By Lisa Gabardi, Ph.D.
Divorce is stressful. You may feel sad, confused, angry, broken hearted, agitated, defensive, and scared. You may have trouble sleeping and concentrating. You might be overwhelmed. You might have a hard time keeping your cool and being reasonable with your former spouse or your kids. The divorcing process involves a lot of emotional wear and tear.
Meditation is a practice that promotes greater awareness, relaxation, clarity, calm, compassion, and mental control. At a biological level, meditation promotes slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduced production of the stress hormone cortisol, and increased growth and connectivity of brain cells in the higher functioning brain area of the neo-cortex.
These amazing benefits of meditation support the skills and abilities you need most during divorce. A consistent, simple meditation practice could improve your ability to cope with stress, manage emotions, think clearly, make wise decisions, co-parent effectively, heal your grief, and let go of bitterness and resentment. Improved resilience and effectiveness during and after your divorce will help you adjust well.
But I’m too stressed, don’t know how, wouldn’t be good at it…
I get it. The thought of sitting crossed-legged on a pillow in silence for 45 – 60 minutes sounds more stressful than relaxing. Besides, who has an hour to sit quietly when going through a divorce or single parenting? Frankly, sitting alone with your thoughts during divorce can sound down-right scary! But this image of meditation is not what I’m talking about. There are lots of ways to meditate. I’m suggesting something brief and simple, yet very helpful. Everyone has five or ten minutes. That’s all you’ll need for now. Five to ten minutes, the intention to meditate consistently, an open mind to the possible benefits, an open heart to healing, and a smile. Ok, I just added the smile part for fun. Because I think we could all benefit from more smiles. Studies even suggest that mood can improve when we force ourselves to smile because the facial muscles that control our ability to smile actually trigger production of anti-depressing brain chemicals. I find that fascinating! As a side benefit, you’ll also look more attractive. But I digress….
Give it a try!*
1. Find a time: first thing in the morning, during a work break, on a walk, before bed.
2. Get comfortable: sit upright in a chair, feel comfortable in your clothes, eliminate distractions (noise, electronics, close your eyes to visual distractions).
3. Focus on your breathing.
a. Inhale and exhale through your nose
b. Inhale deeply so that your belly rises
c. Count your breathes– Inhale 1, Exhale 2, Inhale 3, Exhale 4 and so on.
4. If you notice muscle tension, as you inhale contract that muscle group, then as you exhale, release the muscles and notice the tension flowing away from your body.
5. As you notice thoughts come into your mind, imagine putting the thought into a cloud in the sky and then watching the cloud slowly drift past you. Continue to do this as you breathe when new thoughts arise. This allows you to notice your thoughts from a distance and allows you to practice shifting your attention from your thoughts back to counting your breaths.
6. After several minutes of this, slowly and gently take another deep breathe with a long, slow exhale. Then another of these deep breathes.
7. Open your eyes and breathe, slowly reorienting to the room.
8. Breathe, smile.
Notice how you’re feeling after this exercise. Hopefully, you will feel just a little bit more relaxed and peaceful. It is also possible that strong thoughts or feelings might arise as you quiet your mind and open your heart. Seek the support of family, friends, and/or a coach or therapist if this happens and you need additional help coping. Pain and healing are a natural part of life. Meditation can be a helpful resource to heal from the stress and pain of divorce.
*check with your doctor before you begin any new physical activity.
Lisa Gabardi, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist with over twenty years of experience helping
people with their relationships, marriages, and divorces. Dr. Gabardi maintains a private
practice in Beaverton, Oregon providing psychotherapy, mediation, and divorce consultation.
She is also author of The Quick Guide to Co-Parenting After Divorce: Three Steps to Your
Children’s Healthy Adjustment. http://amzn.to/T0Yy9w