a day — no guilt allowed.
8. Start a guilt journal. Every time you feel guilty about something, write it down in your journal. Write the time, the day, what you feel guilty about. Go back and reread this journal every couple of weeks to find the trends in your guilt. This will provide clues to the source of your guilt that will enable you to better deal with its underlying roots.
9. Stop asking, “What if?” Instead, start asking, “What now?” Put another way, stop thinking about things you’ve already done and can’t change, and instead focus on the present — what you can do today to make your life and the world around you better.
10. Recall all the healthful benefits of some of the most guilt-inducing foods. For instance, dark chocolate is full of heart-healthy antioxidants. Red wine has fabulous benefits for your heart, cholesterol, and other health markers. A handful of mixed nuts imparts a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E. A box of popcorn gives you a good dose of fiber. Just remember: moderation in all things!
11. Talk to a relative or friend who recalls the incident about which you’re feeling guilty. Often our own memories are not the most accurate; your feelings of guilt may be coming from something that really didn’t happen the way you remember it.
12. Don’t get caught up in blaming. For some reason, many people feel compelled to assign blame (often to themselves) for anything that goes wrong, big or small. But that’s a bad approach to this complex world of ours. Instead, take a more forgiving approach to the world and recognize that sometimes things just happen on their own momentum, as a result of a cascade of events that cannot be blamed on any one person.
13. List 10 things you like about yourself. Most of us are highly critical of ourselves, without acknowledging the good, the funny, the right choices, the successes. Guilt becomes less of an issue when we are happy and secure in who we are. Keep this list in your purse, in your pocket, or on your computer at work. Look at it whenever you’re feeling guilty about what you should or should not have done.