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Nov 7, 2017

Mindfulness – Be Compassionate with Yourself during Divorce

Divorce and General Articles

Mindfulness during Your Divorce – Is it Possible?

Can you anchor your mind and emotions to a mindful peace in the middle of a personal storm?

The upheaval during divorce produces a whirlwind of emotions that overwhelm, agitate and untether even the steadiest of individuals. Changes rock the very foundation of our sense of security: identity, finances, housing, and family and social networks. The result is a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s natural to experience depression when looking back at happier times and grieving losses. It’s also natural to experience anxiety when looking ahead to relationship, family, career, and financial concerns.

Observe Yourself from a Distance

The practice of mindfulness grounds us in the present by allowing us to just observe our situation without judgement. It gives us a reprieve from the dis-ease of divorce. Mindfulness meditation is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as the “ability to pay total attention to the present through a neutral awareness of the inner and/or outer experiences.” The focus on today, rather than yesterday or tomorrow, offers peace in the middle of emotional storms. For more information on the benefits of meditation, please watch neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s Ted Talk showing the evidence of brain scans on how meditation improves resilience and memory, and increases compassion and empathy.

Your Personal Mindfulness Journey

Here are some suggestion to create your own mindfulness journey while navigating divorce:

  • Slow down. Become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Speak to yourself in a voice of loving kindness. If your partner left you, you may be unconsciously repeating words of criticism, blame, or negativity that come from your ex’s justifying, excusing, or rationalizing behavior. Stop this! Your job is to think about yourself and speak to yourself with the encouragement, love, and the kindness you would give to suffering friend. Look at yourself through the eyes of a loving parent rather than a resentful ex.
  • Consider a change of scenery. Traveling, seeing new places and things, can free your mind. New experiences (sights, foods, and sounds) redirect your attention. If finances are tight, take a day trip and appreciate the beauty of nature. Mix up your routine or try new unfamiliar activities.
  • Build time into your daily routine to meditate. Sit or lie down in a quiet spot. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose, count to four, and then out through your mouth. Imagine that a warm light (you choose the color) is surrounding you and filling you as you breathe in. Exhale stress. While you are breathing, slowly scan your body from head to foot, focusing on tension in your head, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, buttocks, legs, and feet. Breathe deeply as you relax your muscles. Fifteen minutes is ideal, but this exercise can calm you in just five minutes. If it’s too hard to focus on your own, google 15 minute guided meditations on YouTube or download an app (Calm, Headspace, MINDBODY, buddhify) to your cell phone.
  • Just write What’s in Your Head. For times when you are feeling lonely and sad, journal about your thoughts and emotions without self-criticism or self pity. Just focus on the thoughts and emotions in a nonjudgmental way. An exercise called ‘the five minute sprint” in which you freeflow write for five minutes does reduce anxiety. Finish with some positive statements about yourself.

Anywhere, Anytime is a Good Time

Mindfulness does not have to be time consuming. Practice it when you are exercising, cleaning, or socializing. That old saying, “Slow down and smell the roses” may have more benefit to it than we ever realized!

By Deirdre Hally Shaffer, LCSW

©2017 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation