CULTIVATE THE HEALING POWER OF GRATITUDE

There is a solution to all the emotional pain that can be overwhelming during divorce. The answer may surprise you: It is the attitude of gratitude. Gratitude will get you through the darkest days and pull you out of grief to a new and better life. 

You might be thinking, I feel so devastated, I can’t imagine feeling peace ever again! Or Good riddance! I’m so glad to be done with that nightmare husband! Both responses suggest you’re harboring resentment and anger. In both cases, you feel hurt and are grieving in your own way.

Grieving during divorce is normal and must be experienced for optimal mental health. You can, however, allow yourself to have a reprieve from the grief by intentionally allowing yourself to focus on the things for which you are grateful. Gratitude is an immensely powerful force that we can use to expand our happiness, create loving relationships, and even improve our health.

Many scientific studies have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional well-being and physical health than those who don’t. In comparison with control groups, those who cultivated a grateful outlook:

·         Felt better about their lives as a whole

·         Experienced greater levels of joy and happiness

·         Felt optimistic about the future

·         Got sick less often

·         Exercised more regularly

·         Had more energy, enthusiasm, determination, and focus

·         Made greater progress toward achieving important personal goals

·         Slept better and awoke feeling refreshed

·         Felt stronger during trying times

·         Enjoyed closer family ties

·         Were more likely to help others and offer emotional support

·         Experienced fewer symptoms of stress

If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate. It is a fullness of heart that moves us from limitation and fear to expansion and love. When we’re appreciating something, our ego moves out of the way and we connect with our soul. Gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place where we can choose to operate without the constraints of past conditioning that can keep us from reaching our potential.

Even though you may not feel it at first, there are many blessings to be grateful for while recovering from divorce:

  freedom from conflict with your former spouse

  freedom to make your own decisions

  a positive model for your kids that it is not healthy to stay in a toxic marriage

  the opportunity to parent your children the way you want to when they are at your house

  the occasion to learn how supportive friends and family can be

  the ability to decorate however you want

Many times, the grief of divorce is about the loss of the idealized family life you wanted. For lots of reasons, many women long for a “traditional marriage” with a mom, dad, and kids that live “happily ever after.” The realization that this dream will not be happening the way you planned can feel devastating. But it can also open up opportunities for finding a new and better life.

I found, and have observed, that when divorce finally happens, things were typically bad for a long time.  And in fact, life is calmer, happier and much more peaceful once the acting-out husband leaves and you are able to create the life you want for you and your kids. Sure, it isn’t easy being a single mom; but it is much, much better than just surviving in a bad marriage.   

Believe you can heal from your divorce. Harboring hurt, resentment and anger for long periods of time only hurts you –not your ex – and prevents you from embracing the new life you can create. So do yourself a favor and nurture an attitude of gratitude for everything — however small. You deserve to thrive as a newly single person. And pretty soon, you will see the signs that you are ready to move on:

·         You’ve let go of your anger and embraced your new life

·         You’ve spent time on yourself and you like who you are

·         You’ve created a solid family, without the problematic or checked-out spouse

☐ Mindful action steps for cultivating gratitude in your life:

✓   Keep a Gratitude Journal

Since ancient times, philosophers and sages from every spiritual tradition have taught that cultivating gratitude is a key to experiencing deeper levels of happiness, fulfillment, and well-being.

One of the earliest advocates of a daily gratitude practice was Dutch philosopher Rabbi Baruch Spinoza. In the seventeenth century, he suggested that each day for a month, we ask ourselves the following three questions:

✓   Who or what inspired me today?

✓   What brought me happiness today?

✓   What brought me comfort and deep peace today?

Spinoza believed that this practice would help us find more meaning and joy in our lives and would lead to profound inner transformation. As you write in your journal, challenge yourself by not repeating items from the previous days— this will make you look more deeply at all the little things that enhance your life and give you joy: 

✓   your health

✓   your children

✓   waking in a warm bed

✓   the ability to have a fresh start through this divorce

✓   the ability to choose what your future will be

✓   empowerment that comes from knowing that you can take the necessary steps to create the life you want to lead

You can write in your journal just before bed, when you wake up in the morning, or just before you meditate. The time of day isn’t important; what is important is that you consistently take a few moments to consciously focus your mind on your blessings. Commit to writing in your journal about what you are grateful for each day for a month. What we put our attention on expands in our life. By offering gratitude for all the goodness we experience, we’re inviting the universe to give us more and more of what we want.

✓  Write a Thank You Letter

Make a list of at least five people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your gratitude letter in person.

In studies of people who have practiced this form of gratitude, the results have been amazing. Often the recipient of the letter had no idea what an impact he or she had had on another person and were deeply touched by the expression of such authentic gratitude.

While we may often thank people verbally, the written word can often be even more powerful because someone has taken the time to write their appreciation.  A letter can also be re-read and treasured, creating joy and love that will continue to ripple out into the universe.

✓  Take a Gratitude Walk

This is a particularly useful practice when you’re feeling down or filled with stress and worry. Set aside 20 minutes (or longer if you can) and walk in your neighborhood, through a park, around your office, or somewhere in nature. As you walk, consider the many things for which you are grateful:

✓  nurturing relationships

✓  material comforts

✓  the body that allows you to experience the world

✓   the mind that allows you to really understand yourself, and your essential spiritual nature

Pay attention to your senses—everything you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and maybe even tasting—and see how many things you can find to feel grateful for. Breathe, pause, and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible.  This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open to the flow of abundance that always surrounds you.

Ann Grant