What Do I Do Now?

Thriving after divorce

In the last few years, there has been an enormous increase in the divorce rate among the 50–65 year-old set. So many couples over 50 are ending marriages that there is even a name for it — The Gray Divorce Revolution.

In the U.S., one-quarter of all divorces now involve people over 50. And there is a similar trend in Canada, the UK, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. It’s important to note that the overall divorce rate is going down, but it is spiking in the 50 and older set.

Research shows several reasons for this trend including, a longer life span, improved health for people in their middle age and more financial independence for women. One finding points to the fact that older men want sex more than older women do. Viagra seems to have replaced the multi-vitamin.

But regardless of the reasons for this increase, the problems of recently-divorced mid-lifers are many. And this seems to be even more problematic for women; one reason for this seems to be because “empty-nest” is a common point of marital breakdown. After years of looking after loved ones, of being a ‘good wife and mother’ and constantly focusing outside themselves, women lose touch with their own desires and needs, and they often struggle with feeling purposeless and directionless. It is very easy to fall into a sense of listlessness and ‘stuck-ness’ when a woman suddenly finds herself divorced and alone in an empty nest. And this is compounded by feelings of insecurity and a loss of self-esteem when the cause of the empty nest is divorce in middle age.

Is there a way out? A way to overcome this sense of loss and move toward a life filled with more connectedness, fulfillment and happiness? Yes, I believe this is. Here are seven key actions that women can take right now to move through this sense of loss and toward a life filled with more enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.

1. Get Creative!

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That and surprise . . . As creative channels, we need to trust the darkness.” - Julia Cameron

7 things you can do right now:

· Journal — buy a journal you love the feel of and write in it every morning — externalize your internal process.

· Play with color — buy some colored pens or pastels and just play with the color, see which colors you are attracted to, don’t judge the outcome, don’t try to draw a stunning picture, just play with color.

· Doodle — get some pencils and doodle circles and lines and squiggles; get lost in the process, the end result doesn’t matter.

· Garden — play outside. Go get your hands dirty, just dig for a while, plant a small herb garden, plant a flower, play in the dirt.

· Dance, move to music. No one to watch you or judge, just listen to a song you like and move, feel the music move through you.

· Cook, play with spices. Experiment, don’t follow a recipe, cook with some spices that smell good.

· Sew. Don’t try to make anything in particular, just play with putting fabrics together, enjoy the texture and color.

2. Start Re-Wiring your brain — Pay attention to how and what you think

You can use your mind — To change your brain — To change your mind for the better!” - Rick Hanson

7 things you can do right now:

· Identify the thought process you’d like to transform and set the intention to change it

· Observe/pay attention to what thoughts you want to change and why — what is the negative impact on your life

· Shift your focus when those negative thoughts arise

· Use your imagination — think about something positive, create a positive scenario

· Interrupt your thoughts and patterns when the negative thoughts arise.

· Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead of dwelling on the negative thoughts

· Look within for inspiration and support; practice meditation and visualization.

3. Be Happy Now — specific steps toward well being

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” - Aristotle

7 things you can do right now

· Practice Resilience — Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; research shows that meditation improves our capacity for resilience. Focus on recovering — small steps forward everyday.

-Look at your Outlook — Refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savour positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness, the ability to say ‘She means well’ and mean it.

· Where is your Attention — What do you generally pay attention to? Researchers found that people spend an average of 47 per cent of their waking life not paying attention to what they’re doing! Focus on what you’re doing right now — pay attention, savor the moment

· Practice Generosity — Data shows us that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Volunteer, help others

· Get Outside Garden — play in the dirt and get your hands dirty; spend time on the beach, take a walk in the woods.

· Exercise — moving your body lifts your mood

Surround yourself with happy people — who you hang out with matters

4. Focus on Love and Love Yourself First

“Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.” - Lucille Ball

7 things you can do right now

· Focus on your own needs. Practice saying ‘No’ to others and ‘Yes’ to yourself.

