Everybody has their own technique when it comes to getting over breakups. I have some friends who swear on their lives that you will never truly be over an ex until you move on to someone new. Then I have other friends who swear that you'll never truly be able to move on to someone new until you take some time to focus on yourself post-breakup. Confusing, I know. Well, luckily, a new study on breakups about getting over your ex has finally given us a scientifically-backed method for moving on.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that one cognitive method is particularly effective in helping people get over a breakup.
Researchers put together a group of 24 heartbroken people between the ages of 20 and 37. Every member of this group had been in a long-term relationship (on average, they were with their partner for 2.5 years). As for the type of breakup the group members endured, the answer to that varied: Some were dumped, some dumped their exes. The common denominator was that most of them still felt hung up on their exes.
Now, in order to conduct the study, the researchers had the heartbroken people try out three different strategies for moving on from their exes.
The first strategy was to frame their exes in a new negative light. This involved thinking about all of the stuff that annoyed them about their exes. For example, if someone just hated how their ex refused to put the toilet seat down, they would place your focus on that infuriating habit instead of on his dreamy blue eyes.
The next strategy took a more positive approach by asking the participants to read statements that encouraged them to accept how they were feeling. It's basically what you do when you start thinking about your ex and catch yourself reading motivational quotes like, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," and thinking "OMG, so real."
The third strategy they tried was distraction. In this method, the participants were asked to distract themselves from thinking about their exes by thinking about something else instead. For example, when they started thinking about she-who-shall-not-be-named, they would quickly shift their focus to something neutral, like a TV show or the weather.
Finally, the last strategy was a control condition. The people in this group weren't asked to think about anything in particular.
And here's where things start to get good.
In order to see which of the strategies was the most effective, the researchers put the participants in a real AF situation by showing them pictures of their ex. I mean, think about every time your ex pops up on your newsfeed and your stomach sinks. This is pretty much as real as it gets. The only difference is that this time the participants were faced with their exes' photos, the researchers had electrodes on their scalps to measure their emotional responses. On top of this, they also looked into how much love these people still felt for their exes by having them fill out a scale and questionnaire.
It turns out all of the three strategies were more effective in decreasing emotional response than doing nothing. “All three strategies may make it easier for people to deal with encounters and reminders of the ex-partner in real-life and on social media,” says study co-author Sandra Langeslag, director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
But only one strategy was effective in actually making people love their partners less, and that was framing their partners in a negative light.
So, if you're truly determined to reduce your emotional response to your ex and love them less, reframing them in your mind might just do the trick. But keep in mind that there is a catch: the people in this group also reported being in a worse mood than those in other groups, meaning the negative thoughts may be bringing them down.
That being said, Langeslang has past research that confirms the bad mood will subside eventually. In fact, if you truly want to get over your ex, she recommends writing a list of your ex's bad qualities every single day until you start feeling better.
So break out the pen and paper and GET TO WORK, people!
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