Even if two people “deliberately disconnect,” breakups can still be terrible. Whether or not the relationship itself was a whirlwind, the aftermath tends to feel that way. And that makes sense: partnership often offers a positive of stability in life, and its dissolution can knock your emotional world off its ashes.
Breaking up may have been easier since round one in high school, but why is it still so hard to move on? And how can we stop dwelling on the past and just “get over it”? It turns out that moving forward and feeling better has a lot to do with science and fooling your brain.
Your brain on a rift
Many of the disturbing elements of a breakup — physical pain and being obsessed with your partner — are rooted in the brain. At first glance, the experiences of spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and looking at a photo of your recent ex, for example, may seem like a world of difference. But that’s not the case in your head. In a published by Nature Communications, researchers used MRIs to determine that romantic rejection recruits brain regions involved in both the affective (emotional) and sensory (somatic) components of physical pain. These results give new meaning to the idea that a breakup “hurts.”
The same goes for feelings of being “addicted” to the object of your desire. Maybe you’ve had one of those flashing light relationships that you couldn’t quite end, or you can’t help but send one more text message to your ex. A major 2005 study conducted by one of America’s most prominent anthropologists, Helen Fisher, Ph.D., argued that romantic love should be considered a “natural” addiction, due to love’s neural similarity to many addictive states of substance. and non-substance. So what happens when the relationship ends? The increase and decrease in hormones in our brains are similar to those during withdrawal, Fisher says. Hence that feeling of being unable to resist the person (and why sending that last text might not have been the best idea).
In addition to validating the strange behaviors we sometimes exhibit in love, this study offers tangible strategies to help the heart diseased. We gathered their conclusions and spoke to clinical psychologist, relationship therapist and author to put together the 6 best steps to get over a breakup.
✔️Redirect your thoughts
We know this is much easier said than done, but try to accept the relationship for what it was and recognize that it ended for a reason. Hyperfocus on the issues between you and your former partner, or what else could have gone on, just keeps you stuck in a place where you feel bad about yourself. Instead, try to interrupt those thoughts as they arise. “That’s what we call stopping thinking,” Greenberg says. “If you find yourself having those thoughts, imagine a big stop sign and then imagine re-routing yourself to go a different route. You can also put an elastic band around your wrist and snap it every time you notice an obsessive thought. This draws your attention to what you are doing and reminds you to seek distraction. If you’re thinking things like, “I’ll never find love again,” the elastic band trick will help you identify this thought as just that — an intrusive thought and not a reality.
️ Focus on yourself
Did you love to read before bed, but stopped when you saw your partner? Were there any restaurants or music that you disagreed with? Pick those things up again, or find new hobbies that fulfill you. Sometimes relationships leave no room for personal growth that is different from the other person. Fisher’s research shows that engaging a newly single with self-expanding activities (such as hobbies, sports, spiritual experiences) can help them rediscover themselves, buffer the impact of loss, and result in better feelings after the breakup.
Mindfulness and meditation can also help you renew yourself and mediate any urges to text your ex. “This means just sitting for 20 minutes and noticing the urge, in your brain and your body, as an open observation. You’ll find that most urges will peak and then subside after about 20 minutes,” Greenberg says.
️ Hit that “unfollow” button
Speaking of addictive behavior, it might be time for a social media and text purge. Whether you’re scrolling through their Facebook or your old posts, extra screen time from your ex partner can exacerbate the negative feelings you’re already experiencing. It won’t help you better understand what happened in the relationship, and clicking “unfollow me again” is a completely rational response. Seeing them on social media can also lead to negative feelings or habits that you have formed since the breakup. “Pay attention to the triggers and have a safety plan in place,” Greenberg says. “Is Facebook a risky situation to long for them? Log out. If being alone and bored on a Sunday triggers you, make sure you have plans.”
✔️ Go outside and sweat
Get outside and go for a walk or run. Regular exercise becomes even more important when you’re going through emotional issues, thanks to its proven mental health benefits. “Getting moving can help interrupt rumination,” Greenberg says. Exercising is a very helpful and immediate solution when you’re feeling down, because it can , , and help you .
✔️Schedule time with friends
Keep yourself busy with the people you feel most comfortable with. If it’s financially feasible, book a friends weekend in a new place, or go out to dinner with someone you haven’t seen in a while. People sometimes put their non-romantic relationships on the back burner when they’re in love, so it may be time to focus on rebuilding this other form of intimacy. And to the brain, spending time with close friends is like spending time with a romantic partner. Looking at a picture of a close friend activates the part of the brain associated with reward and the tranquility of attachment, according to Fisher. Plus, in the news Social Psychological and Personality Science found that venting or thinking about a relationship can help speed up the healing process. The study found that talking about a breakup helped people figure out who they were as a single person, making them feel less lonely.
✔️Allow time for closure
This brings us to that elusive and always frustrating idea of closure. It means something different in every relationship and you may not be ready for closure right away. But in the end, if you can focus on the positive aspects of the breakup (that new “me” time), you may be happier. showed that writing about positive feelings rather than negative feelings after the breakup was beneficial for participants’ mental health. Whether this means forgiving your ex, forgiving yourself, or choosing to focus on the future, remember that it takes a bit of time to move on, Greenberg says. “In the end, it’s just about other things in your life that are uplifting and meaningful, besides the person you have no control over.”
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