Monday, 15 October 2018

Becoming an Optimist

How to turn away from the dark side.

I have always been a bit of a pessimist. I generally expected the worst and and didn’t trust it when something good happened. In my early twenties I met two people who changed my life, both of whom were optimists. These people wore rose-colored glasses, saw hope and promise in every situation, and seemed to generally feel happy. Given my negative nature, I immediately saw the flaws in this approach to life: they will be disappointed and hurt frequently and they will overlook their own mistakes. But in time, I grew to respect them and envy their sunny and positive approach towards life. I wished I could be like that but I didn’t know how to become that way.

It took a lot of work and required almost constant vigilance on my part. I would quickly find fault in something and then need to search for the good aspects of a situation to negate my own negativity. I often had to ask myself what they would do or say in the situation—how they could possibly make lemonade out of the rotten lemons that were all that I saw. It felt wrong and stupidly positive sometimes to find the good in a situation when I saw only the dark and negative side of it. But with time, I noticed that it became second nature to see both the good and the bad in a situation and I was surprised by how freeing it was.

I was also surprised by how much I needed to be able to see both my own good and bad characteristics—how important it was for me to be able to recognize that there are things that I am good at rather than to excuse those things as being “just luck” or something that “anyone could do.” Even now, as I type those words, they cause a certain amount of anxiety for me—to say that I am good at something for fear or disappointing myself or others, but it also feels strangely exhilarating. I also realized that others need to hear positive feedback and the importance of balancing the good with the bad when giving students feedback, when helping someone through a tough time, or when trying to make sense of the bad things that have happened in life.

Don’t get me wrong, at times I still dip down into pessimism and find it hard to dig my way out. I have not entirely changed my “dark side” and it still rears its ugly head at times. But more often than not, I can see hope in difficult situations and if all else fails, comfort myself with the idea that things usually work out in the end even if they haven’t gone the way that I planned them to. The most surprising thing is that although I clung to my negativity for dear life and thought that it provided protection, I find that I need protection less than I thought that I did and that the optimism somehow “fits” better than negativity did.

So how does one become an optimist? We always say that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, but clearly that saying was coined by a pessimist!

1) Notice your negativity. Listen to what you say and how negative it is. Track your thoughts on a daily basis and notice the negative assumptions and conclusions that you draw. Identification of your negativity is essential to change.

2) When find yourself saying something negative, think of something positive to say even if it doesn’t “ring true” to you at the moment. If you are habitually negative, seeing the sunny side is going to feel false and Pollyannaish at first. That is okay. You can’t expect to change overnight.

3) If you identify a negative thought, write it down. Next to it, draw a column for the evidence supporting that thought. Then draw a column for the evidence that argues against the thought. You will be great at identifying evidence supporting the negative thought and struggle with the evidence against the negative thought but with practice this will come easier.

4) Search for positive aspects of situations. Your team lost the Superbowl this year, but at least you got to watch the game with your friends and had some delicious food. You lost your job but this gives you the opportunity to find a better job and you wouldn’t have taken that opportunity otherwise. Most situations can be seen in both a positive and negative light. You just have to find the positive one and keep reminding yourself of it in order to eventually believe it.

5) Think of someone you know who has a positive outlook on life and ask yourself what that person would do or think in particular situations.
Then try to think that way too. This is a way of using others’ optimism to internalize it and make it a part of you.

6) Give others positive feedback. Even if someone has done something poorly, there has to be some aspect of it that is good. If you can find this, your view of the product will be more positive and the other person may feel encouraged to continue.

7) Give yourself positive feedback and notice when you discount it by saying that “anyone could have done this,” “it really wasn’t anything special,” “it’s only because I got lucky/worked hard.” These are excuses that you use to push off the positive feedback, usually because pessimists feel uncomfortable with good things and often fear disappointing others by acknowledging their own strengths. Deal with the anxiety and just say thank you if someone (including yourself) gives you positive feedback.

8) Identify the purpose of the pessimism. Does it provide protection against disappointment? Does it help you not to get hurt? Do you think that it helps you to plan for possible challenges? We often think that pessimism and worry are helpful but this is not true and we would handle the disappointment, hurt, and challenges even better if we were not bogged down by anxiety and negativity. Run some experiments to see whether the negativity is truly serving its purpose? Do you never get disappointed or hurt? Are you always prepared for challenges? If the answer to these questions is “no” that means that the negativity and worry are not working for you. It does not mean that you need to become more negative or worry more. Trust me on this one.

9) Take the risk of being positive and see how it feels. Try it on like you would try on a new pair of shoes. And just like new shoes, it may need some breaking in to really fit. But with time, optimism will start to fit like a glove.

10) Practice, practice, practice.
It has taken me years of work on this and I still sometimes dip into pessimism. It took you a long time to learn negativity and will take you a long time to learn optimism.

With time and practice, you will notice that you can teach an old dog new tricks and that the old dog may become a little less anxious, depressed, and grouchy and a bit more warm and sunny over time. And who doesn’t like a happy dog?


