Here’s the best way to get over a bad breakup, according to science
There’s no way around it — breakups suck, even when they’re for the best. Sure, overhauling your look with a breakup haircut or leaning on your friends may numb the pain temporarily. You might even find comfort in a pint of ice cream or an all-day Netflix binge. But moving past the end of a relationship is hard work, and it takes time. Luckily, scientists have *finally* figured out the best way to get over a bad breakup. So turn off those sad songs we know you’re listening to, dry your eyes, and pay attention.
Professors from the University of Missouri-St. Louis recently evaluated three “love regulation” strategies to lessen those lingering feelings of love after a breakup: negative reappraisal of the relationship; reappraisal of love feelings; and distraction.
“Because remaining love feelings for an ex-partner are negatively associated with recovery from a romantic breakup, it may be helpful to decrease those love feelings,” researchers wrote. “Love regulation is the use of behavioral or cognitive strategies to change the intensity of current feelings of romantic love.”
The study, published in the May 2018 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, included 24 people between the ages of 20 and 37, most of whom were still in love with their ex.
The study measured participants’ brain waves as they attempted each breakup strategy based on prompts from researchers.
Participants viewed photos of their exes at each stage of the study. They focused on their ex-partners’ negative aspects in the study’s first stage. In the second stage, they were pushed to acknowledge their current feelings toward their ex, based on the idea that acceptance could help them feel more at peace. And in the third stage, they were asked random questions as a means of distracting themselves from thinking about the breakup.
Study results showed that negative appraisal was most effective in regulating post-breakup feelings of love. However, the strategy also made participants feel worse, at least in the short term.
Meanwhile, love reappraisal didn’t do much to help participants find acceptance after a breakup. And while distraction temporarily improved participants’ moods, it wasn’t deemed a suitable long-term strategy because it focused on avoidance versus learning to overcome negative emotions.
Overall, researchers determined that people were most likely to use a combination of negative appraisal and distraction following a breakup.
"All three strategies decreased motivated attention for the ex-partner," researchers concluded. "This reduced motivated attention for the ex-partner could make it easier to deal with encounters of (reminders of) the ex-partner."
There’s no right or wrong way to move on after a breakup. So however you choose to deal with your emotions, remember: Take each day as it comes and don’t rush things. You got this!