Letting things go when they are no longer a feasible option could help to improve your well-being and fitness levels, according to a new study.
Researchers from Concordia University and McGill University found that among breast cancer survivors, letting go of unrealistic goals and making new, achievable ones is linked with a higher quality of life and an increase in physical activity.
"By engaging in new goals a person can reduce the distress that arises from the desire to attain the unattainable, while continuing to derive a sense of purpose in life by finding other pursuits of value," study researcher Carsten Wrosch of Concordia University said in a statement. "Abandoning old goals allows someone to invest sufficient time and energy in effectively addressing their new realities."
The study, published in the journal Psycho-Oncology, included 176 people, ages 28 to 79. Everyone in the study had been diagnosed with breast cancer at least 11 months prior to the study, and had undergone treatment at least three months prior to the study.
At the start of the study, the researchers asked all the study participants to report how well they were able to change their goals based on feasibility. They were also asked to report their physical activity levels, their sedentary activity levels, daily health symptoms like pain or nausea and their general emotional well-being.
The researchers had the study participants self-report these same factors again after three months, and found that the people who were more likely to be able to change their goals were also the ones who got more exercise, had better well-being and had fewer health symptoms.
Previously, a study in the journal Science suggested that letting go of regrets is also mentally healthy. That's because regrets become less valuable as we age, and actually letting go of regret and not ruminating on it may be the more emotionally healthy choice.