Friday, 12 October 2018

The Benefits of Optimism

Staying positive can improve stress management, productivity, and your health

Do you know someone who seems to always have a smile and a positive thought? Or are you yourself one of those people who is full of optimism? Hardships are seen as ‘learning experiences’ by optimists, and even the most miserable day always holds the promise for them that ‘tomorrow will probably be better.'

If you always see the brighter side of things, you may feel that you experience more positive events in your life than others, find yourself less stressed, and even enjoy greater health benefits.

This is not your imagination.

Researchers like Martin Seligman have been studying optimists and pessimists for years, and they have found that an optimistic world view carries certain advantages.

The Benefits of Optimism

Superior Health

In a study of 99 Harvard University students, those who were optimists at age 25 were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than those who were pessimists. Other studies have linked a pessimistic explanatory style with higher rates of infectious disease, poor health, and earlier mortality.

Greater Achievement
Seligman analyzed the explanatory styles of sports teams and found that the more optimistic teams created more positive synergy and performed better than the pessimistic ones. Another study showed that pessimistic swimmers who were led to believe they’d done worse than they had were prone to future poor performance. Optimistic swimmers didn’t have this vulnerability.

Research like this has led some companies to go out of their way to hire optimists -- a practice that seems to be paying off.

Optimists don’t give up as easily as pessimists, and they are more likely to achieve success because of it. Some optimistic businessmen, like Donald Trump, have been bankrupt (even multiple times), but have been able to persist and turn their failures into millions.

Emotional Health

In a study of clinically depressed patients, it was discovered that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy (which involves reframing a person's thought processes) worked better than drugs, as changes were more long-lasting than a temporary fix. Patients who had this training in optimism had the ability to more effectively handle future setbacks.

Increased Longevity

In a retrospective study of 34 healthy Hall of Fame baseball players who played between 1900 and 1950, optimists lived significantly longer. Other studies have shown that optimistic breast cancer patients had better health outcomes than pessimistic and hopeless patients.

Less Stress
Optimists also tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists. Because they believe in themselves and their abilities, they expect good things to happen. They see negative events as minor setbacks to be easily overcome, and view positive events as evidence of further good things to come. Believing in themselves, they also take more risks and create more positive events in their lives.

Additionally, research shows that optimists are more proactive with stress management, favoring approaches that reduce or eliminate stressors and their emotional consequences. Optimists work harder at stress management, so they're less stressed.

'Explanatory Style' Explained

‘Explanatory style’ or ‘attributional style’ refers to how people explain the events of their lives. There are three facets of how people can explain a situation. This can influence whether they lean toward being optimists or pessimists:

Stable vs. Unstable: Can time change things, or do things stay the same regardless of time?

Global vs. Local: Is a situation a reflection of just one part of your life, or your life as a whole?

Internal vs. External: Do you feel events are caused by you or by an outside force?

Realists see things relatively clearly, but most of us aren’t realists. Most of us, to a degree, attribute the events in our lives optimistically or pessimistically. The pattern looks like this:

Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable), and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local).

For example, if an optimist gets a promotion, she will likely believe it’s because she’s good at her job and will receive more benefits and promotion in the future. If she’s passed over for the promotion, it’s likely because she was having an off-month because of extenuating circumstances, but will do better in the future.

Pessimists think in the opposite way. They believe that negative events are caused by them (internal). They believe that one mistake means more will come (stable), and mistakes in other areas of life are inevitable (global), because they are the cause. They see positive events as flukes (local) that are caused by things outside their control (external) and probably won’t happen again (unstable).

A pessimist would see a promotion as a lucky event that probably won’t happen again, and may even worry that she’ll now be under more scrutiny. Being passed over for promotion would probably be explained as not being skilled enough. She'd therefore expect to be passed over again.

What This Means
Understandably, if you’re an optimist, this bodes well for your future. Negative events are more likely to roll off of your back, but positive events affirm your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and in the future, and in the goodness of life.

Fortunately for pessimists and realists, these patterns of thinking can be learned to a degree (though we tend to be mostly predisposed to our patterns of thinking.) Using a practice called ‘cognitive restructuring,' you can help yourself and others become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting thinking and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns.


Thursday, 11 October 2018

How to Build Resilience in Midlife

Much of the scientific research on resilience — our ability to bounce back from adversit
y — has focused on how to build resilience in children. But what about the grown-ups?

While resilience is an essential skill for healthy childhood development, science shows that adults also can take steps to boost resilience in middle age, which is often the time we need it most. Midlife can bring all kinds of stressors, including divorce, the death of a parent, career setbacks and retirement worries, yet many of us don’t build the coping skills we need to meet these challenges.

The good news is that some of the qualities of middle age — a better ability to regulate emotions, perspective gained from life experiences and concern for future generations — may give older people an advantage over the young when it comes to developing resilience, said Adam Grant, a management and psychology professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

“There is a naturally learnable set of behaviors that contribute to resilience,” said Dr. Grant, who, with Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, wrote the book “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.” “Those are the behaviors that we gravitate to more and more as we age.”