· Give your body the nurturing, rest, and comfort it needs.

· Prioritize time for yourself, time to do what you love, without judgment that it is a waste of time; and set boundaries to protect the time you have prioritized for yourself.

· Don’t keep blaming yourself for past mistakes, learn from them and let them go.

· Dream big! Dream without editing, without judgment, without feeling that you ‘don’t deserve it.’

· Choose to spend time with people who put your up, not down.

· Read books and watch movies that make you feel good about yourself.

5. Be Grateful for what you have now

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

7 things you can do right now

  • Start each day, before you get out of bed, by saying one thing that you are grateful for.
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal — Establish a daily practice in which you write down 3 things a day that you are thankful for
  • Use Visual Reminders — The two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, so visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.
  • Remember the Bad — Sometimes it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced and how far you have come.
  • Thank at least one person a day for something they have done. Practice gratitude consciously.
  • Call someone once a week to thank them for something kind they have done.
  • Make a conscious decision to practice gratitude — Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that it will happen.

6. Pay attention to your distractions

“Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.” Saul Bellow

7 things you can do right now

· Instead of hopping on to Facebook, (just a quick peak to see if anyone likes me today) . . . UNHOOK — one of the best ways to get back in touch with your self is to give yourself a full day off unhooked. Give yourself a 24 hour no phone, no computer day. Journal, walk, draw, unhook!

· Instead of having just one more glass of wine… go for a walk at sunset instead of making 5:00 happy hour with wine, make it a happy half hour walk.

· Instead of watching TV, even when there is nothing on that you want to watch … try using an Adult coloring book — it’s creative, playful and proven to reduce stress

· Instead of shoving food — any food — in your mouth … volunteer to feed others. Practicing volunteering and service helping others is a great way to feel better about yourself.

· Instead of shopping, (one more pair of shoes will make me feel better) . . . take time to decide where you would really like to help the world, what problem touches you deeply, then donate that money to a good cause that will serve toward a solution that you will feel good about.

· Instead of getting insanely busy doing anything else but sitting still… just sit still and breathe. Time yourself — give yourself 10 minutes to watch clouds go by; to watch a sunset; or watch flames in a fire.

· Even exercise can be a way to avoid getting to know ourselves better… Instead of going out for another run, try sitting quietly and just breathing, and when the urge to jump up feels overwhelming, take another deep breath and just sit and feel where the discomfort is and sit through it.

7. Inspiration is a soft whisper and a gentle nudge — learn to pay better attention when inspiration comes — and most importantly take action on the inspiration when it does come

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” - Pablo Picasso

7 things you can do right now

· Wake up 5–10 minutes earlier than you normally do. Close you eyes and ask for any guidance for the day. That quiet time just upon waking is prime time to access inspiration

· Allow yourself 10–15 minutes a day (longer is better) to get lost in the flow of something — doodling, playing an instrument, playing with clay, coloring (Zen Adult Coloring Books are great for this) — in this flow time inspiration often comes.

· Get quiet, look within for 10 minutes a day. This doesn’t have to be hard — it can be done by walking in nature, by sitting quietly watching a sunset, watching flames in a fire, or just closing your eyes and breathing.

· Ask yourself a question that you want guidance on then go for a walk and pay attention — perhaps you’ll meet someone on your walk or you’ll see something that gives you a flash of inspiration.

· Start every morning with an intention. Set the intention deliberately and then pay attention to anything during the day that happens around that intention.

· Take action on any inspiration that comes. Learn to trust that small, still voice and then act on it. The more you listen for your inspiration and take action on it, the more you will trust it and it will become easier to take action on.

· Journal about any inspiration and action that you took before you go to bed. Ask for any guidance before you go to sleep. Journal in the morning about any insights from dreams or interesting thoughts upon waking.

After constantly focusing on others, women need to learn how to focus on their own needs in order to create a life filled with enthusiasm and joy. Taking one small step everyday is key.