Marriage is sacred. But not if it’s a constant source of stress and pain. Life is too short, and your time on this planet is limited, so live it wisely and happily. All relationships have their ups and down, but if yours has more downs than ups, and there’s no realistic prospect of improvement, it may be time for change.
When you hear the word “divorce,” you picture an absolute nightmare during which your finances – and the rest of your world for that matter – are turned upside down. How can you afford to be on your own? Or how can you afford to pay child support or support your ex? What happens to your house and your other assets? If you have children, how much time do you have to sacrifice to the other parent? How will this affect them? How can there possibly be anything positive to this?
What if you use your divorce as an opportunity for change? We can all benefit from some positive change. And we’re most likely to make major changes in times of transition. Divorce is a significant transition period. Why not use it to make changes that will provide the foundation for future wellness and happiness?
This article explains the shift in mindset necessary to utilize divorce for positive change and explores some habits that will help move you in the right direction.
Also, a list of resources is included at the end of the article. If you don’t like to read, audio books are widely available.
You don’t have to tackle them all at once. In fact, that’s a recipe for failure. Pick one, commit to it, and when you experience the benefits, you may be motivated to try another.
First, let’s tackle your perception of divorce.
Is Divorce a Negative Event for You?
Certainly, if your marriage is fixable, you should make efforts to work out your issues. However, this is more complicated than it seems. For example, you may be willing to put in the work necessary to repair your relationship, but your spouse may be checked out.
Also, it’s possible your spouse has a personal issue that without commitment to change will serve as a constant barrier to relationship improvement: for example, untreated mental illness, substance abuse, or any other destructive compulsion. You can change yourself, but you can’t change someone else: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
You don’t have to be a doctor to understand that repeated stress and strain is unhealthy. The constant arguing, anxiety, and sadness takes its toll on your on your mind, body, and spirit. But isn’t it a good idea to “hang in there for the kids?” It depends. How healthy is it emotionally for children to live in an environment devoid of love, trust, and respect? Is “hanging in there” really helping them?
If you’re marriage isn’t fixable and remaining together would only cause you further stress with no happiness in sight, maybe divorce isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you? Of course, there’s inherent stress in divorce because it involves change, which humans generally don’t like. But is this really the worst thing for you right now?
Happiness is a choice
Why is it that the same exact event happens to two people and one perceives it as the apocalypse while the other takes it in stride and may even seem happy? Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, some people just have thicker skin. Some people are more fortunate.” While this is generally true, the good news is that you have WAY more control over your mindset, emotions, and mood than you ever imagined.
This is not a concept that’s easy to accept or understand. We have a habit of defining people and things. This one’s “smart.” That one’s “lazy.” It’s easier that way. It requires less change, less resilience, less perseverance.
However, more and more research is establishing that happiness is actually a choice, and you’re not relegated to merely riding the waves of life and accepting misery as an inescapable part of it. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are miserable wretches while some of the poorest people living in the slums of Mumbai are happy.
Why is that?
Once you accept the fact that you have the choice to be happy, it’s a matter of developing a plan to achieve that. This is not to suggest that if you do these things, you’re going to live in this perfect utopia where nothing ever goes wrong and nothing bothers you. There’s adversity in life. But wouldn’t you rather be able to manage it effectively than allow it to control you? And wouldn’t it be ideal to move more quickly through “bad” periods and back into joy?
What can you do as your divorce approaches to move away from misery and toward bliss?
Find a quality psychologist
Remember the days when seeing a “shrink” was embarrassing or a sign that someone is “crazy? That’s a relic of the past. Some of the most successful and happy people on the planet have a reliable psychologist with whom them interact regularly.
The fact that mental health is strongly intertwined with physical health and overall well-being is established. This is no longer up for debate.
Unfortunately however, people aren’t born with the knowledge and tools to help them cope with difficult events – like divorce. They have to learn and develop them. There’s a lot of quality self-help material available, some of which I list below. But when you’re in the midst of a crisis, you may need advice and guidance quickly.
Think of a mental health professional as a teacher who will help you adjust your perspective and learn mental tricks that you can use to cope with adversity, among other valuable insights they provide.
There are plenty of mental health providers available everywhere. But I recommend seeing a PhD. They’re generally better educated and more effective. If you have a serious heart or lung issue, would you go to a lesser qualified professional for help? How much less valuable is your brain than those other organs?
Like any other health issue, mental health deteriorates if not treated properly. Find someone good, and do it early.
This is not to suggest that everyone going through divorce needs a therapist. But depending on the state of your mental health, it may be worth exploring.
Actively Manage Your Wellness
Your mind and body are one. The better you feel physically, the healthier you’ll be psychologically and vice versa. This isn’t “Buddhist” nonsense. This is reality, and you can ignore this at your own risk. But once you accept this principle, what can you do?
You don’t need a doctorate degree to know that there are a few well-established pillars of health. WARNING: the material below is not ground-breaking information. As you read the through the suggestions, you’ll probably think “yeah, no kidding, obviously that’s important!”