Scientists who study stress and resilience say it’s important to think of resilience as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened at any time. While it’s useful to build up resilience before a big or small crisis hits, there still are active steps you can take during and after a crisis to speed your emotional recovery.

Last year Dr. Dennis Charney, a resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was leaving a deli when he was shot by a disgruntled former employee. Dr. Charney spent five days in intensive care and faced a challenging recovery.

“After 25 years of studying resilience, I had to be resilient myself,” said Dr. Charney, co-author of the book “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges.” “It’s good to be prepared for it, but it’s not too late once you’ve been traumatized to build the capability to move forward in a resilient way.”

Here are some of the ways you can build your resilience in middle age.

■ Practice Optimism. Optimism is part genetic, part learned. So if you were born into a family of Eeyores, you can still find your inner Tigger. Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of a dire situation. After a job loss, for instance, many people may feel defeated and think, “I’ll never recover from this.” An optimist would acknowledge the challenge in a more hopeful way, saying, “This is going to be difficult, but it’s a chance to rethink my life goals and find work that truly makes me happy.”

While it sounds trivial, thinking positive thoughts and surrounding yourself with positive people really does help. Dr. Steven Southwick, a psychiatry professor at Yale Medical School and Dr. Charney’s co-author, notes that optimism, like pessimism, can be infectious. His advice: “Hang out with optimistic people.”

■ Rewrite Your Story. When Dr. Charney was recovering from the shooting, he knew that his life was forever changed, but he reframed the situation, focusing on the opportunity the setback presented. “Once you are a trauma victim it stays with you,” he said. “But I knew I could be a role model. I have thousands of students watching my recovery. This gives me a chance to utilize what I’ve learned.”

Study after study has shown that we can benefit from reframing the personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. In expressive writing studies, college students taught to reframe their college struggles as a growth opportunity got better grades and were less likely to drop out. A Harvard study found that people who viewed stress as a way to fuel better performance did better on tests and managed their stress better physiologically than those taught to ignore stress.

“It’s about learning to recognize the explanatory story you tend to use in your life,” Dr. Southwick said. “Observe what you are saying to yourself and question it. It’s not easy. It takes practice.”

■ Don’t Personalize It. We have a tendency to blame ourselves for life’s setbacks and to ruminate about what we should have done differently. In the moment, a difficult situation feels as if it will never end. To bolster your resilience, remind yourself that even if you made a mistake, a number of factors most likely contributed to the problem and shift your focus to the next steps you should take.

“Telling yourself that a situation is not personal, pervasive or permanent can be extremely useful,” Dr. Grant said. “There is almost no failure that is totally personal.”

■ Remember Your Comebacks. When times are tough, we often remind ourselves that other people — like war refugees or a friend with cancer — have it worse. While that may be true, you will get a bigger resilience boost by reminding yourself of the challenges you personally have overcome.

“It’s easier to relate to your former self than someone in another country,” said Dr. Grant. “Look back and say, ‘I’ve gone through something worse in the past. This is not the most horrible thing I have ever faced or will ever face. I know I can deal with it.’”

Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive, said that after a very public firing, she reminded herself how fortunate she still was to have a healthy family and a financial cushion. While she has never studied resilience, she believes early challenges — like being bullied in middle school (“It was brutal,” she said) and going through a painful divorce — helped her bounce back in her career as well. “I just believe in comebacks,” said Ms. Krawcheck, who recently founded Ellevest, an online investment platform for women. “I see these setbacks as part of a journey and not a career-ending failure. There was nothing they could do to me on Wall Street that was as bad as seventh grade.”

■ Support Others. Resilience studies show that people are more resilient when they have strong support networks of friends and family to help them cope with a crisis. But you can get an even bigger resilience boost by giving support.

In a 2017 study of psychological resilience among American military veterans, higher levels of gratitude, altruism and a sense of purpose predicted resiliency.

“Any way you can reach out and help other people is a way of moving outside of yourself, and this is an important way to enhance your own strength,” said Dr. Southwick. “Part of resilience is taking responsibility for your life, and for creating a life that you consider meaningful and purposeful. It doesn’t have to be a big mission — it could be your family. As long as what you’re involved in has meaning to you, that can push you through all sorts of adversity.”

■ Take Stress Breaks. Times of manageable stress present an opportunity to build your resilience. “You have to change the way you look at stress,” said Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, which recently began offering a course on resilience. “You have to invite stress into your life. A human being needs stress; the body and the mind want stress.”

The key, Dr. Groppel said, is to recognize that you will never eliminate stress from your life. Instead create regular opportunities for the body to recover from stress — just as you would rest your muscles between weight lifting repetitions. Taking a walk break, spending five minutes to meditate or having lunch with a good friend are ways to give your mind and body a break from stress.

“Stress is the stimulus for growth, and recovery is when the growth occurs,” said Dr. Groppel. “That’s how we build the resilience muscle.”

■ Go Out of Your Comfort Zone. Resilience doesn’t just come from negative experience. You can build your resilience by putting yourself in challenging situations. Dr. Groppel is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with his son. Take an adventure vacation. Run a triathlon. Share your secret poetry skills with strangers at a poetry slam.

