The holidays can be a stressful time for us, especially if we are going through a divorce and ending a decades-long marriage. Learning how to smile again, to not be stressed, and to establish our independence during a season that emphasizes family togetherness can feel nightmarish.
Learning to find joy in your life, especially if you are ending a decades-long marriage, is an incredible gift that you can give to yourself. And it can be easier than ever– when you ask yourself the following:
What are the things worth celebrating in your life that you have taken for granted?
We have this unfair expectation that only huge milestones in our lives are worth celebrating. But what about the day-in/day-out struggles that we endure, especially as we grow older?
We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we have accomplished, especially as we learn to move on after divorce. Every day that you take control of your life, every day that you learn a little more about managing money and re-entering the work force, every day that you get a little bit stronger and take care of yourself and put yourself first and realize that you are worthy of getting your confidence back and reclaiming your life– is something you should celebrate.
So, what things will you start to celebrate? I’ve listed a few of my own!
-I choose to celebrate that I am no longer in a relationship that was unhealthy for me.
-I will celebrate that I am a survivor. I got through this, and now I know I can get through anything.
What is yours that nobody can take from you?
Answering this question establishes the solid foundation for celebrating what is good in your life. These answers are simpler than you think. Some of my answers, especially during the hardest times of my divorce, included:
-Coming home to a clean house—everything just how I left it.
-The feeling that although I am no longer married, at least I am not in a toxic, unhealthy relationship anymore.
-Knowing that my dogs would always greet me with a wagging tail and sloppy kiss.
Those simple things are ones we usually take for granted, but when you are mindful to the love and beauty that actually surrounds you, just waiting to be acknowledged, you will see dozens of things to be happy about that are right in front of you.
If you are still having trouble with trying to identify things that bring you joy, don’t worry! Finding joy in your life is the most important step to learning how to heal and move on. It is also the easiest but most critical component of taking care of yourself as you recover for your divorce.
When the world still seems like a disaster, or when you are angry over something that happened today, or you saw something or heard something that triggered you into feeling resentful of grief-stricken, you must do this one thing:
Write down 5 things that are worth celebrating in your life–things you love.
These things do not have to be extravagant. In fact, the simplest of things are usually the best, because they remind us that we are still alive and that we will be okay. Need some inspiration? Take a look at last night’s entry into my own notebook.
-The crinkle of the fall leaves underneath my feet
-The smell of fabric softener on clean sheets
-Hot Epsom salt bath before bed
-My sweet dog Oliver, who always makes me laugh
-Homemade delicious olive oil cake after dinner
Do this exercise tonight.
I prefer doing this as I am getting ready for bed. After I finish the night rituals but still have a few minutes before I know that I am going to zonk out is when I write these things. It doesn’t really matter when you do it exactly, but I find that doing it at the end of the day is the best way to get closure on any nonsense that has gotten in my space, as well as celebrating any good things that have come my way, too.
Make it as easy as possible for yourself.
I keep a medium-sized notebook with a pen on my nightstand, next to my alarm clock. That way, I will see it every night. Get a beautiful notebook (or a simple one)—some people get super-fancy and call them Gratitude Journals. I just call it a lifeline to joy.
A simple habit can change your outlook.
This is not a just-one-and-done thing, however. You must make this a habit in order for it to work. Some studies show that it takes 21 days of practice to make something a habit, but you will start to notice the change in your outlook after 3 days of writing these down.
You may also see patterns of things for which you are grateful—things that appear in your notebook regularly. It’s not a coincidence. It’s a sign that these are the things in your life that bring you joy, and these are the things you should celebrate. These are the things that, when you are angry or lonely, have the power to center you again and remind you that you have control of your life, that you are strong, and that regardless of where you have been, you will get your life and happiness back.