If you are newly single, chances are you’ve already taken steps to improve your life. Maybe getting divorced or uncoupling has inspired you to reconnect with old passions like rock climbing, paddle-boarding, or gardening. Or maybe parting ways with your ex has allowed you to take better care of yourself, engaging in habits like healthy eating, regular exercise, and self-care. Either way, focusing on yourself and your happiness is an important part of finding peace after a breakup.
Whether you’ve already started your journey of self-improvement or haven’t yet taken those first steps, the start of a new year is a great time to make new goals. If you’ve recently broken off a relationship, here are 6 expert-approved resolutions (beyond starting a new diet or exercise routine) that will elevate your well-being in 2023.
Set healthy boundaries after your break up
Setting healthy emotional boundaries is an important way to nurture yourself and that’s especially true post-divorce. The first step? Reflecting on what your needs are – that will look different for everyone in the early stages of divorce, said Stephanie Olarte. Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist specializing in divorce and family conflict at Slow Down Psychology in Silver Spring, Maryland. It might mean not talking about your ex with mutual friends, or keeping communications with your ex limited.
Not everyone will understand your new boundaries, so establish your non-negotiables in advance, advised Olarte. “When you know where the line is, you’re better able to show others where it is. Being able to clearly tell people, ‘This topic is not something I’m interested in discussing with you, please respect that,’ provides them with clarity on the boundary,” said Olarte. She recommends planning ahead for quick exits from touchy conversations and being open about what you’re comfortable with.
In the short term, it may be helpful to avoid situations where your boundaries are harder to enforce, such as long car rides and gatherings, Olarte recommended.
Let go of resentment toward your ex
It’s common to hold on to anger and blame toward your ex when a relationship ends. If you’re newly separated or divorced, those feelings won’t just resolve right away – letting go takes work, said Melony Cohen, Psy.D., a family psychologist specializing in parent counseling at Dr. Melony Cohen Psychological Services in Los Angeles, California.
Instead of expecting difficult emotions to disappear on their own, try accepting these feelings as a normal part of the grieving process, said Cohen, adding that setting goals to help yourself deal with tough feelings can help. For example, working on emotional regulation and frustration tolerance skills can help lessen any residual negative feelings towards your ex, she said.
Olarte agrees, drawing from her own experience as a divorcee – she vented about her ex for hours to friends, family, and romantic partners. “I deluded myself into thinking that this would help me feel less angry and resentful, but it actually had the opposite effect,” she said. Only now – years later, and with the help of the right therapist – Olante said she’s found authentic ways to forgive both herself and her ex.
Co-parent cohesively and don’t trash your ex
You may not get along with your ex, but being a good co-parent means not speaking negatively about them in front of your children, says Cohen–it can be very damaging to kids. Olarte said that’s advice her own parents took to heart when they divorced.
“If my parents ever disagreed on something, I only found out if it was really serious, and without drama. As a child, whenever I was tempted to vent to one parent about the other parent, I was always met with neutrality,” Olarte said. Now, in her practice as a psychologist, it’s one of the biggest hurdles she sees co-parents face. The bottom line? Don’t let your disdain for your ex overpower your love for your child, she said.
Another must? Make sure to have a clearly written visitation plan that benefits your child, not you, said Olarte, and follow your child’s lead. “When I was young, there were days when I simply did not want to leave the comfortable cocoon of my mother’s house to go spend the night at my dad’s, even though I really loved him,” she said. That’s not to say you shouldn’t follow your set custody schedule, but when exceptions arise, it can’t hurt to be flexible.
Meditation can help overcome difficult feelings
The start of a new year is a reminder that life continues moving forward – no matter how wonderful or difficult the prior year may have been, said Mark Van Buren, a meditation instructor based in Bergen, New Jersey and author of “Your Life is Meditation.” “It also reminds us that every ending creates a new beginning, and that we always have another chance to start again,” he said.
There’s no guarantee that 2023 won’t bring a new set of challenges, but your mindset matters. This year, why not dedicate yourself to a practice of meditation? According to Van Buren, doing so can help us face life’s difficulties with clarity, compassion, and wisdom. “Even amidst loss, suffering, and sorrow, freedom and joy are always possible,” he said.
To start, commit to showing up for a daily meditation practice – all it takes is 5-30 minutes of sitting quietly with yourself with a willingness to be present in your life, no matter what feelings you may be experiencing. “It’s as simple as pausing and letting yourself be completely what you are in that moment, even if that happens to be a complete mess…. Let go of judgments, expectations, and resistance,” said Van Buren. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with difficult feelings.
Create a happiness vision board
When you get divorced, you’re not the person you were before you got married, said Holly Hughes, an intuitive healer based in Matthews, NC and author of “Real, Not Perfect: How to Become Your Happy, Authentic Self.” You’re a new version of yourself, and that can be both scary and liberating at once. A vision board can help focus your mind and heart and create a safe space to dream up who you want to be,” she said. Here’s what to include, according to Hughes:
- Ask two friends to share two words that describe who you are.
- Find three images that depict how you want to feel in 6 months. These could include places you want to explore, delicious plates of food, or images of bands you’d like to see live.
- Write down the words you use to define yourself at work, as a friend, and as a parent.
- Include an image or lyric to your favorite motivational song or mantra.
Once you’ve gone through these steps, arrange all the images and words on your vision board. In the middle of the board, write I am all of this, said Hughes, and place the board where you’ll see it daily, allowing you to reflect upon your personalized vision of happiness.
Focus on your finances
In today’s economy, saving is becoming increasingly difficult. If you’re a new divorcee without a nest egg – the first step is to evaluate your spending, said Aviva Pinto, a certified divorce financial analyst and Managing Director at Wealthspire Advisors in New York, New York.
First, figure out your monthly expenses, said Pinto–how much do you spend on on food, clothing, rent, mortgage, utilities, health care, entertainment, insurance, transportation, and taxes? Next, list all your income. That includes what you’re making on the job, income from side gigs, interest from investments, rent from investment properties, alimony, and child support, she said.
Doing this will tell you whether you’re living within your means, said Pinto. And if you’re overspending, you can determine where you need to cut back. “Once you have your budget figured out, you can look to the future and put together a financial plan so that you can be in a better position going forward,” said Pinto.
Working with a financial planner/wealth advisor who can provide guidance on your specific financial goals is also wise, she said. “If done right, your financial plan should paint a clear picture of where you are, where you’re going, and how you’ll get there. Most importantly, it should bring you peace of mind knowing that you understand your finances, have gotten organized, and are prepared for whatever may come,” Pinto said.
Going through a divorce or breakup can leave you feeling broken but taking stock of what you want out of life and setting attainable goals can help your dreams become a reality. Cheers to a happy, healthy 2023, and good luck with your goals, whatever they may be!