Are YOU heartbroken? Scientists reveal why distracting yourself is the best way to get over an ex
- Thinking about positive things that do not involve their ex makes people happier
- Remembering all of their ex’s bad qualities makes people less fond of them
- Researchers adds, however, people’s emotions do not work like an ‘on/off switch’
- She adds people have to actively regulate their thoughts over time to move on
- Previous research suggests heartbreak can cause depression and insomnia
Distracting yourself is the best way to get over heartbreak, new research suggests.
Thinking about positive things that do not involve their ex makes people happier, however, it does not make them love their former flame any less, a study found.
Remembering all of their ex’s bad qualities makes people less fond of their past partners, however, it also makes them feel worse, the research adds.
Lead author Professor Sandra Langeslag, from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said: ‘Distraction is a form of avoidance, which has been shown to reduce the recovery from a breakup.’
She adds, however, emotions do not work like an ‘on/off switch’, with people having to actively regulate their thoughts over time to help them move on.
Previous research suggests heartbreak can cause depression, insomnia and reduced immune function.
Distracting yourself is the best way to get over heartbreak, new research suggests (stock)
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DOES WRITING A DIARY HELP PEOPLE COPE WITH DIVORCE?
Writing a diary after going through a divorce could improve people’s heart health and their abilities to adapt to new situations, research suggested in May 2017.
Researchers found the benefits of keeping a journal are seen among those who express their feelings by writing the story of their relationships.
Study author Kyle Bourassa, from the University of Arizona, said: ‘To be able to create a story in a structured way – not just re-experience your emotions but make meaning out of them – allows you to process those feelings in a more physiologically adaptive way.
‘The explicit instructions to create a narrative may provide a scaffolding for people who are going through this tough time.
‘This structure can help people gain an understanding of their experience that allows them to move forward, rather than simply spinning and re-experiencing the same negative emotions over and over.’
The researchers split 109 men or women who had separated or divorced from their partners on average three months ago into three groups.
The first involved participants writing deep feelings about their relationships and experiences.
Others were asked to tell the story of their relationships by expressing their emotions in a narrative framework with a beginning, middle and end.
The third group non-emotionally described their daily activities.
All of the participants wrote in their assigned styles for 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days.
The researchers assessed the participants’ physical and psychological health before the study and at two follow-up visits.
Around eight months later, those in the second group – who expressed the story of their relationships – had lower heart rates than those in the other two groups.
They also had higher heart rate variability, which refers to the variation in time between heartbeats and reflects the body’s ability to adapt to its environment.
A lower heart rate and a greater beat variability are both associated with improved health outcomes.
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed 24 people aged 20-to-37 who were upset following a relationship breakup after around 2.5 years with their partners.
Most of the participants, which were made of people who had both been dumped and instigated the breakup, claimed to still be in love with their ex.
Some of them were asked to think negatively about their ex. Others were told to accept their feelings by telling themselves statements like: ‘It’s okay to love someone I’m not longer with.’
A third group were told to distract themselves by thinking positively about things that did not involve their ex at all. A fourth control group were asked not to change their thinking habits.
The participants were then shown photographs of their ex partners.
Their brain activity was recorded to determine the intensity of their emotions, as well as them completing a questionnaire on their feelings.
‘You have to regulate your love feelings regularly’
Speaking of how to get over someone, Professor Langeslag told TIME: ‘To make a lasting change, you’ll probably have to regulate your love feelings regularly.’
Results further suggest accepting emotions has no effect on people’s feelings towards their ex or their happiness.
Professor Langeslag adds that all strategies may help people cope in the long term if they encounter their ex or see them on social media.
Overcoming hardship makes people wiser
This comes after research released last February suggested wisdom comes from overcoming hardship.
Of 50 study participants who battled a traumatic life event, 32 view these incidences as landmarks on their journey towards self-discovery, a study found.
Five said enduring rough times, such as a health scare, and coming out the other side helped them find self-acceptance, the research adds.
Others claim drawing on their personal strengths, such as intelligence, assisted them in overcoming issues that cannot be changed, like the death of a loved one, the study found.
Lead author Dr Carolyn Aldwin, from Oregon State University, said: ‘The adage used to be “with age comes wisdom”, but that’s not really true.
‘Generally, the people who had to work to sort things out after a difficult life event are the ones who arrived at new meaning.’
The researchers also found how well people cope with hardship depends on their support networks.
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