5 Things To Do When Being Happy Seems Almost Impossible Post-Divorce
Getting divorced is a decidedly unhappy turn of events for most of us. Our dreams of happily ever after are gone and we aren’t sure what to replace them with or if it’s even possible to replace them. And forget about being happy… what does that even mean?
Well, as bleak as things may appear to be right now, I know it’s possible to be happy again post-divorce. I learned how to do it myself when I got divorced in 2002 and I’ve helped hundreds of people find happiness again too.
Before diving into what to do to increase your happiness post-divorce, let’s look at some science-based facts about happiness that will prove you can be happy again.
First, there is stuff that’s not in your control when it comes to happiness.
In a study of 1300 twins, the Minnesota Center for Twin & Family Research found that happiness is 50% genetic. There’s absolutely nothing that you can do about your genetics when it comes to being happy – at least not yet.
Other researchers published findings that 10% of happiness is based on environmental factors. These are things that we have no control over, like the weather, where we were born, who our parents are, the economic situation we were born into, etc. However, as we mature, we can begin to shift some of the environmental factors like our economic situation to better support our happiness.
And when you add the numbers up, they say that we can control at least 40% of our happiness. But when you’re struggling with divorce feeling in control of anything often doesn’t seem possible.
So let me share with you 5 things you can begin doing today to start you along the path to being happy again.
Get your basic needs met.There’s a big difference between needs and wants. For many, this can be hard to distinguish when going through a divorce.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great way to understand what basic needs are and which you may need to make sure you’re meeting.
From the most basic, the needs Maslow identified are
a.Physical (air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, reproduction),
b.Safety (personal security, employment/resources, health, property),
c.Love & Belonging (friendship, intimacy, family, sense of connection),
d.Esteem (respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom),
e.and Self-actualization (desire to become the most that one can be).
For many who are struggling with divorce, most if not all of these needs are not being met. If that’s the case for you, start with the first of the needs above that isn’t being met and work on getting those met first.
For example, let’s imagine that as a result of your divorce, you no longer have a place to live and you need to find a job. Your first need to meet is Physical and finding shelter. Once you have a place to live, then you can focus on meeting your Safety need and finding employment.
It’s important to start at the beginning of the list to meet your needs. Doing so will help you to feel more relaxed and able to focus on the next needs on the list. In other words, you’ll be able to begin being happy as you feel more and more secure that your basic needs are met.
Get comfortable with not being in control.Post-divorce life can be quite different from married life. While you were married, you probably had more control over the time you spent with your children and how and when you spent money. Divorce changes all of that. All of a sudden these parts of your life are dictated (at least in part) by the laws where you live.
Now you have to worry about when it’s your scheduled time to be with your children.
Now you have to deal with the division of assets and debts accrued during the marriage in addition to spousal and/or child support.
But there are also other things you may not have control of when you divorce. For example, divorce severs more relationships than just your marriage and you’ll likely lose some friends too.
In other words, divorce fundamentally changes your life. And many of these changes are simply not in your control. And rather than rail against them, the best you can do when it comes to fostering your happiness is to learn to let go and accept what you can’t control.
Be present.Learning to be present can be a struggle for anyone. However, when you’re dealing with divorce it’s especially challenging because you’re grieving the end of your marriage (the past) and the hopes and dreams you had for the future as a spouse.
And when you’re trying to make sense of the past and the future, it’s really hard to be present.
However, there’s a simple question you can ask to help you become more present. That question is “What is right now?” Since this question is about the present, thinking about it and answering it will pull your attention to the present.
Be grateful.One of the secrets that all happy people know about being genuinely happy is that gratitude changes everything. And, yes, it is possible to be grateful post-divorce. The trick is to begin being grateful for the “small” things.
Some small things you might choose to be grateful for include: waking up this morning, having indoor plumbing, having running water, the sun rising, the sun setting, and seeing your child’s smile.
When you allow yourself to see there is still good in the world despite your divorce, it becomes easier to be grateful. And being grateful has a sneaky and even magical way of transforming into being happy because you’re focusing on what’s good instead of what’s wrong.
Set and pursue goals that align with your values and interests.When most people hear the word “goal” in this context, they think they’re being asked to set BIG goals. Setting big goals isn’t necessary when you’re working on being happy post-divorce. The point is to set any goal that will help you to feel more alive and vital during the process of achieving it.
When you purposefully do things that are in alignment with who you are and that you enjoy, chances are good you’ll begin experiencing happiness.
It doesn’t matter the order you try these suggestions for being happy post-divorce. The important thing is that you try one. Look at it as an experiment. Do you notice yourself feeling even a smidge happier when you try it? If so, that’s great!
And if you don’t, there are still 4 other suggestions for you to try out. When you’re ready, come back to this list to try another tip and see how it works for you. The goal here is to find as many as possible that work for you so you can experience being happy more often.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. You can select a helpful report and join my newsletter list for weekly support in moving on from your divorce. Additionally, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation to talk with me about how to live a happy life post-divorce.
Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.
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