Going through a divorce, separation or a significant relationship breakdown?
Perhaps you know someone who is and you want to help…
This simple exercise was a game changer for me and really helped to get my mind back on track.
Think of it like a big RESET button for your brain!
If you follow the Healthy TV Show on Facebook (every Thurs at 7pm), you’ve heard me talk a lot this month about happiness, and how to cultivate it long term.
In fact, if you’d prefer to watch a video instead of read, scroll to the bottom and watch the most recent episode on the same topic.
Anyhow, the pursuit of happiness is also a core theme at our Think By Design workshops and in preparing for the most recent event, I decided to consider what my biggest barriers to happiness have been…
And by far the biggest challenge I’ve had in my life so far has been recovering from my separation. Now before I get any further, I’ll be totally honest with you: I’m still very much ‘in-process’ so believe me when I tell you – I know how it feels.
Dealing with big changes is always hard, and often painful.
How did this happen? What did I do wrong? Did I make the right decision? Am I a bad person? What’s going to happen with my life? Will I ever fill that void? Will I ever love someone else again?
This is a tough subject to talk about however I’ve had several people ask me recently what I’ve done to move through the process and I wanted to share a pivotal exercise I used that helped me get my mind back on purpose. I originally heard Dr. John Demartini share this strategy and I have adapted it here for you.
Of course, I can’t avoid involving some nerdy science into things… 🙂
Did Cavemen Get Depressed?
Anytime we are faced with a major, stressful change (like a relationship ending) our brain does a funny thing. Your subconscious starts to churn out all the negative potential outcomes that come from that change.
In fact, this ability to predict different versions of the future was a super important evolutionary step for our ancestors. It allowed them to prepare for the worst, which meant better survival. We honed this talent for hundreds of thousands of years, getting better and better at predicting the future because our environment was largely stable and challenges were very cyclical.
The problem is our lives are infinitely more complex now and the changes we go through present far greater unknowns. So many more variables mean an almost infinite number of potential negative outcomes.
As a consequence, your subconscious mind goes crazy pumping out streams of negative thoughts, ideas and ultimately emotions… All of which are, at best, highly improbable and, at worst, these thoughts are outright lies that your brain is telling you!
A Different Kind Of Separation Anxiety
In the context of relationships, these unconscious thoughts break down into 2 categories:
- What are all the potential negative outcomes that *could* occur as a result of this relationship ending? And…
- What are all the positive things I will no longer have/won’t gain in the future?
Here’s a simple diagram to explain what I mean.
The important thing to realize is that this activity is hard-wired into your brain. It happens on purpose and therefore it’s really hard to stop the flow. Most often we’re not even conscious of this stream of negative thoughts, but it nonetheless impacts your emotional state – depressed, anxious, hopeless, fear of the future, etc…
Retrain Your Brain
Thankfully there are a couple things we can do to stop these negative impacts:
1. Become conscious of the negatively-framed thoughts… Actually, make yourself ‘look’ at them and challenge them against reality. Recognize these thoughts for what they are: a prediction that is much more likely to be false than true. A great question to ask yourself when considering these thoughts is ‘Is this thought actually true?’
2. Recognize that there’s a whole other side to the story!
What about all the negative things that you no longer have to deal with? even more important – what about all the present and future positive opportunities are now open to you as a result of this relationship ending?
The exercise I’ve been talking about is to answer these two questions:
- List all the negative, painful experiences that you will avoid (both now and in future) as a result of this relationship ending.
- List all the positive opportunities, experiences, and outcomes that you can pursue (now and in future) now that you are no longer involved in this relationship?
Grab a notebook and write until you run out of stuff, take a break and come back and write some more. Be exhaustive with your answers. Get detailed, and don’t stop until you’ve considered every angle. For me the first few attempts I was struggling and then all of a sudden 2.5 hours had passed and I had written over 4 pages – things ranging from the smallest of details to the biggest life-vision type stuff.
Do The Work
Doing this exercise once is powerful… But the reality is it takes a lot of effort to make this conscious re-framing of your thoughts a habit.
To do this, carry the list with you and anytime you become aware of the stream of negativity, pull it out and read a few items. force your brain to start defaulting to positive outcomes, not negative. Invest the time and effort now so that you can refocus your mind on the things YOU WANT.
Share your thoughts below – have you done an exercise like this before?
Give it a try and let me know if you find it useful. 🙂
Dr. John MacPhee is a Chiropractor, speaker and passionate health and wellness expert. He has inspired thousands of people to take control of their own health using the Life By Design method. Dr. John is co-owner of The Wellness Group, the largest Life By Design Certified Chiropractic office in Canada. Apart from full-time practice, John maintains a busy speaking schedule, with a particular emphasis on improving productivity and focus at work. Otherwise, you can find John training hard at CrossFit 613, exploring Gatineau Park, or holed away studying the latest research at various cafes across the west end.