— Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.
Breakups can leave you feeling like you’re sinking into quicksand, too desperate for help, yet unable to ask for it.
After a breakup, people try to do everything they can to fill the love void. Do you know how to take control away from a narcissist before they break up?
Being in a love relationship is like being a member of an elite club. You get a special membership card, get to wear the club’s colors and mascot, and have exclusive access to the club’s privileges.
As you walk in one day, you find they revoked your club membership the night before. The entry card no longer works, and you are dumbfounded to learn that all your benefits stand canceled.
You suddenly feel like a pariah, ready to be ejected from the premises if you take one step.
That is how most of us experience heartbreaks. And there are ways backed by evidence for learning how to be happy after it happens.
“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
10 Ways To Be Happy After Breakup (And Survive If You’re Still In Love)
A breakup can be devastating, but it does not have to be the end of the world. You can learn to move on and be happy again at the end of a relationship, even if you are still in love with them.
What you need is a good coping strategy to minimize, tolerate, or master the flood of stress.
Most coping tactics don’t require you to revisit the painful memories, though some experts advise us to “mourn in moderation.”
Evidence suggests that it’s best to take some time off from your routine to let yourself feel your feelings, rather than moving on quickly and entering a rebound relationship.
Trying to push away all thoughts of the relationship can prevent you from resolving the problems and, in many cases, prolong your healing.
Moving on too quickly after a breakup and ligering while clinging to a false hope are both bad ideas.
Here are 10 helpful tips for letting it go and getting happy again:
1. Start a self-care routine.
The death of a relationship can be devastating.
It can easily push you into neglecting yourself. After breakups, people may go on for weeks without bathing or months without cleaning up their living space.
Self-care can help rewire your brain to think of new ideas and visualize bright possibilities.
Accepting your current state of neglect of your emotional and physical needs is the first step toward developing a self-care habit.
Psychology says that you can change any habit with proven strategies.
Challenge yourself to break the pattern of your repetitive, unhelpful habits, and replace them with healthy and happy ones.
A few ways to self-care:
- Make time to meditate, follow a digital detox regimen, and go to bed a little earlier so that you can sleep full 8 hours.
- Spend your weekends learning dance-yoga or another mood-lifting skill. Reconnect with friends and family, or pamper yourself with a spa treatment.
- Do not speak badly about yourself.
- Let go of what you can’t control.
- If it feels wrong, don’t do it.
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.
They won’t come back. You will never again have a relationship with them.
Accepting that is a crucial step in the coping and healing process.
It can be hard to figure out how to move forward when a relationship ends. You can learn to use the power of silence to heal after breakups and live a happier life.
That thought will liberate 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, if that happened.
Acceptance is giving yourself 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.
You cannot undo the breakup, so toughen up to handle the rollercoaster of life.
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.
Don’t even think of stalking your ex. 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
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.
Your monotony might be a way to defend yourself from feeling anything. However, it bottles up your dark emotions and numbs your brain to both feeling pleasure and pain.
Not everyone has a friend who can drag them on a fun adventure. Sometimes. we have to be that best friend of ourselves.
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 rumination can lead to depression and anxiety.
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.
Under no circumstances should you lean toward drugs or illegal substances.
4. Join a good social group in real life.
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 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.
Do not build a fortress around yourself.
It’s great to have boundaries, but 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.
The best revenge is a life well-lived.
You can move on and live a happy life.
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 and join the process.”
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.
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.
Think of things that used to make you happy and do as many of them as possible.
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 are not entirely blameless. Take time to understand what your part was in contributing to the breakup.
After you have more or less gotten 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 new people, start with honesty and openness.
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 about your fears and concerns, 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; your hair 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.
Why do breakups hurt like physical pain?
Breakups evoke profound emotional pain, impacting our emotional and functional well-being. This distress is not merely psychological; emotional pain activates the same brain pathways as physical pain, causing lasting stress. Recovering from a breakup is akin to overcoming addiction, given the similar brain activation patterns, making the process challenging but vital for overall health.
“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
What are some coping strategies to handle a breakup?
1. Emotional Acceptance: Accepting the pain you’re experiencing rather than suppressing it can be beneficial for emotional healing. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and let them flow naturally.
2. Self-Care Practices: Focusing on self-care can help rebuild your self-esteem and happiness post-breakup. This includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, maintaining good sleep hygiene, and engaging in activities you enjoy.
3. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help you stay focused on the present moment and prevent dwelling on past relationship memories. Mindfulness can also help regulate your emotions and reduce feelings of distress.
4. Social Support: Lean on your friends, family, and support groups. The feeling of being understood and cared for by others can help reduce the feeling of loneliness and isolation after a breakup.
6. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Techniques: Seeking a psychologist or a licensed counselor for CBT can help you challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive, realistic ones. Techniques include cognitive reframing, behavioral activation, and guided discovery.
How can I boost my self-esteem after a breakup?
Boosting your self-esteem after a breakup can be accomplished with a few focused strategies:
1. Self-Acknowledgement: Acknowledge your worth independent of your relationship status. You are a unique individual with your own talents, abilities, and values.
2. Self-Care: Engage in activities that nurture your body, mind, and soul. This could include exercise, meditation, eating healthy, or simply taking time to do things that make you happy.
3. Setting Goals: Set achievable personal goals that are unrelated to your past relationship. Accomplishing these goals will provide a confidence boost and reinforce your self-worth.
4. Reframing Thoughts: Challenge negative thoughts and perceptions about yourself. Practice positive affirmations and remind yourself of your accomplishments, strengths, and values.
5. Surround Yourself With Positivity: Spend time with friends and family who uplift you and reinforce your self-worth. Their positive affirmations can help boost your self-esteem. But avoid toxic positivity.
How long does it typically take to feel better after a breakup?
This study suggests that most people can start to recover from a breakup within three months. However, the study only examined short-term relationships, and the healing process may take longer for longer-term relationships. Finally, there’s no “normal” timeline for healing – everyone’s recovery journey is unique. The duration to feel better after a breakup depends on the nature of the partners, the length and intensity of the relationship, the circumstances of the breakup, and individual coping mechanisms.
It can be hard to figure out how to move forward when a relationship ends. You can learn to use the power of silence to heal after breakups and live a happier life.
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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