This week most Americans spend time with their families, friends and loved ones giving thanks. For those who are going through divorce or whose marriages are on the brink, the holidays can be especially difficult and often emotionally overwhelming.
A very important segment of my law practice involves helping clients navigate the rough and choppy waters of divorce. As their attorney, I listen intently to each of them as they pour their hearts out to me. The pain they feel is very real and I acknowledge it, but I don’t leave them there. I have found again and again, that divorce is difficult, but it can be a transformative experience.
The many years spent in this role has taught me a lot about the divorce process, and not all of it has to do with divorce law. What I have come to know is that divorce, with all its difficulty and pain, is an opportunity for both individuals to begin again – to reboot their lives, so to speak. And I have found a key in this process is learning to practice gratitude.
In a book entitled Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Robert A. Emmons conducted several studies on the psychology of gratitude and found that being thankful can actually increase one’s happiness. In one study, people who took time to write down five things they were grateful for in the past week felt 25 percent happier than those who focused on “hassles” or neutral events over the same time period. The grateful group was also more optimistic about the future, felt better about themselves and even exercised more than the others. In another study, Emmons found participants who expressed gratitude also were more satisfied with their lives overall and even slept better.
In our Guide to Good Divorce seminars, I encourage attendees to think of one thing in their lives they can be thankful for. In countless situations, I have witnessed a distinct shift in the group as each one shares what or who they are thankful for in their lives. Often, there will be tears, but all participants in such exercises leave with smiles on their faces and a new outlook on their situation.
For those going through divorce or considering it, spend this holiday practicing gratitude and see if it doesn’t help. Happy Thanksgiving to all.