5 Healthy Ways To Get Used To A Brand-New Life After A Divorce

It's often said that marriage (and civil unions) represent life's biggest leap of faith. No other commitment quite affects what self-development author Brian Tracy and others call the "seven ingredients of a happy life." These ingredients include such things as peace of mind, personal fulfillment, worthy goals, and financial freedom. But how things can change through the prism of divorce. If you're considering a divorce, are in the throes of one, or are recovering from a divorce, you may reassess these ingredients. In the end, you may keep them all but resort their importance to you as a single person. 

No matter how sad, disillusioned, or even hopeless you may feel at the moment, it may help to remember that there's an optimism lurking within you. There has to be. You were optimistic enough to take that leap of faith, perhaps knowing that about 40% to 50% of marriages in the last 20 years ended in divorce, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Divorce rates are decreasing, but so are the number of people who decide to get married in the first place, Legal Jobs says. This means it's more important than ever to rebuild your life — a happy, purposeful, and maybe solo life. Five ideas can help you get started.

Grasp the benefits of skilled, professional help

As many divorced people discover, it helps to have friends to talk to and confide in, especially if they can share the benefits of their experience. But no matter how careful people are to respect boundaries and not become needy or dependent on the people in their support system, divorce and the inherent stressors can put great stress on friendships, too. Many people look back and say they "didn't see it coming."

But the moment you do, it may make sense to consider finding a therapist to guide you through some of the darkest days of divorce, Cleveland Clinic says. You can derive three major benefits that can help you adapt to your new life, McKinley Irvin Family Law says: you can learn stress reduction strategies, talk about your feelings and gain honest feedback, and learn coping techniques. If you have children, they could become part of this helpful process, too.

If you're resisting the idea, ask a trusted friend or neighbor who has had a positive outcome with a therapist for a referral. And realize that the counseling relationship is not meant to last forever. It's a short-term commitment that should equip you to face your post-divorce life with confidence and greater self-assurance.

Practice self-care

At the risk of over-generalizing, women can make loving nurturers for their children and supportive companions to their spouse but lousy caretakers of themselves, as the Cleveland Clinic points out. It's practically conventional wisdom that "mothers come last," with many women "self-enabling" by pleading the press of time. They have a point — to a point. And so you may find yourself sitting at the top of Mt. Irony when you realize that when your time (and energy) is stretched to new limits, the importance of self-care is most acute. Many women are self-aware enough to know they could benefit from some "me time" but often falter in carving out time for it.

Divorce coach Karen Finn recommends starting small: make regular haircare appointments, schedule monthly lunch dates, or mull over the universe in a comfortable coffee shop. The upshot is, a 20-minute dash through the sales racks of your favorite clothing store is better than not stopping at all.

Once you take a little time to "clear out the rafters" and experience the real benefits of indulging in "me time," you may be more inclined to integrate these and other uplifting activities into your everyday life. Emphasize those things that put spring into your step. Quantity doesn't matter; quality does.

Try a new routine

Many people form a love-hate relationship with routine. When life feels too dictated by routine, they may complain about feeling constricted. But when something new happens to upend their routine, they may not like that, either, and so strive to return things to "normal." 

There is a lot to be said for normalcy. But one of the first notions divorced (and soon-to-be-divorced) people learn is that their life will never be like it was again. They must create "a new normal," and it takes time to achieve. But it's worth being patient and tenacious, Healthline says, because new routines can "promote a sense of renewal."

As with making other life changes, it may be best to form new routines slowly. Therapists and counselors don't call them "baby steps" for nothing: babies tend to take an uncertain step or two and then take a look around before they make their next move. Creating new routines or rituals — before dinner, after dinner, at bedtime — requires the same type of caution. The DiPietro Law Group notes that perspective and a positive attitude can help matters: "Although a divorce is of course an end of a marriage, viewing it as a new beginning is often helpful."

Reconnect with joyful activities

You may not like the term "hobby." (What's that?) You may be even less fond of the term "passion." (You may have to think back even further to unroot one of these.) So call them "interests" or "pastimes" — those activities you once made time for but out of necessity gave up long ago. As a newly divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) person, the time is right to reconnect with activities that bring you joy, WebMD says. They will help you enjoy life — a notion that may be eluding you at the moment.

Of course, it's entirely possible that your former "passion projects" no longer hold much appeal to you. It's unsettling to know you want to do something but not know what that something is. So Main Line Family Law Center suggests joining a divorce support group, where you should meet some like-minded people (including the facilitator) who can share ideas.

Alternately, if you do know what you're interested in but don't know exactly where to turn, put together the pieces to the best of your ability. Then ask for guidance. You have to start somewhere. So if you want to learn more about Italian cooking, check your park district for classes. If you want to hunker down with home improvements but want to steady your hand first, snoop around at your local home store. They usually have established business relationships with people in the trades who can point you in the right direction.

Create your own bucket list

Plenty of people appreciate the concept. They're just not crazy about the name: "bucket list," a list of experiences you're determined to have before you — you know — "kick the bucket" (per BetterUp). The list is meant to keep you inspired and motivated as you work toward attaining your goals, one by one. Presumably, you're imbued with a sense of pride and accomplishment while you reduce the chance of forming regrets over a life unfulfilled.

The reality is, sometimes divorced (and soon-to-be divorced) people need all the positivity they can get. So if the name fills you with gloom, Worthy suggests recasting "bucket list" in positive terms. Regard it as a "blueprint for beginning anew" instead of reminding you of impending doom. (You can take it a step further and christen it with a new name. And if it's snarky or sarcastic, so be it. It's your list.)

The bigger point is, creating a wish list or "Genie List" or "Dream Big" list could represent a monumental step in helping you adjust to life after divorce, Main Line Family Law Center says. As you develop it and act on fulfilling it, you may be reminded of a crucial tenet of divorce that bears repeating, over and over, like an affirmation: "Divorce may be a defining experience. But it doesn't define you."