Being in a relationship is like being a member of an exclusive club. You, only you, have a membership card, wear the club’s colors and mascot, get warmly greeted by the host, and have access to its privileges.
As might happen one day, when you walk in, you find out they revoked your club membership the night before. The club’s entry card no longer works for you, and you have to forego all your benefits. You immediately feel like a pariah, ready to be evicted from the premises.
That sounds like a heartbreak, right?
“I think you still love me, but we can’t escape the fact that I’m not enough for you. I knew this was going to happen. So I’m not blaming you for falling in love with another woman. I’m not angry, either. I should be, but I’m not. I just feel pain. A lot of pain. I thought I could imagine how much this would hurt, but I was wrong.” ― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun
The end of a relationship can be devastating, but it does not have to be the end of the world. After a breakup, it is possible to move on with your life without your ex and be happy again. What you need is a good coping strategy to minimize, tolerate, or master the stress.
There are many ways to cope with a breakup. Most of them don’t need us to revisit the memories that make us sad, though some experts advise us to “mourn in moderation.”
The Journey To Find Happiness After A Breakup
Heartbreaks, at any age, can severely impact our emotions and ability to function. Breakups can leave one feeling humiliated, wounded, and discarded. The resulting emotional pain can last for days, weeks, and even months.
Those hurt often see the future as a stretched-out blur. Their bodies go through stresses akin to physical trauma, which can have a negative impact on both their short-term and long-term health.
It is because emotional pain traverses the same circuitry in our brain as any physical pain.
Recovering from a breakup is a hard thing to do. A breakup is much like getting over a bad habit, like an addiction. Both conditions activate the same parts of the brain. The cravings make you crazy.
Our grief activates circuitry in our brain that causes withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by people who are addicted to cocaine or heroin. — Dr. Guy Winch, author of How To Fix A Broken Heart
With a little help, you can navigate the rough waters and land on a sunny beach. You can learn to be happy (because happiness is a learnable skill) after your “made to last” relationship has ended.
Here are some of the best tips to help you get to your cheerful self:
1. Start a self-care routine.
The death of a relationship can be devastating. It can easily push you into neglecting yourself. After a breakup, people often go on for weeks without bathing or months without cleaning up their living space.
A self-care routine begins with taking stock of your current state of undoing and listing your emotional and physical needs. It means challenging your obnoxious habits and replacing them with healthy and happy ones. You can change any habit using psychology
Some of these new habits could include making time to meditate, following a detox regimen, and sleeping the recommended number of hours. You could spend your weekends learning dance-yoga or another mood-lifting skill, reconnecting with friends and family, or pampering yourself with a spa treatment.
A few other keys to self-care:
- Do not speak badly about yourself.
- Let go of what you can’t control.
- If it feels wrong, don’t do it.
- Don’t be a people-pleaser.
- Don’t be afraid to say NO.
- Love yourself.
Remember, do not go after the boring stuff or beat yourself too hard, as those might leave you in a worse mess.
2. Accept the breakup as an irreversible change.
Acceptance is an important step in the coping process. Accepting that you will never again have a relationship with them liberates you from the pain of trying to change things that are resistant to change.
When you accept your breakup, you assure yourself you no longer want to control things that are outside your control. It does not mean you’re condoning the injustice they served you.
Acceptance is giving yourself the permission to move away from the negative emotional state and be yourself, and feel happy.
Don’t drag the past into your present. Pick yourself up, shake off the dust, and move forward.
Enjoy the rollercoaster of life and accept that you cannot undo the breakup. Stop stalking your ex and instead block them from all your social media accounts and messenger groups. Give your mind the closure it demands.
Closure (or Need For Closure, often abbreviated to NFC) refers to a desire for a definite answer to a question, as opposed to uncertainty, confusion, or ambiguity. It was first proposed by the American social psychologist Arie Kruglanski.
“I will not try to convince you to love me, to respect me, to commit to me. I deserve better than that; I AM BETTER THAN THAT…Goodbye.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
A large part of acceptance is letting go of the desire that things will change favorably for you. They won’t unless you go out and make those changes happen.
