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Want to feel better about yourself, but are sick of lame pick-me-up techniques like Post-its scribbled with positive sayings?
Say hello to Suzy Brown, author of Radical Recovery: Transforming the Despair of Your Divorce into an Unexpected Good and a former divorcée who is now a divorce-recovery expert, as she offers advice on how to get back on track. Below, she shares the common struggles of newly divorced women, along with some words of wisdom from other experts.
Find a Meaningful Motivator
True happiness, suggests Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., instructor of Harvard’s highly popular Positive Psychology class, lies at the intersection of pleasure and meaning. In other words, you may say your family comes first, but if you work 14-hour days, you’re creating an internal conflict that siphons your happiness.
To avoid that, take an importance inventory of your life by asking what matters to you most and measuring that against your habits. The key is to see if your routine allows for the things you say are truly important. “At the very beginning of this ordeal and the days immediately following, I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning,” Brown says. Know what motivates you to get up, then get to it.
Find an Activity. Enjoy. Repeat.
“Rebuilding your life in shape is an important step in the daily recovery process. It’s like rebuilding a hope,” says Brown. Working out does more than develop muscles, bolster metabolism, and improve sex and sleep — it serves as a mood booster. But contrary to what you may think about the “runners’ high,” it takes just 10 minutes of activity to elevate your mood, according to Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.
"Regular exercise helps your body regulate the stress hormone cortisol, which prevents you from being at the top of your game,” says Bryant. Deliver messages by foot rather than e-mail, or start a walking group with colleagues and take two 10-minute breaks during the day to walk around the office or tackle the stairs.
Find Your Food Chi
During your divorce, Brown says, you may seek out consolation through food. Sweets such as chocolate or doughnuts, which contain sugar and fat, create a powerful hard-to-resist pull on the brain and tap into the same reward system as things like alcohol. Dana Small, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University’s School of Medicine, suggests targeting a single behavior, such as eliminating sugar from your coffee. Secondly, remember that “out of sight is out of mind” — literally.
Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, advises people to put distance between themselves and food. At the dinner table, keep the serving bowls in the kitchen so that a second helping requires a trip. Finally, rewrite your food scripts. Pay attention to the places you snack or eat other than mealtimes. If you eat ice cream while watching Seinfeld reruns, tell yourself you’re not going to eat while watching TV, and ride the craving until it ends.