‘So are you ready to go your separate ways?‘ I looked at the divorce lawyer, and thought seriously about my answer. We had had no contact in over a year, but this was a serious question to me. After all, no one gets married with the idea that they will be getting divorced later.
Six months later, I was officially divorced. And sick, and in a different city from all of my friends. And not working. And 30 pounds heavier than I’d ever been, due to the effect of medicines I was taking to get better. This was a definite low point in my life. I was living with my parents, newly single but feeling much too unattractive and emotionally unstable to start dating again, sleeping in my sister’s childhood bedroom, and spending too much time dwelling on what had happened to get me to this point.
Feel the pain so you can move past it
Many of us have been in that place of deep sadness, and wondered, ‘how did I get to this point? How did this happen?’ I definitely went through a period of feeling bad for myself, wondering ‘why me, and how much worse can my life get?’ Wallowing is very normal, and very acceptable, when kept in moderation. By all means, wallow and feel everything that you need to feel. Suppressing harsh emotions does not work. Trust me, I’ve tried that! Eventually you will need to take a break from running, and in a weak moment, your problems and issues will catch up to you. When a relationship, job, or life ends, it’s normal to grieve the loss. You must do it.
After you have set aside a bit of time to feel the negative emotions,, pick yourself back up. One step that can be taken to reverse the current focus on the negative is to adopt a gratitude mindset. This brings us to other steps I took in my emotional recovery from a difficult situation.
Try the following gratitude practice: at night, come up with 3 good things that happened in your day. For each event, ask yourself why it happened. For example: My friend paid for lunch today. Why? She is a great friend that really cares about my happiness, and I’m so lucky to have more friends like her in my life. Make this a regular practice for at least a week, and note how your mood changes.
Concentrate on keeping one foot in front of the other.
When things are going badly for you, it’s oh-so easy to dwell on the negatives. This is a common problem that will keep you stuck on the bad thoughts. Just keep going with your day-to-day routine, and focus on getting through each day. You can worry about tomorrow the next day, once it’s actually here. Of course, you will then be focusing on that day’s activities, as needed. This is how it should be. Worrying about tomorrow does not make tomorrow better, so do what you need to to keep this in mind when you’re tempted to wallow.
When you think about the next day, try to think about something positive that you can look forward to. Of course, this means you will be planning positive activities, at least once a week. Even something small like getting your favorite ice cream, buying a pretty notebook or watching a movie works. Just choose something that you enjoy doing. And do it as often as circumstances (and good health and finances) would allow. I did a lot of new and fun activities during this mandated time off period. Once my health improved, I went on trips to museums with new friends, tried out tons of new restaurants, travelled a lot on short weekend trips, visited fun places like a trampoline park and a popular bingo parlor close by and also made a point of visiting some local landmarks that were the only ones of their kind in the US.
Use down times to better yourself, and to add one more accomplishment to the list. I also spent this time that I took off improving my fluency in 2 languages through the immersion method, and in renewing old friendships and getting great new ones. Both of these are fond memories and ways I found of making the best of my situation and learning new things in spite of things.
The key to cultivating a more positive frame of mind is to slowly move toward being content with certain parts of your life. This will not happen overnight, obviously. With small, daily changes, you will be moving toward a place where your world is a good place to be. Do your best to incorporate gratitude and positive thinking into your life. They say a new habit can take anywhere from 21 to 41 days of daily repetition before it becomes routine. So keep going, and don’t be upset if you miss a day. Just start the habit again.
Read on for other ways of working to cultivate a more positive mindset. It’s not easy to think positively when everything is going wrong, but a regular habit of this will give you the momentum needed to get back to feeling good again.