Bitterness and resentment aren't just unpleasant emotions -- they are a state of mind that can lead to a sour outlook on life and even poor health. Bitterness negatively influences hormones and immunity, according to Carsten Wrosch, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Concordia University, in an August 2011 CNN article. Fortunately, having had a difficult marriage and divorce needn't leave you steeped in this evil brew. Simply changing your outlook can restore your mental and physical health.
1. Be Thankful
Your husband may have drained your mutual savings account before he took off, but instead of being angry about losing thousands of dollars, be thankful for the priceless gift of not living with a person with few ethics. After all, you could have gone on to spend another 20 years of your life with a person who cared so little about you that he'd leave you without support. Even if your husband wasn't abusive or dishonest, being free to pursue a new life without the heavy issues that were weighing down the marriage is a positive development.
2. Join the Crowd
Watch the news, advises Frederic Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project. When you see the travails of people whose homes have been wiped out by tornadoes and other catastrophes that are par for the course on the nightly news, you may have an easier time accepting that suffering is a simple fact of life. Moreover, you may be moved to transform your bitterness into helping someone else who is suffering by volunteering to help women and children whose lives have been affected by domestic abuse, for example.
3. Develop Compassion
Even if your ex-husband cheated on you with your best friend and drove away in your new car, he is still a human being worthy of compassion. When you work on shifting your perception of him from The Joker in "Batman" to a flawed human being who is unable to resist the lure of his addictions and unwise choices, you will become able to see his treatment of you in a new light. While it will never be OK that he hurt you, you'll be able to let go of your bitterness.
4. Learn From it
Learn from your bitter feelings and they'll have served their purpose -- then you can move on. Once you've identified the source of your anger, allow yourself to feel outrage, advises Dr. Irene Matiatos on her website. If you're bitter because your ex-husband lied to you and cheated with another woman, file the message these feelings has given you in your mental filing cabinet under "Qualities to Reject in Future Partners." Your bitterness can teach you to accept no excuses in the future for bad behavior that could cause you to experience a repeat of the same problems with another person.