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A quick way to cool heated emotions

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You’ve felt it before — that uncomfortable feeling of shame and embarrassment after you say or do something you regret. You’re face gets flushed, your stomach churns and you feel like running away. But the worst part is, long after that regrettable moment is over, you still feel bad about it.

If only there were a way to make yourself feel better immediately and avoid torturing yourself for days or weeks afterward…

Well, the latest research suggests there may be an easy antidote to this type of regret. And it’s not a prescription pill to numb your mind or a stiff drink to bury your emotions….

It’s a glass of cold water.

You heard me right. Short of having a time machine, the best way to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling of remorse is to drink something cold. It can be water, iced tea or another ice-cold beverage of your choice. As long as it brings your body temperature down.

It sounds strange, but there’s research to back it up…

In previous studies, researchers noticed that when people felt emotions that make them flushed or hot, like guilt or shame, they chose to drink cold beverages over hot beverages. That got researchers wondering…

Does cooling yourself off with a cold drink make you feel less regret? Are your body temperature and emotions really that intertwined?

To get to the bottom of this question, researchers set up a new study where they had participants hypothetically invest in pharmaceutical stock. As you’d expect, some participants invested in stock that shot up and others invested in stock that plummeted.

After making their fake investment, participants were asked to look at an advertisement for a Caribbean summer cruise (that would evoke a feeling of warmth) or an advertisement for an arctic Alaskan cruise (that would evoke a cool feeling). And guess what happened?

The people who chose the bad stock and looked at the Alaskan cruise advertisement felt less remorse about their stock choice than those who looked at the Caribbean cruise advertisement. In other words, feeling cool really did help them squash their remorse quicker.

So next time you’re feeling the uncomfortable burn of regret, you know what to do. Researchers recommend drinking a cold drink. But really, you could do anything that cools you down… look at a picture of a cold destination, go for a swim, run cold water over your wrists or grab an ice pack. Whatever works best for you. It might not be as effective as a time machine, but it could save you days of internal agony.

  1. D. Rotman, et al. “The Warmth of our Regrets: Managing Regret through Physiological Regulation and Consumption.” The Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2016.
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