Happiness is a Choice: Ten Ways to Work with Difficult Emotions Before, During and After Divorce

Trying to reconcile the demise of your marriage? When happiness seems distant, take a tip from President Abraham Lincoln who said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Although losses, such as divorce, often initially bring sadness, anger, anxiety, and a host of other negative emotions, ultimately it’s all a choice as to whether you continue to feel those feelings — or not. If you stop to observe them, adverse feelings will go away more quickly if you don’t dwell on them or fuel to them.

How do you move from sad to glad? You can’t wave a magic wand and remove sadness, anger and fear, but if you begin practicing happiness, you may find your way back in to contentment sooner. Best-selling author Joshua Becker provides these 10 ways to choose happiness:

  1. Make a gratitude list. Nothing combats the blues like taking stock in all the good in your life. Spend 10 minutes every day chronicling your blessings in a gratitude journal. Filling the pages day after day is affirming and provides a way to counter-balance negative interactions that may have happened during the day.
  2. Even on those really difficult days, try to find something to smile about or someone to smile at. Make an effort to smile or grin when you are doing chores or driving carpool and observe how your mood can change simply by the expression on your face. (Other people will notice too!)
  3. Give yourself words of affirmation. Every morning write down 10 or more affirmations about yourself. “I am smart.” “I am successful.” “I am a good Mom.” “I am a good friend.” Sit with each positive statement about yourself and soak in all the good qualities that make you, you.
  4. Guard your sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety and can make any situation seem worse. If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress or anxiety, ask your doctor for suggestions to increase your Z’ Likewise, if you find you are sleeping too much, talk to your doctor. Daily exercise and restricting caffeine and alcohol consumption can also help your moderate your sleep patterns.
  5. Edit negative talk. Yes, sometimes it feels SO good to trash your ex, but try to keep these venting sessions to a minimum. Just as positive thoughts and actions inspire more positivity, negativity breeds more discursiveness. If you have to vent do so to a trusted friend, therapist, or spiritual director who will hold what you say in confidence.
  6. Set goals and chip away at them each day. Want to learn a new language, balance your budget, get in better shape, or learn to cook healthy dishes? There’s no time like the present. Set reasonable goals and then spend a little time everyday practicing or participating in your newfound objective.
  7. Embrace your strengths. Everyone has a “super power.” Now is the time to flex it. Whatever your talent, find a way to use it as frequently as possible. If you have a lovely singing voice, put it to good use in the local (online) choir or by recording songs for friends and family members. If you excel at leadership, step into the role at work, church, or club. Don’t be afraid to share your talents and allow yourself to feel proud of your accomplishments.
  8. Create a task list and get busy. Self-satisfaction is another form of happiness that can be attained through ticking those to-dos off your list. By accomplishing one thing from your list every day, you’ll find new ways to boost your self-esteem and stay on top of those pesky chores.
  9. Practice healthy eating habits. Don’t ignore the mind-body connection. If you’re eating junk food that’s high in fat and sugar, it can impact your mood and make you feel physically sluggish. Take care of your body by nourishing it with wholesome foods as much as possible.
  10. Find the good. Once the dust settles, try listing all the positive aspects of your relationship with your ex and his or her positive qualities. (EX: “He is a good father to our amazing children” or “She helped take care of my parents when they were dying,” etc.) Don’t forget to focus on your own good as well. It’s easy to get down on yourself for behaviors that contributed to your break-up. (And yes, both parties have their part!) Taking responsibility for your actions — both positive and negative — is a way to move forward and begin to heal. In time, you may even be able to add your break-up to your gratitude list (See #1.)