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A Happier New Year

Rachel Alexander Jan. 1, 2011

The New Year brings with it the opportunity to look ahead to a clean slate. For divorcing couples this can be an ideal time to clarify goals in reshaping their lives and redefining their families. Usually divorce brings with it a sense of loss of control, disempowerment, alienation and identity crisis. The New Year – with its tradition of resolution setting and focusing forward – offers a chance to take hold of the reins of one’s life again. A few suggestions for resolutions for divorcing and newly divorced [ and all] people follow:

Set one or two new family traditions. This could be anything from instituting Taco night once a month, to choosing a book to read aloud as a family. The idea is to introduce some positive, structured activity that is simple to adhere to and can bring the family some comfort, joy and togetherness.

Acknowledge yourself and what you have overcome. Going through a divorce is treacherous and most people do not make it through unscathed. Had you undergone major surgery, you would take the necessary time to heal and would be gentle with yourself while you were recovering. If there were anything you could do for yourself to support your well-being, you would do so without hesitation. Now is the time to adopt this attitude towards psychological and emotional self. No harm will come if you stop beating yourself up and lingering on past mistakes, or even silence your internal critic. In fact, you will heal faster and feel stronger in the process.

Choose gratitude. Divorce is synonymous with loss. It can be difficult to feel anything but victimized and afraid. Focusing on what you have – even if it is much less than what you feel you want, need or should have – can be an enormous help in feeling you have a good deal. From this sense of having a lot and being thankful for it, you are better equipped to create more. Refocusing is a choice and available to each of us at every moment. Sometimes changing what we focus on is not only one of the most immediate and plausible things we can control, it is also among the most powerful.

Have fun. Divorce is the antithesis of fun, so much so that people feel they have no time for or right to experience something as trivial as fun. Making room to have fun – even for an hour a week (think recording and watching, uninterrupted, your favorite TV show, or taking an evening Zumba class, having a bath, meeting a friend for coffee) – signifies to yourself that you are not required to function in crisis mode and can begin to inhabit a life that includes enjoyment. Having fun will not be a waste of time, but rather rejuvenate you and make you more effective in your serious pursuits.

As you embark on this new year, I wish you peace, wellness and perhaps most of all, happiness.