10 Positive Psychology Tools to help you feel happier after divorce.
Oct 25, 2021
Positive Psychology is the science of wellbeing and is concerned with helping individuals flourish and thrive in life. Unlike traditional Psychology which looks at the head up and what is ‘wrong’ with people, Positive Psychology focuses on the positives and negatives equally. It focuses on what’s going well in your life, with your relationships and work and building on your strengths.
It’s really easy to focus on the negative things in life, especially when you’re going through a difficult time such as a divorce. It’s hard to believe that there’s anything to be positive about! But there are always things to feel positive about – it’s about bringing your focus onto those things.
Research has found that bad events in our life have a much greater effect on us psychologically than good events. It’s known as Negativity bias and the research shows that we pay much more attention to the negatives. That’s why you might receive several compliments and one criticism, but you find yourself dwelling on that one criticism.
Research also shows that we learn more quickly from bad events that happen to us so there is always a learning from something bad that happens to us in life that we can take forward with us into the future. For example, what can you learn from your previous relationships that will help you to have more fulfilling relationships in future?
Acknowledging that you can change your mindset, your wellbeing and how you think and feel in an instant can be transformational for you and Positive Psychology gives you many interventions to help you do this. Some of these interventions you’ll only need to do once to create a shift and others will become daily practices. These small practices will all have a compounding effect over time and lead to improved happiness and wellbeing.
So here are 10 tips from the science of Positive Psychology that will help you to get over your divorce and improve your happiness:
- Start paying attention to the questions you’re asking yourself – Asking yourself questions like ‘why aren’t I good enough?’ or ‘What’s wrong with me?’ just puts the focus on what isn’t working well in your life and leads to unhappiness. Instead ask yourself more empowering questions like ‘What can I do right now to improve my mood?’ or ‘What’s one thing I’m grateful for in my life right now?’. What you focus on in life is what you get so start focusing on the positives.
- Surround yourself with people who light you up – Research has shown that emotions are contagious. We’re wired to mimic the facial expressions and moods of the people we’re with. When you’re going through your divorce surround yourself with people who light you up and make you feel good about yourself. Their positivity will rub off on you. Limit your time spent with people who just want to hear the ins and outs of what’s going on in your life – that just reconnects you with all the negative emotions.
- 3 Good Things – This is one of the most used and well-known Positive Psychology interventions. It’s been proven to significantly improve wellbeing and reduce symptoms of depression. At the end of your day write down 3 things that have gone well for you and really take the time to connect with those things and feel the emotions associated with them. Reflect on why each thing happened and your role in it. I know it may be difficult to think of anything when you’re in the midst of a divorce but just start with something small.
- Practice self-compassion – This is especially important when we’re going through a traumatic time in our lives such as a divorce. In times like this it’s easy to start criticising ourselves and being negative towards ourselves – telling ourselves we’re a failure and not good enough etc. What we actually need, is forgiveness, gentleness and compassion. Self-compassions means showing ourselves the same level of compassion that we would to someone else and that we look after ourselves. Ask yourself ‘How do I feel right now and what do I need?’
- Positive Emotions brainstorm – brainstorm all the things that make you feel good in your life. What do you love doing? What makes you laugh? Who do you love to be with? What have you always wanted to do? Start to actively plan some of these activities into your day and week and notice how your happiness starts to increase.
- Set yourself goals – Going through a divorce can be overwhelming. Your life’s been turned upside down and the future you thought you had has been ripped away from you. There are also all the practical challenges of going through the divorce itself. Set yourself some goals that you can work towards which will help to give you some focus and a sense of achievement. Don’t worry about focusing too far into the future at this point in time.
- Focus on your health – This is crucial when you’re going through a divorce and you’re under a lot of stress and emotional turmoil. Try and exercise every day, even if it’s just getting outside for a 10-minute walk. Nourish your body with good quality food and make sure you get enough sleep. If you’re struggling with sleep then try and get into a good bedtime routine. Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to rest and restore so that your body can recover from all the stress. If this doesn’t come naturally to you then plan the time in your diary.
- Silver Linings – There are always silver linings in any situation and divorce is no different even though you may not be able to imagine what they might be. This exercise helps you to change your outlook on a negative situation and looking for the bright side which will help you to develop a healthier and more balanced perspective. Studies have shown that practicing this for 3 weeks helps to reduce depressive symptoms. What good has come out of your divorce? No matter how small, there will be something. What have you learnt from the situation? What strengths have you developed as a result of it?
- Best possible self exercise – This tool is a really powerful way of changing your mindset about the future and feeling more optimism about it. One of the most difficult things when you’re going through a divorce is imagining what your future will look like without your ex and this can be overwhelming, especially if it’s not something you wanted. Take some time to sit down and journal or visualise around what your life would look like if everything has turned out in the best possible way. This helps you to identify what you really want and then you can start working towards that.
- Forgiveness letter – Studies have shown that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning or excusing the transgression. Forgiveness is something that you do for yourself, not for the other person. It helps to reduce the levels of psychological distress and release all the negative toxic emotions that you may be carrying. This negative energy can harm your health in the long run whilst the person you need to forgive is carrying on their life regardless. Write a letter to your ex describing the transgression against you and the emotions related to it. Pledge to forgive them. Don’t send the letter or discuss it with your ex.
Going through a divorce is the second most traumatic event you can experience in your lifetime, second only to the death of a loved one. There are many things you can do to help yourself get through this process and it is totally possible to emerge from your grief happier and stronger than ever before.
If you’re feeling stuck and struggling to move on after your divorce then send me an email [email protected] or reach out to me on Instagram to chat about how I could support you so that you can feel happier and stronger than ever before after your divorce.