By Amy Setzer, Legal Assistant, Woodruff Family Law Group
It’s springtime in the Triad! The season of new blossoms, warming weather and parting clouds has inspired me to talk to you about how important staying positive really is. Whether you’re writing your separation agreement or mediating custody, anything that irreparably changes your personal life is mentally and emotionally taxing. It’s hard to keep that chin up when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
But, you have to try. Besides having a multitude of physical and emotional consequences such as fatigue, a pessimistic outlook can also worsen the situation at hand. Studies show that negativity can result in depression, intensify the impact of stress and cause medical problems like high blood pressure and digestive disorders. Bad attitudes are destructive and often lead to vindictive, petty behavior that draws out your proceedings and makes the whole thing that much harder.
So how do you lift yourself up and look at the bright side? It takes practice and commitment, but it’s relatively easy. Trust me–I’ve never been accused of being a Pollyanna. But changing some simple, everyday things, turned my frown upside down. You can do the same.
Positive Thinking is the fundamental first step. Changing your cognitive patterns will eventually brighten up the way you perceive the world around you.
- Eliminate the word ‘not.’ Altering your brainwaves to avoid using this most common negating adverb is an easy trick to uplifting thoughts. Phrases like “Don’t forget to buy milk,” are subconsciously discouraging. Flipping that sentence into “Remember to get milk,” is an affirming way of saying the same thing. Big impact from a small variation = a vote of confidence in yourself.
- Make “done lists” instead of “to-do lists.” I’m a list fanatic, but I chucked my never-ending, ever-growing inventory of ‘incomplete-stuff-so-voluminous-there’s-no-hope-of-accomplishing-in-this-lifetime’ because being slapped with things I didn’t get checked off stressed me the heck out. Adding to a “done” list every night reinforces productivity and will motivate you to accomplish more. And think outside the box; there’s more to life than responsibility. Inspirations that swelled your soul, working on your health and obstacles overcome also deserve applause–a lot more than vacuuming.
- Count your blessings. There will be times it seems life has you beat. The daily grinds seem significant to you, sure. But overall? Not so much. In the grand scheme, your problems are pretty small and things could be worse. So when your car breaks down on the way to the courthouse after your coffee maker dies and your kids didn’t get up for school, remember this phrase: “At least I … ” As in: “At least I’m not in Afghanistan fighting terrorists,” and “At least I have Triple-A.” Thinking of evils in the world more wicked than acquiring an ex-spouse will highlight what you should be grateful for.
Make a Happy Place: Now that you’ve cheered your noggin up, it’s time to create space that matches your new mindset. You’ll be surprised how nice being alone can be.
- Purge. Purge. Purge. Walk through your domicile and take down every single thing that makes you sad. If a picture of the kids in Disney World reminds you of cherished family vacations, you’ll never have again, replace it with a new one. You don’t have to throw the memories away, but you don’t have to stare at them every day either. Pack them up out of sight and out of mind.
- Redecorate the nest. Whether you stayed in the now emptier house or moved to an unfamiliar abode—the furnishings alone can be a melancholy reminder of things lost. Carve out a comfort zone by filling your habitat with touches of just you in every corner. No need to go crazy. Pocket-change transformations like a bright and cheery comforter, a new red wall, or a hula-dancing flamingo playing the ukulele on the mantle will do the trick. Just make sure it’s something you love and that it makes you happy to be home again.
- Sweep out the cobwebs. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned scrubbing to bring order back to your world. It’s cheap. It’s cathartic. It’s cliché. In with the good, out with the bad. That’s why it works.
Save Your Soul: Being positive isn’t just a mindset, it’s a lifestyle. Doing things that develop your character and strengthen your spirit round out your cynicism rehab.
- Get on the High Road. That’s right. I’m talking about your Circumstances. The divorce process is never easy, but having an antagonistic outlook is unhealthy and unproductive. Rather than get mired down in details of the dissolution, focus on the big picture. Be objective and fair when negotiating with your ex. Compromising will help you win the big battles that really matter. Your load lighten when you stop worrying about being right and start looking forward to being done.
- Do stuff. Love art? Take a drawing class. Face one fear, go to a movie by yourself, eat lunch in the park, or learn to hula–hoop. Participating in activities provides a means to meet new people and experience new things. And meet new people. And. Meet. New. People. Ahem.
- Forgive and forget. If you quit laughing, you’ll realize you’ll realize I’m not talking about your ex—forgiving yourself is imperative when recovering from divorce. Anything that transpired is moot; the past cannot be undone. Try to grow from it, understand your role in it and find peace with it so history doesn’t repeat itself. But let go of feelings of failure and regret; the stigma of divorce is antiquated and obsolete in this day and age.
- Weed out your “support” network. At a time like this, surrounding yourself with people who care is crucial. But let’s define “support.” Everyone has “That Friend” who lays tracks the second you stop berating your former partner; she’s only interested in your misfortune. True compadres gently say what you need to hear, which may not necessarily be what you want to hear. Identify these long-term allies who have cried and laughed with you; those who really know your core, and aren’t just a bond of necessity. Then ditch the misery-loves-company crowd and fill your circle with those who love you enough to tell you the truth even when it hurts.