Acceptance is your first step towards flourishing. It’s a step out of uncertainty. It lets you make peace with your past, analyze the present, and strategize for a better future.
Remember, don’t wait for acceptance to come with the passage of time. Rather, make it happen.
3. Break the monotony. Distract yourself.
You have to make changes in your life. Break the monotony of going through the same joyless daily routine, like mindlessly eating while binge-watching depressing shows.
Rumination, or overthinking, is letting a negative incident from your past recycle in your mind over and over. Research by the late Yale psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema showed it could lead to depression and anxiety.
Your monotony might be a way to defend yourself from feeling anything. But it bottles up the emotions. This often proves harmful to your mental health.
The correct strategy is to let the emotions flow over you, as you name them, and feel them. You can embrace your negative emotions.
Distraction is one of the most powerful ways to break the cycle of negative thoughts and monotony. It allows your volcanic emotions to calm down.
Laughter therapy, yoga sessions, a walk around the block, reframing the situation, and immersing yourself in an activity you love, are some of the best distractions to elevate your mood.
Remember, do not turn to distractions too much. If you are using this strategy too frequently, it could mean you are repressing your feelings and avoiding dealing with them.
Surrounding yourself with cheerful people can bolster your emotional health. And cutting out toxic people from your life will help you thrive and grow.
It is difficult these days to find large social groups because of the Covid protocols. Following the isolation precautions, you could look for small groups to join.
You could, for example, join a daily fitness group of 3-4 people. Experts have shown workouts to improve mood and happiness. They release a variety of chemicals, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and BDNF. These work together to boost your happiness, protect you from depression and increase your immunity and longevity.
Some other examples are an art group, a book discussion group, a weekend adventure sports group, and a sky watching group.
Remember, while it’s great to have boundaries, it is painfully isolating to build a wall so high that no one can reach you. Let down your defenses and allow people into your life. You can decide later if you want them to stay in your circle any longer.
5. Move on with plans for a happier life.
You can move on and live a happy life. The best revenge is a life well-lived.
Don’t live hoping they would come back into your life. Stop fantasizing that one day when you’re back from the office, they are waiting at your door, tearful and repentant.
Stop being friends with them, in the real world or the internet world. Keep your distance from the friends you made while you two were a couple. Don’t spy on your ex’s activities.
Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Move on with your new life. If you think you can move to a new place, like living with your siblings or parents, do it, at least for some time.
“Isn’t it funny how the memories you cherish before a breakup can become your worst enemies afterwards? The thoughts you loved to think about, the memories you wanted to hold up to the light and view from every angle―it suddenly seems a lot safer to lock them in a box, far from the light of day and throw away the key. It’s not an act of bitterness. It’s an act of self-preservation.” ― Allyson Braithwaite Condie, First Day
Try some of these science-backed strategies from Positive Psychology, no less, on how to find true happiness.
Remember, a lot of things you come across in your day would try to drag you back to your past. Snap out of those with some personal mantra, like “Hello beautiful! It’s a new life happening here at this moment. Just look around you.”
6. Do the things you love.
First off, promise yourself you would not do those things you love that would harm your ex-partner or anyone else.
Think of things that used to make you happy and do as many of them as you can. Restart your morning jog if you have loved it. Get a dog if you’ve always wanted one. Join your neighborhood’s weekend charity society if you’ve never been able to find the time to take part.
Remember to love yourself. You absolutely deserve it.
7. Snap out if stuck in a rut.
After a traumatic event like a breakup, it is easy to fall into a rut and do things out of compulsion rather than fascination. Often we get stuck in a rut of mood and cannot change the emotion dial. It happens mostly because we do not want to rock the boat by changing our secure routines.
So, once you’ve realized you’re stuck in a rut, make a firm decision to invest your resources to get out of it.
One change has happened, and now another change is waiting to happen. But this time, you will take on the role of the changemaker.
Of course, any transformation is a time-consuming process with demands on our time, focus, and intent. The good news is that it’s also a process that helps us regain our clarity of thought and belief in our abilities.
