Heal your heart by using your brain

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri tested a number of strategies for coping with and recovering from, a break-up. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. 24 participants between the ages of 20-37, who had been in long-term relationships (average 2.5 years), and were struggling with heartbreak were included. All demonstrated classic symptoms of grief.

Too often we tell people that time will take care of it—but when you are suffering, time passes slowly and some people can get stuck in very unhealthy way. This research has demonstrated that getting out of your feelings and into you head may be the best antidote.

Researchers applied a number of cognitive post-breakup strategies to see which, if any, would help heal the heartbreak and help participants to move on happily.

The first involved thinking negative thoughts about their ex.

In the second they were told to accept the feelings of love for the ex without any judgement, just a kind of neutral acceptance that they could love someone they are no longer with.

The third strategy was distraction. Subjects were told to think about happy and positive things and push out all thought of their exes.

The fourth did not ask the participants to think about anything in particular. They were just left with their thoughts.

Then the researchers showed the subjects pictures of their exes while they recorded the intensity of the feelings using an electroencephalogram. Each person was also asked to fill out a questionnaire about their feelings.

Each strategy decreased the participants’ emotional response to the pictures of their exes. However the strategy of thinking negative thoughts led to feeling unpleasant in general. The second did not change the degree of love they felt, or how pleasant or unpleasant their feelings were in general. But distraction made subjects feel happier, even though their feelings of love did not change. The conclusion of researchers is that distraction can be a great short-term coping mechanism for grief recovery. It also does not increased negative thinking or energy, which will help people to feel happier in general.

If you are struggling with a broken heart, get into your head, go out with friends, try something new, and distract, distract, distract yourself. And for heaven’s sake, avoid online stalking via their social media!