I recently received a question from one of our readers. This reader got divorced recently and was experiencing signs of depression as a result. It turns out that she's not alone. On a yearly basis, 1.5 million Americans get divorced, and it may have long-lasting effects on your mental health.
That's why so many people struggle to find happiness after a divorce. Especially when the divorce is messy, financially stressful and initiated by the other party. But what are the best steps towards finding happiness again after a divorce?
In this article, I've asked 5 experts to share their best tips on how to find happiness after a divorce. These experts range from people that actually went through a divorce or make a living helping people go through a divorce.
How many people deal with divorce?
When you're dealing with the fallout of a divorce, it's important to know that you're not alone. In fact, there are a lot of people who've gone through the same stressful, draining, and sad process of divorce.
According to the CDC, there were 2,015,603 marriages in 2019 in the United States alone. That means that for every thousand Americans, roughly 6 Americans get married every year. The actual marriage rate of 2019 was 6.1.
However, in that same year, 746,971 marriages ended in divorce. That's a stunning 37% of all marriages that year.
In other words, almost one and a half million Americans go through a divorce every single year.
The effects of divorce on your mental health
With one and a half million Americans divorcing every year, it's important to be aware of the negative effects it can have on your mental health.
A study performed in 2020 looked into just how much a divorce affects your mental health. The study included 1,856 divorcees and found that the quality of life of divorcees was significantly worse than the comparative background population.
Higher levels of divorce conflict were found to predict worse mental health, and worse physical health for women.
Other studies have found that divorcees are more likely to experience:
- Poorer physical and mental health.
- More symptoms of stress.
- Social isolation.
How to find happiness after divorce
It's clear that a divorce can seriously impact your mental health. But is it impossible to find happiness after a divorce?
Absolutely not. I've asked 5 experts that have dealt with divorces in different ways for their best tips on how to find happiness again. Here's what they had to say:
1. Recognize that divorce doesn’t define you as a person
This tip comes from Lisa Duffy, a divorce recovery expert who went through a divorce as well.
One of the most important things that helped me rebuild my life and find happiness after my divorce was recognizing that the label divorce did not define me as a person. It was just something that happened to me.
I come from a large family with lots of long happy marriages and despite the fact I didn’t want to divorce, I was still the black sheep.
Friends and coworkers had varied reactions, but I was branded by the divorce. This caused me to feel like a terrible person until one day it dawned on me that was all wrong. I was still a good person with gifts and talents to offer. Being divorced did not erase these things, nor did it mean I had to suffer forever.
It simply meant I had to tune the opinion of others out and tune in to what I knew was true.
I had been true to my spouse until he left, and I was still a good person, worthy of love, even though I was divorced. This was not always easy, but it made all the difference going forward and in rebuilding my life.
Today, I have been happily remarried for almost 22 years. So, don't worry about what others think of you. Just remember your divorce does not define you, it's just something that happened to you. You will survive.
2. Find ways to be productive
This tip comes from Tammy Andrews, a divorce lawyer who went through a divorce of her own as well.
After practicing as a divorce lawyer for over 30 years, I have witnessed first-hand accounts of this overwhelmingly heart-wrenching process on thousands of occasions. Nothing in my past experience had prepared me, however, for my own divorce.
The key to post-divorce happiness is productivity. One cannot truly be happy without feeling productive. Start small, and celebrate each step of the way toward progressing through your day.
Bite off small projects if large tasks seem overwhelming. Don't forget to be kind to yourself when setting goals and celebrate achievements as if you’ve just finished a marathon.
3. Give yourself time to grief
This tip comes from Jennifer Palazzo, a love and relationship coach who shares experience from her own divorce.
I took time for myself and avoided dating until I grieved and learned to love myself again.
Numerous feelings come with divorce regardless of whether you want the divorce or not. I experienced grief, anger, regret, pain, fear, loneliness, and embarrassment. In the first few months post-divorce, I tried to keep it all together, but it became challenging to show up as a mom, employee, friend, and community member. That was the beginning of my healing journey that included time, forgiveness, compassion, and, most importantly - love.
I began to do the things that I loved, including hiking in nature every day, journaling, reading self-healing books, yoga, swimming, meditating, cooking, and being with friends. I also took a few courses on healing after divorce.
Even though I still longed for a lifetime partner. I had a deep knowing that if I did not do the inner work, I would end up in a similar situation and repeat the same relationship patterns. I dug deep by taking radical responsibility for my part in the negative patterns of my marriage and simultaneously learned to accept and love myself exactly as I am. I also developed all of the qualities I was searching for in a partner, knowing that we attract what we are and what we put out.
4. Live in the possibilities
This tip comes from Amanda Irtz from autismaptitude.com, who shares what she learned from her own divorce.
After my divorce, I found myself drowning in the "what ifs" and “my life is so hard” thinking. I put myself into the victim role and lived that way for a while. Until one day, I told myself that I’d had enough of being sad and feeling sorry for myself. So, I grabbed my life by its shoulders and did something about it.
I started to look for the small, beautiful pockets of joy each day. I looked at the cracks on the pavement that formed mysterious, jagged lines with dandelions sprouting upward into the sun.
I started to keep a journal with me, which captured every little thing each day that filled me up:
- The smile from crossing guard at my kid’s school.
- The encouraging note from a colleague.
- The nourishing meal I enjoyed for lunch that day.
This small journal went everywhere. And guess what? When I started to focus on the small things, my feelings of happiness shifted. Today, this is a practice I carry with me. In fact, there are days when I not only write down these small pockets of joy, but I also verbalize to the people around me.
5. Reflect on yourself
This tip comes from Callisto Adams, a relationship expert at hetexted.com.
It sounds cliche, and it sounds like something commercial, but it’s one of the healthiest ways to start the healing journey. Reflecting on yourself, finding the root of the trouble, the root of your heartache, and exactly what you can do about it.
It takes work, effort, tears, and sweat, but it’s a tremendous step towards healing.
Reflecting on yourself includes:
- Learning ways to let go. In other words, learn to find ways to be mindful. Noticing and being grateful for the positive things in your life at the moment.
- See and notice things that make your life great at the moment. Not being blind to this fact that’s shaking your world. This is more like being aware of it, being aware of the fact that it’s in the past, while focusing on the present.
- Meditation. Don’t stop until you’re finally free of those thoughts.
- Exercise (physical activity) helps in releasing ‘positive’ hormones in your body, helps you in being more present, and having things to deal with other than something that drowns you in pain whenever you think about it.
- Not jumping into other relationships to fill the void.
- Surrounding yourself with people that remind you that you’re loved.
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When you're going through a divorce, you're more likely to experience issues regarding your mental health. But that doesn't mean that you can't find happiness again after a divorce. These 5 experts have shared their best tips on how you can focus on yourself while building a happy life.
What do you think? Have you gone through a divorce and struggled with finding happiness again? Do you want to share your own tips to the mix? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!