The Best Tool for a More Satisfying Life After Divorce
Or How Can I Possibly Be Happy Again After My Divorce?!
Dr. John Schinnerer
In the midst of a divorce, it seems that happiness is a continent away. Yet, happiness is perhaps most needed right after separation. Happiness is related to a calmer and more effective divorce, more resiliency, less burnout, better relationships, increased creativity and flexibility of thought, improved immune system functioning and greater productivity – all of which is needed during a divorce.
Happiness is more than a mere emotion; it is a habit we can improve with specific daily practices. Science is showing that some of these habits lead to more happiness than others.
One of the most powerful habits for happiness is self-compassion, or self-acceptance. Yet this is also the tool that is used least often, partly because it is so foreign to many of us.
“Self-compassion is approaching ourselves, our inner experience, with spaciousness, with the quality of allowing which has a quality of gentleness. Instead of our usual tendency to want to get over something, to fix it, to make it go away, the path of compassion is totally different. Compassion allows.” – Robert Gonzales
The non-profit organization, Action for Happiness, recently asked 5,000 people to rate themselves between 1 and 10 on ten habits. These ten habits have been shown in the research to boost happiness and well-being.
The top ten happiness habits, according to science, are…
Being kind to others (giving)
Being around others (relationships)
Appreciation of the world around you
Learning new things (approaching the world with curiosity)
Goals (having significant direction in life)
Resilience (finding ways to bounce back from challenge)
Cultivating positive emotions (awe, joy, love, contentment, relaxation, etc.)
Meaning (having a purpose in life)
Kindness is the Most Practiced Habit
In the study, most participants reported being kind to others most frequently. And this is the most predictable way that science knows of to boost your happiness to a positive place…do something kind for someone else. And fortunately, many people report doing kind acts frequently (7.41 out of a possible 10).
Being around other people was a close second. Participants were asked, How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you? The average score was 7.36 out of 10. And 15% of people scored the maximum 10 out of 10.
Best of all, the study looked at which habits are most closely linked to people’s life satisfaction. In other words, how happy does each habit make you?
Self-compassion Ruled Them All
What you may NOT know is that self-compassion, or self-acceptance, is the habit that predicted happiness most strongly. Unfortunately, self-compassion is also the least frequently practiced habit. Self-compassion was the lowest average score from the 5,000 participants (average rating of 5.56 out of 10). Only 5% of people put themselves at a 10 on the self-compassion habit. Around one in five people (19%) scored an 8 or 9; Less than a third (30%) scored a 6 or 7; and almost half (46%) of people rated themselves at 5 or less.
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day.
A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
– Christopher Germer
We are not taught to be kind to ourselves. We are taught to win at all costs. We are told “you are not enough,” “you are not worthy.” Yet this fuels self-loathing. These messages embolden the inner critic, who is already loud enough due to the negativity bias of the human mind. This must change. And there are proven practices to do just that.
Professor Karen Pine, a University of Hertfordshire psychologist, said: “Practicing these habits really can boost our happiness. It’s great to see so many people regularly doing things to help others — and when we make others happy we tend to feel good ourselves too. This survey shows that practicing self-acceptance is one thing that could make the biggest difference to many people’s happiness.”
Dr Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, reported: “Our society puts huge pressure on us to be successful and to constantly compare ourselves with others. This causes a great deal of unhappiness and anxiety. These findings remind us that if we can learn to be more accepting of ourselves as we really are, we’re likely to be much happier. The results also confirm us that our day-to-day habits have a much bigger impact on our happiness than we might imagine.”
So how can we practice the self-compassion habit?
Here are the top tips to jump start your self-compassion from the leading expert on the topic, Kristin Neff, Ph.D. from University of Texas, Austin:
- Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Speak to yourself as if you are 4 years old when you fall short or make a mistake. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Notice things you do well, however small.
- Ask a trusted friend or colleague to tell you what your strengths are or what they value about you (and let them know of their strengths too!)
- Imagine being kind to someone else. Picture them being kind to you in return. Now transfer those feelings as you imagine being kind to yourself. Practice being kind to yourself, at first, during routine parts of your day. Gradually, be nice to yourself during minor mistakes or inconveniences. Eventually, practice self-compassion during major negative events. Tune in to how you’re feeling inside and try to be at peace with who you are. Remind yourself “I am worthy. I am worthy of success. I am worthy of happiness.”
- Write a letter to yourself. When your best friend asks you for advice on a difficult matter, you treat them with kindness and respect. You encourage them. It’s relatively easy to be compassionate to them. What about when you have a challenge? What about when you make a mistake? How do you speak to yourself? Picture a challenge that you presently face. Now write a letter to yourself in the voice of your best friend. What would they say to you? How would they encourage you? Use that voice as a springboard to a more compassionate inner voice.
To life, love and laughter,
Dr. John Schinnerer
Bio – About Dr. John Schinnerer
Dr. John Schinnerer has a passion for helping mentor and guide men through the difficulties and challenges of relationships and divorce. His work with clients is focused on using their current relationship difficulties as the springboard for a new era of self discovery and an exponentially more satisfying life. Because, ultimately, a more satisfying and enjoyable life is what it’s all about. Dr. John started working with divorced men in 2014 after his own painful, fractured marriage led to a personal awakening. After 3 and a half years in litigation, Dr. John found tools to improve every facet of his life. He moved from anger and blame to a renewed focus on himself and an honest look at his part in the failed relationship. With a great deal of practice, awareness and hard work, he created new friendships, found a new romantic partner, and discovered how to set appropriate boundaries and to let go that over which he had no control. In many ways, his divorce was the ultimate motivation to learn better ways of being – more peace, greater happiness, more physical health, and increased professional success. He is the father of four children. Dr. John holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from U.C. Berkeley. He served as an expert consultant to Pixar’s Inside Out. Dr. John wrote an award-winning book entitled “How Can I Be Happy?” And he was featured in a documentary on the impact of violent media on the mind called Skewed. He works with clients in beautiful Danville, CA. And oversees a variety of websites to help with anger management (WebAngerManagement.com), anxiety management (HowCanIGetRidofAnxiety.com), finding more happiness via positive psychology (HowICanBeHappy.com), and individual coaching around divorce and life transitions (GuideToSelf.com and DivorceSupport4Men.com).
Source: University of Hertfordshire. “Self-acceptance could be the key to a happier life, yet it’s the happy habit many people practice the least.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307111016.htm>.