Going through a breakup can elicit a tidal wave of all different types of emotions that can make even the sanest and most logical of us spiral out of control, acting out or seeking closure in very unhealthy ways. In fact, pop-culture loves to perpetuate the image of the scorned ex who breaks car windows or the sad one who’s hysterical as she shoves spoonful after spoonful of ice cream in her mouth to nurse the pain. However, there are far more productive ways to deal with the hurt of a breakup without landing yourself in an unfortunate situation or gaining a sizable amount of weight. It’s also important to know and accept that ending a relationship can have a very serious affect on your mind, body, and soul — and that it’s OK to feel hurt and confused.
According to a 2010 study from Northwestern University, “[a] breakup can turn your world upside down, making it feel like you don’t know who you are anymore.” The study also found that the more serious the relationship was with an ex, the more likely you are to experience a crisis of identity. Additionally, the authors of the study found that “…not having a clear idea of who you are without your partner can lead to emotional distress.” Undoubtedly this can make going through the breakup much more difficult, but we’re here to help you move forward in the best and most healthy ways. Here are five of the healthiest ways to get over the loss of a relationship.
1. Put the pen to paper and talk it out
Use any and all outlets to let it all out. While your first impulse may be to bottle up your feelings, completely avoiding the way you feel will prevent you from moving upward and onward. When the breakup initially occurs, you’re likely to feel a range of emotions, from sadness, to anger, to rejection, and you’re sure to have a bruised ego. In the early stages, you just have to let yourself feel it and not care what others think, says marriage therapist and author Sheri Meyers to the Huffington Post. “If you feel like crying, cry. If you’re pushing your feelings down, they’re just going to make you calloused or afraid,” she says. Get your thoughts out any way you can — write them down in a journal, as you cry, or when the emotion overcomes you let it out. Also, feel free to speak to a therapist to help you gain clarity from what the issues were in the relationship and why it didn’t work out. They will help you to see why you are better off without the other person.
2. Cut off contact
Cut off all contact with your ex. While it may sound like something impossible, relationship expert Michele O’Mara, Ph.D., author of Just Ask! 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, swears by this fix. O’Mara says that blood tests, brain scans, and all other supporting research show that when you speak or are in contact with the person that you love, desire begins to heat up for them.
Essentially, O’Mara says, “[y]ou’re craving that person.” She suggests that you tie up loose ends with your ex, find some closure (the best closure you can get) and take a “30-to-90-day break from all contact with your ex.” Allow the time to pass to re-evaluate your feelings and consider if you want to maintain a friendship — but until then, cut it off.
3. Say some of these phrases aloud (and on repeat)
A combination of positive daily affirmations about yourself, as well as a couple of things that you didn’t like about your ex can do wonders in helping you to move on in a positive way. Repeat some of the following phrases aloud to yourself at home every day until you feel that you don’t need them anymore — or anytime you need a pick me up. First, say “I love myself” — and say it like you mean it because self-love is crucial in helping you to be positive about who you are. If you love yourself, you’ll be the “master of your feelings, not some idiot that broke your heart through a text message.”
Along with “I love myself,” saying “I want to be happy” is just as important, and step number one toward happiness is getting out of the relationship. On the flip side to the positive daily affirmations, are some negative phrases that will also yield happiness, positive results, and acceptance that it’s time to move on. Say something that you did not like about your ex, something that bothered you about him or her. If you hated the way he or she chewed their food, or the fact that they needed you to do everything for them, saying all of these negative things about them will help you to realize that your ex was not-so-great after all.
In fact, a study cited in Psych Central and published in Cognition and Emotions found that those who “indicated strong negative feelings about their ex in the immediate aftermath of the breakup were less likely to be depressed.” All in all, this will help you to heal faster.
4. Hit the gym, pound the pavement — or do what you can to get active
One of the best (and most turned-to) post-breakup activities is exercise. Cardio is often recommended both for the endorphins, and because it can “lower your stress levels, improve cognitive functioning and boost your mood,” and of course, it will distract you from thinking about your ex. It may take a little self encouragement, especially because you may just want to mope around on the couch, but it will be a positive activity for your mind, body, and spirit.
“After a breakup, we tend to want to sit and cuddle and huddle and cry, and talk to our girlfriends and feel bad about ourselves,” Meyers tells the Huffington Post. “So getting out and moving is really essential because it’s almost the opposite of what we feel like doing, which is shutting down and feeling sorry for ourselves.” Just be sure not to over-exercise, says Meyer — you want to enjoy yourself, not view it as a punishment.
5. Take care of yourself
While it may sound obvious, it’s important to keep up with self-care routines and to take care of your daily needs as you’re grieving and dealing with your breakup. Don’t miss out on your hobbies, working out, spending time with family and friends, eating well, etc. You’re going to feel helpless and not motivated to do any of the things you normally do, but you must do your best to try — even if getting into the shower takes a little more effort. Push yourself to continue on with life and routines as you had before.