“There is a biology to this,” said Dr. Charney. “Your stress hormone systems will become less responsive to stress so you can handle stress better. Live your life in a way that you get the skills that enable you to handle stress.”


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The benefits of keeping focused on the main-thing, the one-thing

Having a clear idea as to our purpose, our vision and our why is essential in allowing ourselves to focus on what is most important in our lives, and to direct our efforts and actions accordingly. In divorce, the repeated distractions and challenges can derail the best of intentions if we don't remain focused on our greater purpose; to build a happy, fulfilled and self-reliant new life after divorce.

In this video I share my thoughts on how we can consider our goal, our one-thing, our main-thing to ensure that it keeps us focused on our aim, whether that is to proceed through a time of emotional challenge, or as we recover from challenges in our life, our business or as we work through a process such as divorce.

If you'd like to receive the occasional message from me containing thoughts, information or inspiration related to living a better life after divorce, you can join my mailing list at the following link:

You can also subscribe to my free podcast, Kintsugi Life at:

Finding Happiness After Divorce isn’t a Possibility, it’s a PROBABILITY

Ask any newly separated man or woman if he or she thinks finding happiness after divorce is possible, and the answer you get will involve a grim outlook.

“Who knows?” they will might say with their head down, their eyes possibly filling with tears. “I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m just thinking about how to survive RIGHT NOW I hope so.”

I think finding happiness after divorce is not a possibility, but rather a PROBABILITY, and I can say that because of the dozens of divorced men and women I have seen go from sad, weary, scared, frustrated, furious and depressed to happy, self-confident, strong and madly in love! Seriously.

I want to give an example, which happens to be my inspiration for this blog post. About a year ago, a ran into a friend of mine at the gym, and she told me she and her husband of 10 years were separating. They have two young kids. From what she said, my impression was that it was her husband’s decision. She teared up, and I felt sick about it because I just love this girl. It actually inspired me to write the blog, “12 things I wish someone would have told me when I was getting divorced.”

So, time goes on, and I continue to see her at the gym, always sad, always looking weary and defeated. It was a look that would make me want to cry. Yet, she kept going to the gym. In other words, she kept living her life.

We would talk every now and again, and she would tell me the usual divorce nightmare stories: she was worried about finances, she was scared she was going to be alone forever, she was worried about how her kids were going to handle this, she knew her husband was dating other women and was happy, etc. etc.

A few months ago, I happened to run into her soon-to-be ex, and I said hello. The first words out of his mouth were, “Yeah, everything’s great! I’ve lost 22 pounds!” he said, patting with pride what he thought was his six-pack. “I feel great!” Never asked how I was, how my kids were, and never said anything like, “Divorce is hard, I hope my kids will be okay,” etc. etc.

So, a few days ago, I ran into my friend. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, and I noticed she looked absolutely beautiful. And THIN! I told her so, and she smiled. “Thank you so much,” she said humbly. “I’ve lost 18 pounds.”

I asked how things were and she told me her kids were doing well, and that she changed jobs and loved her new position.

I then said to her, “You met someone, didn’t you?”

She turned bright red and said, “Oh my God! Yes! I did!!”

She met a man on a dating website who has two children and they are very happy. She said she’s not sure what’s going to happen, but right now, she’s just enjoying feeling loved and happy.

I hugged her and when I walked away, I felt like I could fly. Inspired beyond, but not surprised, as I see a story like my friend’s a lot.

But let me clarify, that it isn’t luck when it comes to finding happiness after divorce. The men and women I meet with a story like this are those who make good, selfless choices. Those who focus on their children, their career, and who do positive things to heal from their divorce. Instead of drinking, they workout, instead of playing the victim, they focus on fixing the problems they can control, and instead of wallowing in in sorrow and self-pity, they get off their butts and accept their new role. They get strong. They go out and make things happen to grab the life they want.

From all of those choices comes self-confidence, self-love and yes, eventually LOVE.
This girl reminds me of Cinderella, but the difference is, she was her own fairy Godmother. Happiness after divorce is PROBABLE for you, too!


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Happily Single After Divorce

It can be shattering at first to be apart from your spouse. But "one" doesn't have to be the loneliest number: after you've grieved, adopt a positive attitude towards your situation. Take advantage of your freedom, and be who you want to be. This is the way to enjoy sudden singlehood – and maybe even prepare for a new, fulfilling relationship.

There are many reasons why divorce recovery can be a slow and painful process: there’s the plummet in your self-confidence after being rejected by a longtime partner; there’s the loneliness, the feeling of not being whole without somebody to share your life; and there’s the disillusionment in marriage as the great happily-ever-after, or at least in your own marriage as “the real thing.” You’ll grieve the loss of what you thought was marital bliss, and this is a normal and necessary stage.

