5 Science-Backed Ways to Get Over a Breakup

forgetting sarah marshallBecome a functioning human being again.Universal Pictures

  • The only way to fully get over a breakup is to wait it out.
  • But there are plenty of strategies to help reduce your emotional distress and become a functioning human being again.
  • Those strategies include resisting the urge to Facebook-stalk and finding a silver lining in the experience.

The only way to truly get over a breakup is to give it time.

As biological anthropologist Helen Fisher previously told Business Insider, “The day will come when that person who’s been camping in your head is out. And you wake up in the morning and you realize that yesterday you never thought about them at all.”

In fact, research suggests that we tend to overestimate how long it will take us to feel better after a breakup.

That said, if you’ve just landed in Splitsville, there are plenty of ways to speed up the recovery process — so you can show up to work as a functioning human being, and not a sobbing mess. Below, find five mistakes people make too often after a rough breakup, and five scientific and expert-backed ways to cope.

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Don’t Facebook-stalk your ex

A study published 2012 in the journal Cyberpsychology found that people who creep on their exes’ Facebook profiles are more likely to have negative feelings for the person, more likely to desire that person, and less likely to grow from the breakup.

It’s hard to say whether looking at an ex’s Facebook profile directly causes distress, or whether it’s the other way around. Either way, do yourself a favor and try to resist the urge to “just check” what your ex has been up to since the breakup.

Don’t pretend your ex was perfect

Don't pretend your ex was perfect


Instead, list five ‘must-haves’ and five ‘can’t-stands’ in a potential partner.

That’s a tip from Andrea Syrtash, dating expert and author of “He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing): How to Find Love Where You Least Expect It.”

Syrtash previously told Business Insider she recommends going deeper with each value — so instead of “must have brown hair and brown eyes,” try “I must be attracted to this person.”

One benefit of this exercise is that you might realize while you want someone who’s emotionally open, for example, none of your exes have been. From there, you can start to look for a partner who’s more suitable for you.

Don’t assume that the breakup reflects something wrong with you

A 2016 paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that your ability to deal with a breakup has a lot to do with your sense of self.

One of the study authors, Lauren Howe, broke it down in The Atlantic:

“In our research, people reported the most prolonged distress after a romantic rejection when it caused their self-image to change for the worse. People who agreed that the rejection made them question who they really were also reported more often that they were still upset when they thought about the person who had rejected them.”

On the other hand, Howe wrote, people who responded with remarks such as, “I learned that two people can both be quality individuals, but that doesn’t mean they belong together” tended to have an easier time with the breakup.

Howe recommends that we try to “question our own narratives” about what the breakup reveals about us in order to have an easier time coping.

Don’t write about how bad you feel

Research suggests that simply journaling about your emotions surrounding a breakup can make you feel worse.

Instead, write about a silver lining you’ve found in the breakup.

But a study published 2015 in the journal Social and Personal Relationships found a specific type of journaling can help you cope: writing a redemptive narrative. That is, a story about how you turned suffering — in this case, a breakup — into a positive experience.

Participants in the study felt less distressed after writing their redemptive narratives for four days — so it’s unclear how long the effects last.

Don’t refuse to talk about it

You should be talking about it.

This strategy might seem counterintuitive: Why dwell on a painful past?

And yet a study published 2015 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that simply participating in research on breakups can help people get over them.

A group of participants who spent more time talking to experimenters and filling out surveys about the breakup later experienced less distress than a group who spent minimal time on the same activities. The first group was also less likely to agree with statements like, “I do not feel like myself anymore.”

In an interview with The Atlantic, lead researcher Grace Larson said it might come down to looking at your past objectively.

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