One simple method to snap out of a rut is to stop anything you’re doing (not while driving or operating any heavy machinery, of course) and hold your breath for as long as you can. Then take deep breaths for 30 to 60 seconds. It is an excellent way to let your emotions surface so you can figure out what they’re trying to tell you.
Remember, never stop being curious and never stop exploring. Bring back your childlike enthusiasm for trying new things.
8. Stop pushing love away. You can love again.
Of course, you must allow yourself time to reflect on what went wrong. Most of the time, we recognize that we were not entirely blameless. Take time to understand what your part was in contributing to the breakup.
After you have more or less got over any toxic feelings left over from a lost relationship, get ready for the next chapter in your life. It’s important to keep believing in the possibility of finding love again.
Love is the most precious of all things human, and losing it is one of life’s greatest pain. But you can find love again if you allow it.
Find out if you’re pushing love away.
An essential part of falling in love is getting over the fear of intimacy, especially after a breakup. To have a happy and satisfying life, we must win over our tendency to push love away.
The fear of intimacy comes from the anxiety of losing our emotional investment in a new relationship.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development is the world’s longest-running study on happiness and health. Researchers from the study have been following 724 male teens since 1938. George Vaillant, the project’s 30-year director, revealed in 2017 that the most crucial personality trait for finding love and happiness is a mature coping style that does not push love away.
Once you decide to meet people, start with honesty. Once you meet someone, tell them what happened with no reactivity or biased retelling. Whenever you find love again, open up to them with your fears and vulnerabilities. Let them know your fears, but also set up your boundaries.
Remember, while your new partner has a right to know about your past, but it’s only you who gets to decide how much and when.
9. Take it easy. One day at a time.
A breakup is a traumatic event that increases our stress and anxiety levels. It adds uncertainty to our future and negativity to our perspective.
A breakup requires coping before healing. We go through a plethora of emotional tides during our coping process.
The best advice for those handling the tough times post-breakup is the same as anyone handling the brain fog of Covid,
“You’re are doing enough.”
Taking it one day at a time, according to Merriam-Webster, means “to deal with each day’s problems as they come instead of worrying about the future.” It is given as a piece of advice when someone is planning too far ahead or is bogged down with too many problems.
If you find it hard to handle it on your own, take help from a therapist or counselor. You may reach out to an older person who is satisfied with his/her life.
Don’t make any sudden, big changes in your life. Don’t take out a loan to splurge on an expensive buy or go on an exotic vacation. Think a few dozen times before going bald, as it will take months to grow back. Don’t even think of starting daily trips to your local bar hoping to make new friends.
Popular wisdom says it is unwise to go for a rebound relationship. However, research suggests people who begin a new rebound relationship quickly are not necessarily any worse off than those who wait longer. In fact, they appear to be performing better in some domains.
Remember, if it gets overwhelming, you are allowed to reach out and ask for help.
10. Being single is also satisfying and meaningful
Being single is being in a wonderful relationship. Living as a single person provides equal opportunities for a psychologically rich life as living with a partner.
When you’re single, you get a lot of time to yourself to do all of the things you have been meaning to do for ages. Singlehood allows us to be patient with ourselves, so we better understand our needs, opinions, and choices.
Being single offers you an opportunity to catch up with yourself as a long-lost friend (that’s what self-compassion is about). It helps improve our relationship with ourselves.
It also increases our self-accountability and decreases the tendency to find people to blame for our failures.
Being self-partnered also offers unique opportunities to nurture strong friendships with other people.
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” – Robin Williams
Remember, you have the choice of living joyfully with your singlehood.
A rejection from a person who just became a stranger doesn’t predict you won’t be loved by anyone, anymore. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. And one breakup does not make a life.
“Hold on to the thought that no emotion lasts forever, no matter how wonderful or how terrible the emotion may be. The tears may last a little longer than you would like, but it will get better. I promise.” ― Osayi Osar-Emokpae, Because You Deserve Love
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
• Our story: Happiness Project
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