Gratitude journal benefits: coping with divorce

WHEN YOUR GRATITUDE JOURNAL BECOMES JUST ANOTHER ANNOYING ITEM ON YOUR ENDLESS TO-DO LIST.

WHEN YOUR GRATITUDE JOURNAL BECOMES JUST ANOTHER ANNOYING ITEM ON YOUR ENDLESS TO-DO LIST.

Every week, I read lots of articles about how to get over your divorce. And a surprising number of these stories are about the benefits of a daily gratitude journal.

Have you tried this? I have done gratitude journals over long periods during difficult times in my life, sometimes with the desired effect and sometimes not.

The purpose of the gratitude journal seems to be: Things could be so much worse. Appreciate the little things (food in the fridge, clothes on your back), because, if you don’t, even these small comforts may be taken from you.

Over the years, I’ve even advocated gratitude here on the divorce blog, and in one or two of my videos. It does have its place.

Gratitude journal benefits: exactly what are they?

When your mind and emotions are spinning out of control because of the havoc divorce has wreaked in your life, sometimes we all need a dose of “it could be so much worse,” and “there are things to be grateful for here,” and “we could be starving on the streets of ______________.” God(dess) is merciful.

But, here’s where it starts to fall apart for me as something to recommend to my divorce coaching clients.

After just a few days, clients find that they’re writing the same ten things over and over again. And that process just reinforces how dire circumstances really seem and how stuck they feel. So, I never use the gratitude journal process as anything more than an emergency measure — for those times when you can’t seem to find anything at all to hang onto as a positive in life.

Once we’ve achieved a little bit of balance and perspective, we quickly move on to activities that bring quick wins and a feeling that, “Yes, I can do this! I can get relief!”

Here’s what happens when a woman who’s valiantly trying to heal from divorce centers on gratitude journaling as a device to feel better. She starts to feel, “I know I should be grateful that things aren’t even worse, but I’m actually starting to feel angrier. When does this start to lift? When does this get better?”

“It could be so much worse, and I’m grateful for . . .” seems like a cold shower without soap.

I say: Put away that sad gratitude journal and break out the big, bold, colorful sharpies, the bubble wands, the dance music, and the rhinestone tiaras. Not your style? That’s okay. Keep reading anyway. (You don’t really need a tiara, promise.)

Appreciation and gratitude: what’s the difference?

Sometimes you don’t need gratitude. You need something that makes you laugh. You need something ridiculous. Something that breaks the spell of relentless doom that divorce has ushered into your life.

Because we become resigned to this doomsday mood and noxious atmosphere.

We keep hearing about the 5 stages of grief after divorce as if this is a thing (it isn’t).

Why? Why should we feed the monster this way?

Yes, this situation is just awful. Yes, life seems out of control. But we don’t have to keep beating ourselves over the head with how we should be grateful it’s not soooooo much worse.

Appreciation has a different vibe. Delight. Pleasant surprises. Laughter. Friendship. Lightness.

If you’re into journaling, an appreciation journal could look and feel completely different than that pen-and-paper list of gratitude items. It could be on your phone or on Pinterest or on your Instagram feed.

You could snap a picture every time something delights you. You could do a video share when someone does something nice for you. (“Look at this amazing latte my coworker just brought me!”) You could share a favorite song that you’d forgotten about, but happened to hear over the PA at Target.

It’s a game. Look for three things a day that you find delightful — no matter how small.

I know. You probably don’t feel like trying this, but trust me.

Remember what makes you laugh. Remember what brings you wonder and awe. Find the things that remind you why you like (or liked) living.

And put the evidence someplace where you can find it every time you feel dreadful. Hint: Your phone. I have an album I call “Inspiration” with lovely traces of happiness from my daily life: photos, little videos, songs . . . all in one place.

So often, childhood pastimes will get you to that place. That’s why I suggest the colored pens, bubble wands, and dance music. Try replacing that gratitude journal slog with taking a few minutes to remember that girl who still lives inside you.

Dream those touchstones that remind you who you truly are inside. The fairytale creature that still lives in you and wants to show you lots of amazing sights, sounds, scents, textures, and tastes.

Instead of journaling about what you’re grateful for (ever notice how the same five or ten things keep repeating, and it’s hard to drag up more?) look around and see what you appreciate around you. You’ll notice different things every time you go outside, go to work, or observe the people around you. It’s ever changing.

Look for the happy. Look for the fun. And give yourself the gift of a few moments to see it and feel it. (You’re still a responsible adult if you let yourself have a quick break from the serious, adult disaster. And, from this place of appreciation and wonder, new, magical solutions and opportunities are born.)

Divorce emotions: What if I just need some peace?

Feel like you need to deal with uncontrollable waves of divorce grief before you can try anything else? Here are my top suggestions on how to interrupt those exhausting divorce emotions.

Divorce guest blogger: Everything is possible

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by Kathryn Pressly Hunter

Tout est Possible is French for Everything is Possible. I adopted this mantra, of sorts, last fall . . .

After a 24 year marriage, my husband left me for another woman in November of 2016. Having been with him since I was 16 and married at 20, it took me a hot minute to grasp my new world.

Dealing with all that comes with a level of rejection that could easily crush anyone: I chose to move on, heal and not dwell.

I decided very quickly that I was stronger than the storm that I faced. I chose to walk through my divorce not with anger and bitterness, but with self-respect and as much grace as I could muster.

I did, after all, have two young adults to lead who were equally as crushed as I was. I wanted to teach them grace and mercy and not anger and hatred; this world certainly has enough of that. Today, we still deal with some residual ripples of the divorce, but my kiddos and I are stronger together.

Now, back to my “mantra.”  Shortly after my divorce was final in April of 2017 -- maybe even a little before-- it’s like I started to awaken.  I began to dream again.  I began to make myself a priority:  to set some things forth in my life that would set my children and myself up for success. I began writing in a journal. In this new life, I no longer had “my person” and wanted to jot down my thoughts -- however random they were at times.

One day, I wrote:

“Power. I have power. I am worth having the power to make the decisions in my life. I hold the key to joy/success in my life through the power I have in my choices. My world is bigger than me. I am not a victim. I am a strong woman and can do anything I want in this life. I can be bold, my voice is there, but I have just always chosen to remain quiet. No more. Being meek only hurts me and mine. Not arrogance, but a boldness with complete kindness of heart, mind, and spirit.”

I decided now was the time to begin anything with the question “Is this what I want?”

As I began to walk in this -- although hard at times -- I found myself making positive calculated risks. This has led me to a new, amazingly positive career path which I am so excited about, a closer relationship with my children, and the self-motivating push to get out of my comfort zone. I still struggle with this, but each time becomes a little easier -- most recently,  yesterday, by beginning a Jujitsu Self Defense class.  Look out world!

I am proud of my progress. I have soooo much farther to go, but I am excited about life, learning, dreaming -- and making those dreams come into reality. Tout est Possible:  Yes, EVERYTHING is possible.

Kathryn Pressly Hunter lives in upstate South Carolina.  She loves to laugh, share time with those who mean the most to her, and strives to learn something new each day. After the discovery of her husband’s infidelity and facing divorce, Kathryn took a sharp turn from bitterness, anger, and defeat toward grace, positivity, and self-empowerment.