What could be more painful than the loss, however, is the fear of being single. How will I cope? you wonder. It’s scary to start over by yourself after depending on your marriage for so long. You may have merged your identity so closely with your spouse’s – defining yourself as half of a couple, not as an individual – that you can’t imagine continuing on your own. Perhaps you don’t know if you’re strong enough to take care of yourself without a spouse’s help. Or you’re ashamed of singlehood in a society defined by relationships. Will I survive? Will I be of use? Can I still find happiness?

The answer to these questions, hard to believe as it may be, is a resounding YES! More than you know, in fact, and in ways you can’t foresee while in the early stages of divorce recovery. But it will take time and effort on your part. Reinventing yourself as a single person will be challenging, but through patience and positive thinking, you’ll do it, and the rewards will be more than worth it.

Therapists Robert Alberti and Bruce Fisher, in their book, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, claim that “singleness has become an acceptable alternative in our society. A generation or two ago, a single person was looked upon in the community as somewhat weird, one who just did not quite make it to the altar.” As popular beliefs have changed with society’s transitions, so you must make changes when you move from being in a couple to being on your own. The most important change is in your mind. As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 
Singleness can be a productive and happy experience if you consciously choose to think of it that way.

Some people discover to their surprise that the single life following divorce is full of new advantages. In such cases, their marriages were barriers to the lives they wanted; now they’re free to live to the fullest. This is not to suggest that marriage is a bad thing, or that single people are always happier than married people. But not all relationships are completely beneficial: one that involves physical or psychological abuse, or a power imbalance, or even boredom and monotonous routine, is repressive and unhealthy for both people. Renewed singlehood is often a major turning point in lives like this.
There are three basic stages toward personal fulfillment during this time:

  1. Finding and being yourself
  2. Making use of your extra time
  3. Reinventing your life through personal interests and/or a new career.

To Thine Own Self Be True

In your marriage, you thought you’d found your place in the world; when that place is suddenly gone, you may feel disowned and lost, wondering who you are and what your purpose is. What’s important to realize is that your relationship was made foryou, and not vice-versa: you exist as an individual regardless of whomever you have attached yourself to. “The day you wind up single through divorce or separation is the day you get to test who you really are,” writes Ernie Zelinski in his bestseller The Joy of Not Being Married. 
“Learning to enjoy being single involves the ability to experience everything through your own essence, instead of living vicariously through a spouse or partner.”

This is the first step: learning to stand on your own. This doesn’t only mean taking care of yourself: it means understanding your own personality. Only on your own, without connecting your life to somebody else’s, can you fully explore your needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and goals.

Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., a leading expert on relationships and communication, believes that all people are meant to be coupled, and that a permanent single lifestyle will never satisfy the necessity for growth and love through relationships. However, he does see singleness in a positive vein — as a growing stage between adolescence and marriage. In an ideal society, “singleness would be recognized as a vital stage of the journey to maturation, a time to learn about who we are, to learn responsibility and self-sufficiency, to identify our true desires, and to confront our inner strengths and demons,” Dr. Hendrix writes in Keeping the Love You Find. “It would be sorely needed relationship training.”

Unfortunately, many people miss out on this important training. They were taught by tradition to get married as soon as they could and to establish themselves in a nuclear family setting. As Fisher and Alberti point out, these people “never learned to be single persons before they married. They went from parental homes to marriage homes, never even considered that one could be happy living as a single person.”

Most people have a lot of living to do before they’re truly ready to settle down into responsible family lives. Marrying before you’ve sown your wild oats may have caused you to bring a lot of unnecessary baggage into the relationship. After divorce, it may be necessary to make up for lost time in terms of self-discovery. “Many divorced or widowed people,” Dr. Hendrix observes, “do with their singleness what they should have done before they married for the first time: live alone, find their own rhythms, date a variety of people, go into therapy, develop new friends and interests, learn how to live with and care for themselves.” These are the ways young people learn who they are and what makes them unique. But if you’re newly divorced, it’s not too late to follow the same path.

It’s important to learn as much as possible about somebody before you marry or live with that person. To live with yourself successfully, you’ll have to go through the same process. You could even ask yourself the questions you might ask a prospective date, to get to know him or her. “What do I like to do for fun?” “What are my dreams and goals?” “What’s a nice person like me doing in a place like this?” And when you answer, be honest with yourself. Your own answers may surprise you, if you look inside and ignore outside influences. Many of us have been so influenced early on — by our family, friends, teachers, employers and social norms — in our habits and opinions that we deny the truths about our own personalities to ourselves. Is that what led you to marrying unsuccessfully the first time?
As La Rochefoucaud put it, “Being alone is a markedly different experience from being lonely.” You might find yourself a fascinating companion.

Time is on Your Side

“We are always getting ready to live,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “but never living.” How true: we spend so much of our lives working — both professionally and in domestic ways — and seldom have time to fully enjoy the fruits of our labor, or even life’s free pleasures. Our family responsibilities can become a 24-hour job and get in the way of all the things we’d love to do. As a result, even when we do find some free time, we don’t have the energy left over to do much else besides rest.

The next step in turning the lemon of sudden singleness into lemonade is using the extra time you never had during the marriage. “Many have spent their free, recreational time in the past doing what the spouse wanted or what they had learned to do with their parents,” write Fisher and Alberti. “Your assignment now is simply to take the time to develop a new interest.” It helps when you know yourself well enough to decide what new interest suits you the best.

You may have dreamed about what you’d love to do with your life — big, ambitious projects or small, private pleasures — but dismissed them as hopeless fantasies, while assuming that time with your spouse, or catering to your spouse’s needs or wants, was more important. Now that the barrier of your marriage is gone, your dreams and desires may be obtainable. If your breakup has left you with too much time on your hands, seize that excess time and make it work for you.

“Making the most out of being single,” says Zelinski, “means taking advantage of the freedom to create a lifestyle that is adventurous, exciting, and rewarding for you.” And you can live this lifestyle without any worry that a significant other might not approve.

Suppose that you’ve always wanted to travel abroad, but couldn’t because your partner was afraid of flying, or couldn’t take time off from his/her career, or just didn’t want to. Well, now’s your chance. Have you had a book inside you for years that has been dying to get written? Nobody’s stopping you. If you have children, you’re free to spend your time building on your relationships with them — without a spouse around to judge or limit your influence upon them.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and determination. You can finish that college degree, go to the neighborhood bar anytime, do charity work, join a night class, stay out all night, flirt with anybody you please. With the freedom of time comes the freedom of action. You don’t have to share the bathroom or the remote control; you can watch TV or read or eat in bed without disturbing someone else; you can choose which furniture, food, and clothes to buy based on your own tastes. Even if your divorce has left you with far less money than you had coming in as a couple, at least you get to choose how to spend it.

“It’s a great time in your life to explore your internal self and get grounded,” explains Lloyd MacNeil, a brand director with Telepersonals/Webpersonals in Toronto. “When you’re in a couple, you tend to get caught up in the day-to-day of life; you ignore yourself and your own needs. It’s also a great time for bonding with other singles and other friends, and meeting new people through that.”

Yet while it’s a brave step to make your own schedule, make sure your actions and plans are grounded in reality. Take practical issues — your financial resources, your parental and career responsibilities, your health — into vital consideration; you don’t want to make any foolish sacrifices or mistakes. Also be sure to plan carefully: don’t act too quickly without thinking of a safety net.

After his divorce was finalized, Peter, a dentist in Chicago, decided to fulfill his dream of travelling across the USA in a sportscar. Responding to an ad for a 1969 MG convertible, he hopped on a plane to San Francisco. The car was being sold by an elderly widow, who told Peter that the MG hadn’t been out of its garage in 15 years. Undaunted, he bought the car, paid a local mechanic to give it a basic tune-up and new tires, and set off on his cross-country adventure.
About 200 miles into his journey, the engine seized, stranding him in the middle of nowhere. When he finally got the car towed to a garage, he found that it would need a new engine — not to mention brakes, clutch, exhaust, and radiator — to become roadworthy. Peter now has to pay to store the car at the garage until he can afford the massive repair bill. “I should have had the car checked out more thoroughly before I bought it,” he admits ruefully. “I’m no mechanic: a new car would have been a better choice for me.”

You may be tempted to try to circumvent the grieving stage by plunging yourself into non-stop adventures or new relationships. This is a mistake that will come back to haunt you: you must feel the pain of the death of your marriage, then release it in order to be truly free.
If you weren’t the motivating or decision-making spouse in your marriage, sudden singlehood may leave you unsure of what to do with yourself; you don’t know how to make your own plans. The good news is that you can learn — and the more you practice, the better you’ll get at making decisions. If your judgment is a little shaky right now, bounce your ideas and plans off a friend with good judgment.

The bottom line is that you don’t want to use this time to do things you’ll regret later, or fail to do things you’ll regret missing out on. It’s a bad idea to try to make up for your loss by overspending, or overeating, or bedhopping with everyone you meet. That can be just as fatal as getting too caught up in your grief and putting your life on pause. Always think of the consequences of your actions: the saddest words you could end up uttering are, “I made a terrible mistake.”

New Directions

Once you learn who you are as an individual, you’ll find that there are many options open that you had no idea existed. You can renew yourself by devoting your single life to stimulating new interests and goals.

This may be a good time to examine your career path. Do you like your job? If not, consider the services of a career counselor or a “head hunter” to find a new, fulfilling job for you. Your local employment center might be able to help you find what kind of work would best suit your personality and give you the most inner satisfaction. But unless you’re independently wealthy, you shouldn’t quit your present job without having accepted a new position first. This is especially true if you have support obligations or custody of children; the extra freedom of singlehood doesn’t exempt you from your financial or parental responsibilities, which may limit your options.

A person who makes enough money to live on and support dependants at a job that he or she genuinely likes will be far happier than someone making a lot more money doing something he or she dislikes. Some people choose specific career paths not because their hearts are in them, but to earn enough to provide for a marriage and/or family, plus the material perks that accompany them (suburban house, two cars, etc.), either present or planned. Suppose that when your marriage is dissolved, you don’t have (or need) that big house or additional car anymore. What’s the use of winning the extra bread if it doesn’t satisfy your need for personal accomplishment?

