Ending phases of life with a sense of closure makes people feel happier, research finds.
People who tie up all the loose ends before moving house, changing job or starting a new relationship experience fewer regrets.
When people feel they have ‘said goodbye’ properly to their old life, they experience easier transitions to their new life.
Things like going-away parties help people experience a sense of closure.
Without doing everything that could have been done, people are more likely to have regrets.
Professor Gabriele Oettingen, the study’s first author, said:
“Starting a new life phase in a positive and constructive way is often challenging, so we examined methods that could help people find a good start to a new job, a new relationship, or a new home.
We observed that how people end their previous life periods makes a difference.
In fact, the more people feel that they have done everything they could have done, that they have completed something to the fullest, and that all loose ends are tied up, the happier they are later on, the less they are plagued by regrets, and the more constructively they enter the next life phase.”
The research included over 1,200 people across seven different studies.
Participants were asked about transitions like finishing school or travelling for a period.
In one study, people imagined moving away from their hometown or leaving a best friend’s wedding.
The results showed that ending these periods in a well-rounded way — for example, by saying goodbye to friends — was linked to fewer regrets and a more positive transition.
Finishing in a well-rounded way was even linked to enhanced attention and cognitive flexibility by one study.
Professor Oettingen said:
“Ending the various phases in our lives in a well-rounded way seems to be an important building block for sustaining emotional, interpersonal, and professional happiness.”