Creating a New Life

A key to thriving after divorce is embracing it as a time to recharge, re-connect, and re-emerge into a new lifestyle.

When women do not thrive after divorce, it may be because they are trying to maintain their old lifestyle or they think their old lifestyle as the only one that can make them happy. Considering what kind of life will make you happy and taking steps to build that life is the route to renewal and happiness.

The yin and yang of divorce recovery is reaching out to others as you build a new life and enjoying your time alone.

REACHING OUT

Research clearly shows that happy people have strong social networks. If you want your post-divorce life to be happy (and who doesn’t), nurturing social relationships is a good way to start.

You may already have a source of social support if you live in a household with other people, e.g. your children or extended family. Having those people in your life can be helpful as you make adjustments to your new and emerging life situation. However, regardless of whether you live with others or alone, reaching out to friends (old and new) is especially important.

One of the changes brought on by divorce occurs within your social network. Married couples with whom you and your spouse were friends may no longer be appealing or viable friendship options. Indeed, if many of your friends and acquaintances came mainly through your ex-spouse’s network, you will want to reach out to new people. You will also want to keep connections alive with your existing group friends.

Friends Old & New

Call friends with whom you have lost touch; reconnect through online social networking; and make plans to socialize with people you would like to get to know better. Meeting for coffee, going to a movie, and going for a walk are but a few of the many ways that you can make new friends and strengthen connections to existing friends. Face-to-face time with a friend can keep your spirits high during your transition to your new life.

Join a group. If you do not already belong to a community group, now can be the perfect time to change that. Do a little research into local community groups, e.g. bird watchers, friends of the library, knitting circles, League of Women Voters, etc. If you enjoy reading, consider joining a book group. If you don’t know of any book groups, tell your friends you are interested in joining a book group. If they don’t provide any invitations, consider starting your own book group or joining an online book group. Other types of online groups can also provide a source of social connection. Online groups organize around shared passions (wine tasting, painting, hiking) or shared experiences, including divorce.

Become politically active. Volunteering for a political candidate or becoming active in the local branch of your political party can boost your happiness for two reasons: 1) you will be making a contribution to your community and 2) you will meet new friends with similar interests. Maybe you’ll even decide to run for political office!

Volunteer. Helping others is a great way to lift your spirits and to meet new people. Reach out to local charities for volunteer opportunities. Idealist.org is good online resource for finding volunteer positions.

Seek Out a Faith Community

The benefits of being a part of a church, synagogue, mosque or other faith community are multiple, including social, psychological, and health. People who attend religious services on a regular basis enjoy better mental and physical health.

Savor Solitude

Being on your own can be one of the biggest adjustments after divorce, especially if you do not have children living in your home. Some women find alone time hard at first, especially if the divorce was not their idea. Women who initiated divorce may breathe a sigh of relief at first, only to find that they start to feel unexpectedly lonely a little later. Regardless of their situation, most women go through some post-divorce loneliness, but eventually come to relish their solitude.

Here are some ideas for how to embrace your time alone:

Be creative. Get into the fun of cooking things that you never cooked before either because your ex-spouse didn’t like them or you were too busy. Knit, plant a garden, paint, quilt, play the piano. What was your favorite hobby when you were younger? Give it a try again. Got a business idea that you never had the time to pursue? Draw up a plan. Engaging in creative activities that absorb your attention can put your mind into a state of “flow” which is rejuvenating, uplifting, and supports the health of your brain.

Read. A quieter household can allow more time for reading. Reading can be a great source of relaxation and pleasure. Research has documented the mental health benefits from reading for pleasure. It’s not only fun, but good for your mood and outlook. Ask your friends for book suggestions. Better still, join a book group. Reading gives you something pleasurable to do while you are alone plus an additional opportunity for socializing through a book group.

Learn to meditate. Research on the health benefits of meditation is increasing rapidly. Over 600 research studies to date have documented these benefits which range from blood pressure reduction, pain reduction, anxiety reduction, memory enhancement, etc. Traditionally, meditation has been recommended to promote inner peace, mental and emotional wellness, and wisdom. Time to yourself provides a perfect opportunity to practice mediation and begin to reap the benefits. Meditation is often taught in adult education classes. Numerous DVDs, CDs, and books also provide meditation instruction.

Practice yoga. Attend yoga classes. Having time to yourself can provide an opportunity to really build a yoga practice into your everyday life. Yoga has obvious benefits for physical flexibility and strength. Yoga can be thought of moving meditation and, as such, offers many of the mental health benefits associated with sitting meditation.

Adopt a pet. Pets can make wonderful companions. If you have always dreamed of having a pet, now may be the right time. If you grew up around pets, you will know what is involved in caring for a pet. If you’ve never owned a pet before, it is helpful to talk to pet owners, animal shelter employees, and to educate yourself about pet ownership. It is important to fully understand the care requirements of different types of pets. Doing so will help you make the right decision for your circumstances and avoid introducing a source of stress into your life in the form of an unmanageable pet.