The problem is, how do you make these changes? You’re probably thinking you have enough going on – especially when dealing with divorce. You don’t have time to be learning new material. Actually, you can’t afford not to! Not if you’re committed to improving the quality of your life exponentially.
Making these changes requires consistency and discipline. That’s the difficult part
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that the key to lasting change is learning how to form and maintain healthy habits. Explaining to you exactly how to do that is beyond the scope of this article, but knowing you have the power to do it is a good start. And reading that book is a great first step.
However, be aware that taking on too much too quickly can be counter-productive. In fact, I recommend setting the bar low, and especially early on, establishing goals that will be easy to achieve. This will help you build confidence and momentum. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Health, gratitude, and relationships are each key components of happiness.
– Drink more water: You may be thinking, “Is this guy seriously telling me to drink more water to become happier.” Yes, and I’m serious. Many people live chronically dehydrated and don’t even realize it. You’re running around, doing work, taking care of the kids, etc. It’s easy to forget to drink water. Drinking water increases energy and relieves fatigue, promotes weight loss, boosts your immune system, reduces headaches, and on and on. Stay hydrated! https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water#1
– Eat Healthy: Again, this is not rocket science, but making necessary changes can be difficult. I’m certainly not qualified to effectively advise you on exactly what to eat. But eating more fruits and vegetables, especially those with bright colors (yellows, blues, reds, etc.) is a good place to start. In addition to all the nutrients they provide, they’re also water-based, and water is really good for you (see above). In case you need to hear it from a doctor, here you go: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lisa-young/healthy-food_b_1665279.html
– Exercise: You don’t have to join cross fit. You don’t have to become an iron man or woman. You don’t have to run a marathon. Just a little bit of physical activity every day will give you energy, control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and improve your mental health and mood. No need to spend any more time on this. You get the point. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389
– Get Enough Sleep: Different people require different amounts of sleep. Many people aren’t disciplined enough to get enough. Sufficient sleep improves your energy, mood, reduces your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke, among other benefits. Not sleeping enough does the opposite. If your life is so “hectic” that you can’t get enough sleep, that’s a management issue, and your priorities must be rearranged, pronto. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/9-reasons-to-sleep-more#1
– Practice Meditation: Meditation improves overall health. It boosts your immunity, decreases your blood pressure, improves your heart rate and improves your sleep. And, there’s a positive correlation between meditation and happiness. That’s because one of the keys to happiness is learning to focus on the present – instead of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can improve the quality of your life exponentially. And as a bonus, it improves your relationships! https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/19/meditation-benefits_n_5842870.html
Other Significant Contributors to Happiness
– Connect with People: One of the greatest contributors to happiness is connecting with others. Family, friends, community, religion, it matters little who’s on the other side. To take it a step further, you can develop more meaningful connections with people by focusing on them instead of yourself. Study after study shows that focusing on others improves mental health and generally increases happiness. A nice side effect of this is that if you focus enough on others, you’ll be repaid many times over. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201208/connect-thrive
– Journaling: Journaling is especially helpful for practicing gratitude and reflection, both of which are immensely helpful. For gratitude, try writing down three things you’re grateful for every morning. The more specific, the better. Instead of “my mom,” try “my mom making me my favorite dish.” This goes back to the well-know principle that appreciating what you have is one of the keys to happiness. Also, reflecting on what went well and what went wrong at the end of each day can help you process thoughts and continually refine and improve the quality of your life. Practicing gratitude is grossly underutilized. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/thai-nguyen/benefits-of-journaling-_b_6648884.html
– Smile: The act of smiling fosters happiness. Crazy, huh? Don’t worry if you look a little bit weird. Just smile … as often as you can. And make yourself and everyone around you happier. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/08/smiling-benefits_n_6598840.html
Divorce doesn’t have to be a low point in your life. You can choose to make it a springboard to everlasting happiness.
Although this is an oversimplified introduction to making positive change, you can take one habit at a time, learn more about it as you get started, and more importantly practice it, and reap the benefits.
Also, as you refine these habits and improve your wellness, your productivity and effectiveness will likely increase, which may in turn lead to positive development at work, which will also increase happiness.
And another great benefit of personal improvement is that you’ll be far better able to effectively connect with others. The adage that you can’t love others until you love yourself is true. Work on continuously improving yourself, and watch your relationships thrive as well!
It’s not easy to develop good habits. But good stuff doesn’t usually come easy. If it did, everyone would do it, and you’d see a bunch of happy people walking around everywhere, saying hi to you regularly and smiling!
Reading these books and using these tools and applying their principles will dramatically improve the quality of your life.
– Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (may be the best book on personal development) – How to Fail At Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams (perseverance and resilience) – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (attaining goals with principle and strong character) – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (developing healthy habits) – The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (creating memorable moments in life) – Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan (The link between meditation and happiness) – The Go Giver by Bob Burg (benefits of helping others) – Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (resilience)
– Headspace by Andy Puddicombe (guided meditation app) – The 5 Minute Journal by Intelligent Change (guided journaling)
If you have any questions about divorce, please feel free to contact us.