Science Backed Steps to Heal Heartbreak

Kelly E.

How to finally get over them and move on with your life.

Are you ready to get over your ex?

That may sound like a stupid question. Who chooses to stay miserable and heartbroken? Actually, a lot of people do. They say they want to move on, stop feeling heartbroken, and heal but then they hold on tight to their pain and misery — sometimes for years.

Asking yourself “Am I ready to get over my ex?” is the first step.

Healing from heartbreak is like healing from a physical injury. There are scientifically proven steps to take. It’s practical, like physical therapy for your heart! It’s important to know the right steps to take to avoid injuring yourself further.

“One of the main reasons it takes so long to recover from heartbreaks,” says Dr. Guy Winch, “is people usually indulge in thoughts and behaviors that might feel natural and compelling but actually make things worse.”

When you are ready, here are 6 steps Dr. Winch recommends you take:

#1. Understand what’s happening in your brain

There are a number of hormones rushing around your brain when you are in love. One of these is dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel fantastic, gives us mood swings, causes cravings, and is the source of obsessive thinking.

In love, dopamine is at its peak and feels incredible. But when you break up, and the dopamine withdrawal hits, you get obsessed with getting that nice feeling back. That’s why you can’t stop thinking about your ex. Every time you think of them, you get a little dopamine hit.

If you want to hear a researcher talk about this, Helen Fisher has a great Ted talk called The Brain in Love.

#2. Get rid of the reminders

This includes on Social Media. Stalking their Instagram or keeping photos, gifts, and messages from your ex is tempting but you need to ask if it’s helpful. Having reminders around isn’t a good idea when you’re trying to get over someone. It keeps them in the forefront of your mind and prevents you from moving on.

#3. Make a not-so-perfect list

Idealizing your ex is common, especially when you haven’t seen them for a while. You start to believe they were perfect and forget their flaws. An important step in moving on is to get them and the relationship down from that pedestal.

To give yourself balance, Winch recommends making a list of all the ways they weren’t ideal: the things that annoyed you, the negative aspects of their character, the times they didn’t treat you well. It’s not about being mean; it’s about being realistic — no relationship or person is perfect.

#4. Get closure

When people leave they don’t always give a reason. You feel like there’s no closure and it can cause you to get stuck. You ask yourself what went wrong and dwell on your mistakes.

If you can’t get closure from your ex, you need to give it to yourself. Asking “why” over and over will get you nowhere. Come up with a reason and make sure it’s one that protects your self-esteem. (You’re already injured, no need to make it worse!)

“They weren’t emotionally mature enough for the relationship.”

“Our communication styles were very different. She couldn’t see where I was coming from.”

#5. Fill the gaps

Socializing and going out might be the last thing you feel like doing but it’s exactly what you need. Decide what a reasonable grieving period is and when it’s over, commit to getting out again.

Pick up hobbies you used to enjoy, try something new, say yes to your friend’s dinner invite, go on a date. Even if you don’t enjoy them yet, stick at it. It will help you remember who you are as an individual and build your confidence back.

#6. Cut emotional ties

Don’t try to be friends with your ex. They are no longer your confidant or your support person. If you have to communicate (because of kids, for example) keep any conversations as brief and unemotional as possible — facts only.

“I’ll have the kids Sunday.”

“Sarah has camp next week. She needs the shoes at your house.”

If you can, avoiding any contact is best. A no-contact period is necessary for you to get over your ex but it’s not easy. It doesn’t have to be no-contact forever, but saying, “let’s stay friends” is going to drag your pain out longer. You need a break until you’re over them and it usually takes a few months at least.

People with kids often need to have contact for child care but you can work out ways to keep it minimal or arrange for someone else to do pickups and drop offs for a while.

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Healing from heartbreak is hard. It hurts and we just want to wind back time and do things differently. There are situations were relationships are savable. Perhaps yours is and your willing to do the work to save it. But if it's going to be saved, two people need to want to. Often that's just not the reality.

To heal from heartbreak you need to be ready.

You need to be brave enough to say, "I'm going to heal even if it means letting them go." It means accepting change. Accepting they are no longer there.

It means choosing yourself and your future over the past. You're worth it. Your future is worth it.

It might feel right now like you will never be happy again but once you do the work of healing, you can be. It takes work, yes. But the work you put in pays off in the long run.

You can start your life fresh. Find things that make you happy and satisfied. Perhaps even find a new love?

You can't change your past, but you have complete control over what you do now. What actions will you take today to move forward? What steps will you take to create the future you want?

Don't waste another day sad and heartbroken. Don't waste another day trapped in your past. Are you ready to move on? The only answer that gives you a better future is "Yes!".

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