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How to detox after a divorce

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Posted at 1:16 PM, Dec 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-08 13:16:34-05

Are you trying to recover from the pain of divorce? Maybe you untied the knot recently, or maybe it's been years.

Getting the poison of such hurt and disappointment out of you requires a conscious, mental detox. Otherwise, your dark emotions will eat away at the quality of your life.

You will need to be proactive, however. Simply make up your mind that you want to heal.

While some people can say, "We parted ways amicably," most divorced people cannot say this. After all, divorce is the death of a relationship. If you're too casual about it, you must not have invested much of yourself in the relationship.

To gain closure and heal your broken spirit, try these techniques:

- Write a letter to your ex and pour out your pain. Don't mail the letter. Just strive to express how you feel without holding back. Then, tear up the letter.

- Make a list of the ways you were mismatched. When you acknowledge how you were "mismatched," this helps you see that the divorce was the outcome of this tension. The separation was not necessarily any kind of deliberate action coming from either of you.

- Picture who you would be matched to. Life isn't over, so figure out the type of person you might meet one day. Healing can take years, but at least get a vision for the personal values and personality traits you would find appealing.

Taking these kinds of steps helps you clean out wounds. Envisioning another relationship in the future gives you hope.

Detoxing emotionally after a divorce means you'll strive to purge negativity from your thinking. Negative emotions have to go somewhere. They can stay inside of you, driving you nuts. Or you can try to talk them out with a therapist or write them out in a personal journal.

"The key to healing is to talk less and less about your pain over time," says a psychologist we'll call Mark. Mark tells his clients that it's imperative they begin to speak less of their ex after six months or so, for example.

"I ask my clients to wear a rubber band around their wrists," says Mark. "When they start to think about an ex, they must snap the rubber band hard and say "no" to themselves. I have one patient who says this worked so well, he forgot about his ex long enough to start dating again. He's been divorced 10 years!"

Negative emotions need to dissipate over time, because they can easily take root and grow back to their original impact, according to Mark.

"The human mind is very fertile ground," Mark told us. "People tend to dwell on painful experiences way too much, but after a good bit, these thoughts start to ooze through your pores. You'll never attract healthy-minded friends, a viable dating partner or good business partners in life. Bad thinking causes you to give off terrible vibes."

Detoxing from a killer breakup, such as catching your ex cheating, requires using some fantasy and humor too. You can, for instance, imagine beating the daylights out of your ex. Whack away in your mind, so you can release strong feelings that are exploding within you.

But, after a few sessions of these fantasy floggings, use humor to put you on even ground. Learn to laugh at life's relationships that don't work and move on.

Haven't you wasted too much of yourself on a sinking ship already?

Judi Light Hopson is the executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.