Breakups can be brutal. Research has shown that getting dumped or ending a long-term relationship with a romantic partner can negatively impact health and wellbeing for a long time after breaking up.
So what is the best way to get over a breakup? Film, television, and magazines have all weighed in on this question time and time again, but a new study has identified some of the most effective ways to stop thinking about an ex.
The answer lies in something called a regulation strategy, and similar to trying to control cravings while stopping smoking or dieting, the key to getting over a breakup lies in trying to control how you think about your ex.
Having romantic feelings for an ex inhibits recovery and using a regulation strategy could help reduce those feelings, according to the study which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
24 people ages 20 to 37 participated in the research, and all the participants had recently broken up or been dumped by a significant other, according to Time which reported on the study.
Love feelings for an ex were common among the group and the researchers tested three cognitive regulation strategies to see if they helped the participants move on from the breakup.
After each test, participants were shown a picture of their ex while the researchers measured the intensity of emotional responses with Electroencephalography (EEG).
For the first test, the participants were asked to negatively reappraise their partner, remembering the bad habits or annoying traits they didn’t like.
The next strategy also used reappraisal but this time it was love reappraisal where the participants were given mantras to help them accept their love feelings.
For the third test, participants were told to distract themselves and think about positive things that weren’t related to the ex.
Each regulation strategy had some effect on reducing love feelings. according to EEG readings which shows that controlling your thoughts or shifting your focus could help with a breakup.
However, some of the strategies were more effective than others and the negative reappraisal strategy correlated with a negative mood.
The study provides strategic ways for people to recover from a breakup, however, just like any habit, addiction, or lifestyle change, it takes time and practice to get over an ex.
“Love regulation doesn’t work like an on/off switch,” Sandra Langeslag, a co-author of the study, told Time. “To make a lasting change, you’ll probably have to regulate your love feelings regularly.”