Marie, a former sales clerk, took a job as a tour operator in Mexico after her divorce. She’d yearned to travel and see other cultures all her life, but her ex-husband had disliked going anywhere and she had sacrificed her desires for the sake of her marriage. Her post-divorce career gave her the chance not only to find herself through a job that she enjoyed more, but also to see Mexico and other places. Obviously, she’d found a solution that brought her a much happier life.

Then again, you may be happy with your present job regardless of how modestly you live. In fact, it may also be a good idea —if it doesn’t interfere with your relationships with your children — to focus your energy on your career to move up in the world. If you have kids, ask your friends and family to pitch in as babysitters to enable you to take night classes to upgrade your skills.

But you may not necessarily be satisfied with your life accomplishments outside of your career — especially if your marriage and family consumed all of your non-work time. That’s where you have to find new passions, or rekindle old ones — both to make use of your mental and/or physical skills in a constructive way, and also to meet new friends. It’s up to you, once you’ve gotten to know yourself and what activities you enjoy, to decide what’s right for you. Do you want to join a local sports league? Build model ships? Start a side business in another field that interests you?

One popular choice for a post-divorce pursuit is learning to dance. It’s not only a great way to keep yourself fit and active, it also boosts your self-confidence. “It isn’t unusual for dancers to meet a future life partner on the dance floor,” says Craig Marcott, the author of Three Minutes of Intimacy: Dance Your Way to a Sensational Social Life, who credits the currently huge turnover in the singles market to “a constant influx of new people resulting from divorce.” Marcott encourages people to try dance lessons as a way of diverting their attention from grief, having fun, and getting exercise again. “You don’t have to be a Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers to enjoy dance,” he says.

Psychologist Pat Hudson suggests escaping from divorce-related grief through creative endeavors. “Your mind is a potential playground,” Hudson writes in You Can Get Over Divorce. “As long as you know you are playing, you are developing the creative side of you, having fun, often indirectly dealing with your feelings, and healing at the same time.” Hudson gives writing or drawing as examples; you could also join a community theater. Tom, a New York based sales rep, discovered painting shortly after his divorce — and it has become one of his greatest passions. Now happily remarried, he continues to paint, and even decorates the walls of his home and office with his art.

You might even find that creative interests lead you to that more satisfying new career. Scottish author J.K. Rowling, known for the immensely popular Harry Potter children’s books, is one example of somebody who switched career tracks after her divorce — and succeeded phenomenally. This is not to imply that everybody has the talent to become a world-renowned artist or entertainer. But even if you have to keep your day job, finding a constructive creative outlet for your fantasies is one of the best ways of enjoying yourself while single. If your divorce-related emotions are too strong to escape through fantasy, use creativity as an outlet for your feelings, as a sort of primal therapy. Write about your anger and your pain. Make art out of your suffering. “Given the time, space, and urge, we all have the potential to be artists,” writes women’s activist Victoria Jaycox inSingle Again: A Guide for Women Starting Over. “Most of it is trained out of us as we grow up and enter the serious worlds of learning and work.” Singleness can be the chance to rediscover the artist within you.

Divorce isn’t the end of your life. It can be a second beginning in which you plan everything differently: you take roads you haven’t traveled, explore new options, and perhaps transform yourself into something you couldn’t have imagined being.

Life is Beautiful

“Everyone who experiences the breakup of a partnership suffers the same depths of pain and endures the same devastating emotions,” writes relationship counselor Angel La Liberte (writing under the name Christina Basciano) in Relationship Breakdown: A Survival Guide. “Yet, as we recover and create new lives out of the ashes, we generate new identities that are truly unique, truly our own.” You achieve this by taking control of your life, rather than letting the pain continue to bring you down. You can do and be what you want. You can set free your inner longings that have been aching to materialise.

But the benefit that may surprise you most is the likelihood of your attracting a new partner and starting a relationship with far more lasting power than the first. Why? Because after you’ve made use of your new life to better define who you are, you’ll attract someone who loves the real, essential you that you’re no longer afraid of – or prevented from – revealing to the world. And even if you don’t find your true soulmate right away, you won’t be lonely. You’ll find new friendships: ones that will last because your new friends enjoy the “real” you that you’ve discovered.

Renewed singleness is the time to thrive and show the world your true colors by taking full advantage of your new freedom. The most satisfying life you can have is one that you can look back upon and say to yourself proudly, “I did it my way.”

Expert Tips for the Newly Single

“Be conscious of what you tell yourself. Negative, dangerous thoughts like ‘I’m too old’ or ‘who’ll want me after what I’ve been through?’ keep us from moving forward. Cultivate an optimistic attitude, and more good things will happen.”
– Debra Burrell, CSW, New York therapist and “Mars and Venus” workshop instructor

“Divorce produces a mixture of feelings, from relief that the fighting and struggling are over, to sadness that the hopes of a lifetime together have evaporated. Newly divorced people must not focus only on the short-term relief while ignoring the more long-term sadness. Renewing yourself as an individual must include learning how to complete what the divorce left emotionally unfinished, so you won’t be defined by the pain you carry forward and thereby sabotage future relationships.”

