Whenever you go through a difficult life situation like divorce it’s tempting to seek out short-term pleasure as a way to dull the pain. As emotions run high, quick-fix answers like drinking or one night stands can lead to a temporary amelioration of the hurt you’re experiencing, but they’ll ultimately leave you feeling empty and unhappy.
As you pick yourself up in the wake of a divorce, it’s important to channel your recovery efforts towards wise, healthy goals that will cultivate a sincere appreciation for life and help you feel genuinely happy once again.
From Seeking Pleasure to Seeking Happiness
The first step in finding true happiness post-divorce is to begin identifying the difference between pleasure and happiness. This can be found in both your activities and your thoughts.
You can start this process by studying cognitive distortions. This can make it easier to identify negative thought patterns (including seeking after pleasure to temporary dull pain). Things like mental filters, disqualifying the positive, and jumping to conclusions can all color your thoughts in a negative light — and by extension push you towards those “quick fixes” more readily.
Instead, look for the areas where you’ve found genuine goodness and happiness in the past. What have your healthy relationships looked like? What has your condition consisted of when you were at your peak of physical fitness? How did your emotional reactions come across when you were in a good place?
In addition, look for areas where you’ve been hiding from the truth. What real-life things have you been avoiding? Here are a few challenges to give yourself as you sort through your thoughts and emotions:
● You can accept that it’s okay to fail.
● Don’t give in to a victim mentality — be strong.
● Identify your key values and don’t compromise on them going forward.
● Leave the past in the past whenever possible.
● Avoid toxic relationships and aim to develop positive, healthy ones.
As you identify these items, begin to set clear goals and objectives as benchmarks for you to work towards in the future.
Cultivating the Good
As you sift through the negative and the positive in your life and set up healthy goals, you can begin to invest in finding your “most ideal self.” These efforts should focus on authentic, sustainable elements of your life that are aimed at cultivating genuine results.
One area that is important to cultivate is how you eat. Comfort food is never more comforting (or alluring) than when you’re drowning in the immense, overwhelming feelings of separating from someone. However, it’s important to resist this temptation to eat junk food that is temporarily comforting.
Instead, strive to study and learn about how to maintain a healthy diet. While all diets are different, there are some general tenets of healthy eating that always hold true. For instance, overly processed food; excessive fats, salt, and sugars; and unbalanced meals can all have negative effects on your health. Instead, strive to:
● Eat well-balanced meals.
● Stock up on healthy snacks.
● Cook your own food.
These habits will help you stay focused on the good — and you’ll feel physically better in the process, too.
Properly Use Social Media
Another area that’s easy to abuse is social media. Like food, social media can be a two-edged sword, with real pros and cons depending on how you’re using it.
For instance, on the one hand, it’s been shown that social media can alleviate feelings of isolation when it’s used to connect with others and bolster support systems.
On the other hand, when social media is used to avoid face-to-face interactions or to develop unrealistic opinions and other’s happiness and success, it can have profoundly negative effects on your recovery.
Whether you’re talking about food, social media, or any other facet of your life, it’s important to look for ways to weed out the bad and cultivate the good in each and every activity.
As you avoid pleasure and focus on real happiness, you’ll begin to regain a measure of control over your thoughts and emotions. Once that happens, you can begin to look for ways to create positive, forward momentum as you re-enter normal life. A few suggestions include:
● Exploring love languages: Learning about how to understand both your own and other’s love languages can help improve your relationships with others around you.
● Meditate and/or pray: You may be afraid to let your brain rest in the moment, but it is one of the best ways to address your pain and truly find inner peace and happiness again.
● Study your enneagram: Consider taking a test to discover your enneagram number. This can help you better understand how you function, how to address your hurt, and how to truly pursue what you value.
Learning to Believe in Love Again
It may sound cliche, but one of the most important goals in your shift from pleasure to happiness should be the ultimate pursuit to restore your faith in love. You may have felt betrayed, bruised, and battered by past experiences, and you’re not alone in those feelings.
However, past pain should never be an impenetrable barrier to future happiness. Instead, strive to identify that pain, avoid the meaningless pleasures, and hone in on both discovering true happiness and developing your most ideal self in the process.