4 Practices to Help You Feel Better
Reflections from my week at a yoga retreat.
Posted Feb 28, 2020
A couple of weeks ago, I took myself off to spend a week at a yoga retreat in the Bahamas. The retreat was at an ashram and along with lots of yoga, I did daily meditation and attended workshops on a bunch of topics, from mindfulness to forgiveness. I so often thought about the women I work with in the Runaway Husbands Community whose husbands left out-of-the-blue, always looking for things to bring back, like a mother bird flying around looking for worms to take back to the nest. The retreat was great for me and I feel changed by it - calmer, more steady and optimistic about the future.
So I’m bringing back to you some thoughts that originated at the retreat and also in discussion with the women in the current Hearts & Minds online divorce recovery group. Here are four practices for your reflection:
Aren’t we all suffering because we can’t detach from our ex-husbands? Hasn’t thoughts of him colonized your mind, maybe tormenting you day and night if you’re in the early phases of recovery? Aren’t there hooks that keep you connected to him, ruminating about everything? Are you ready to untie those bonds?
There’s always a lot of ambivalence about detaching from him; it’s loaded with significance. It means that you fully accept that it’s over - and that’s huge. It may feel like you’re letting him off the hook. As long as you’re still grieving, in some cosmic way, you’re holding his feet to the fire, keep him responsible. And there’s a feeling of emptiness that you can avoid as long as he is firmly in your mind.
Detachment is a big task and cannot be accomplished in the early phases, but at some point, you’ll need to accept that it is over, release your grip and let it all drift back into your past. When you’re able to detach, you’ll free your mind and heal your heart. It means turning your vision from the past to your future. You can do that!
We all have a natural buoyancy. When we sink to the bottom of the pool, we’ll naturally float back up. The body is programmed to heal—your cut finger will eventually be as good as new - it knows how to repair even without you doing anything about it.
Resilience means you have the capacity to recover, to bounce back. It doesn’t mean that you’ll bounce back right away as if nothing awful had happened, but it means that, in your heart, you know that you will. Eventually. It’s the expectation that this too shall pass - that you may not know what shape your life will take but you believe that whatever it is, you’ll be okay. You know you have the capacity to heal.
Rewiring means that you will need to challenge the thoughts that keep you stuck. This is where you shape some new neural pathways and fight against negativity. Science has shown that you can lift your mood just by changing your expression. When you smile even if you don’t feel pleased about anything, the body doesn’t know that the gesture is not genuine - the smile just naturally lifts your mood.
Another experiment showed that if you lift your arms in the air in a triumphant pose as if you’d just won a race, even if you don’t feel triumphant at all, you’ll be more likely to do well on a job interview than if you’d not. What you do and say, even if it’s not heartfelt, will bring you closer to those positive emotions. They rewire new neural pathways - it’s the “fake it till you make it” theory and it holds water. What you practice grows stronger.
So if an acquaintance at work asks how you are and rather than say, “miserable”, you say, “I’m okay” (even when you’re not), you’re making a cause to be one step closer to actually being okay at some point in the future. Just save the truth for those close to you who want to help.
There’s a lot you can do to grow from this trauma but it means that you work on it in a consistent way and that requires self-care. I’d love to see you adopt some daily practices that will strengthen your spirit inch by inch. The effects of trauma get lodged in the body so you need to do healthy body practices to release it.
An example would be to do ten minutes of meditation every morning. If it’s too hard to sit quietly and focus on your breath, you can easily use an app that offers guided meditations of any length. If just sitting at all is too hard, how about a meditative walk around the block, where you notice the light, colors, trees, snow, whatever?
Other self-care practices include yoga, t’ai chi, stretching exercises, singing, playing the piano, running - anything you do for yourself (you parents of young kids may need to get up 15 minutes earlier to carve out that time for yourself). It means putting some thought into doing something that you know is healthy for you, even if you don’t feel like it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Recovery comes in tiny increments and sometimes, you can’t see that it’s happening, but if you do something positive for yourself, it will add up and you’ll be headed in the right direction.
I hope these four concepts offer you food for thought (that mother bird again!) and that they help you access the hidden opportunity in what you are going through. You are being forced to work on yourself and develop self-healing and self-care practices that will serve you well no matter what you have to face in life in the future.
And, as always, let me know your reactions to all this below in the comments.