– Russell Friedman, executive director of The Grief Recovery Institute in California
“You can go back and take a deeper look at who you are and how you relate to other people. It’s an exploration phase: you begin to re-evaluate how to form friendships, what gives you satisfaction at work and what doesn’t, and what gets you excited on the dating scene.”
– Jamie Weiner, Psy.D., co-creator of Associates for Life Challenges in Chicago

“All human beings have the ‘right stuff’ to enable new possibilities to emerge. As the painful emotion associated with divorce subsides, it slowly opens the mind to the creative energy to imagine new scenes, new characters, and new scripts. Divorce is but one scene in an unfolding process of reproducing ourselves one moment at a time.”
– Dr. Ken Celiano, Chicago therapist and divorce coach
“There’s the opportunity to finally be able to do things you previously felt inhibited doing. Many people find that as time goes by, once they’ve gotten over their grief, they take on major career changes, new hobbies and interests, personal growth.”
– David Whealey, M.Ed., founder of Separated Anonymous in Toronto


Monday, 8 October 2018

9 Reasons Women are Happier After Divorce

Divorce has a more positive impact on women.

Women Are Happier After Divorce For Many Reasons, These 9 Specifically

A study by Kingston University meant to analyze the negative impact of trauma on men and women came up with some surprising findings about divorce and women.

In the study, researchers surveyed 10,000 people in the U.K. between the ages of sixteen and sixty. In the survey participants were asked to rate their happiness before and after their divorce.

During a 20 year period, researchers found that women were happier and more satisfied with their lives after divorce.

"In the study we took into account the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women, but despite that it still makes them much happier than men," Professor Yannis Georgellis, Director of the Center for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS) at Kingston Business School, said.

So, what it is about women that help them move on to a more fulfilling life after divorce? Why do women handle divorce better than men? I’m sure that some argue that it is because more women file for divorce than men, that women are happier because they are getting what they want.

That argument only holds water if you delve into the many reasons women file for divorce. There are many reasons women file for a divorce and not all of those reasons have anything to do with falling out of love or no longer being happy in the marriage.

4 reasons a woman may file for divorce:

1. She has been abandoned and left with no recourse but to file for a divorce and pursue child support via the family court system. Something that isn't taken into consideration when we read statistics about the fact that more divorces are filed by women is the reason they file for divorce.

In most situations, women file for divorce when they've been backed into a corner and feel they have no other option.

2. Her husband suffers a midlife crisis and endangers her financial security, emotional security and behaves in a manner that is destructive to her and her future welfare.

3. Her husband is abusive and she has no recourse when protecting herself other than to file for a divorce and put distance between herself and the abuser.

4. Her husband has an extra-marital affair, moves out of the marital home, in with the other woman and leaves her responsible for financial maintenance of the home and family.

The reason for the divorce is not a factor in how well a woman will heal and move on with her life once she is divorced. Divorce can be a hard choice to make but once it is made a woman has choices she can make. She can give into the trauma of the divorce or rebuild her life and get on with the business of living. Most choose to get on the with business of living.

9 reasons women are happier after divorce:

1. Women are more likely than men to seek help for the emotional trauma caused by divorced from a therapist family member or, friend. Men keep it close to the vest when dealing with emotional upheaval.

Not reaching out for support prolongs their suffering and the time it takes to heal.

2. Women are more likely than men to surround themselves with a positive support system such as friends and family.

3. Women have different emotional coping strategies. While men look outward when seeking comfort from emotional pain, women look inward. They take an internal inventory of the role they played in the demise of the marriage, they work at getting their emotional “ducks in a row” and letting go of the past so they can focus on the future.

4. Women are less likely to turn to alcohol, drugs, new relationships and casual sex to distract them from the trauma of divorce.

5. Women are more likely to seek out new experiences after divorce, experiences that enrich their lives and give them a sense of hope for the future.

6. Women are more likely to prioritize their needs. They will put an effort into staying physically healthy during the trauma of divorce. They will have more focus on eating properly and working out in an effort to stave off illness and depression.

7. Women are no stronger emotionally than men. They do however use different coping skills than men when dealing with emotional trauma and, based on the study, those skills make it possible for women to move on and be happier than men after divorce.

8. Women have a strong sense of perseverance. Giving up is always the easy way out. Resilient people demonstrate the ability to stick to things and get them done. It's women who do the lion's share of childcare after divorce, they work outside the home while, at the same time having to keep the home together. Women are more likely to take on, happily the challenges of single motherhood and relish in that role.

9. Women are more likely to be comfortable in their own skin. They are more comfortable with the idea of going it alone, choosing a course of action they believe in and moving forward. Most women don’t mind spending time with themselves and have an understanding of the importance of healing after their divorce before jumping into a new relationship. Their lack of suffering from loneliness after divorce allows them to explore enjoyable activities either alone or in the company of friends. They don’t go out immediately looking for a replacement unit for the husband they just divorced.