A Big Life Change Won't Seem As Scary If You Do This One Thing, According To Science

by Julia Guerra

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one of the only constants in this chaotic life is change, but not everyone handles change well (myself included). From switching jobs, to moving from one town to the next, to ending one relationship and beginning another, chapters end, sometimes with a plot twist. And though I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, in the moment, making these transitions can feel scary. The good news is, it doesn’t have be. Figuring out how to feel comfortable with change can be as simple as tying up loose ends, seeking closure, but also accepting that, sometimes, things are better left open-ended.

Have you ever noticed that closure is one of those things you don’t really think about until you don’t have it? It can kind of eat at you, right? It’s comforting to know that, when you’re ending one period of your life for the next, you’ve finished the chapter completely, with no unfinished business taking space in the back of your mind. Or maybe you’ve just accepted that you’ve done everything in your power to make a situation work for you and those involved, and even though it didn’t work out, it’s OK. According to a recent study carried out by researchers from New York University (NYU), getting closure definitely makes those big life transitions a little easier, no matter what direction you’re heading in.

Let’s just say, for instance, that you and your SO have decided to go your separate ways. No matter the reason for your split, breakups are never easy, but it could be comforting to know that both of you dedicated as much time and energy as you could to the relationship and that, in the end, it just wasn’t right. This is the sort of closure that the study authors believe makes significant change a little easier to cope with.

For their experiment, per NYU's official press release about the study, researchers studied more than 1,200 participants in a series of seven studies to determine whether or not completing a phase of life with a sense of closure makes the overall transition easier on a person. When the researchers asked college exchange students about ending their time abroad, for instance, or high school seniors about graduation, those who felt like they were ending that chapter of their lives without regrets or loose ends had a more positive outlook on the future.

What’s more, the researchers also discovered that getting closure can have a positive effect on your brain. In this particular experiment, subjects were split into two groups, each hopping on a 10-minute Skype call with a stranger. One group was given a two-minute warning and told to wrap up their conversation in a way that felt complete, while the other group was not notified of the time restraint. Per NYU’s press release, the participants who were given a two-minute warning to finish up their conversation performed exceedingly well on a test that measured their cognitive function after the call, while those who had no warning about the end of their conversation didn't perform quite as well on the same cognitive test.

"We observed that how people end their previous life periods makes a difference," Gabriele Oettingen, NYU psychology professor and senior author of the study, said in a statement for the press release. "In fact, the more people feel that they have done everything they could have done, that they have completed something to the fullest, and that all loose ends are tied up, the happier they are later on, the less they are plagued by regrets, and the more constructively they enter the next life phase.”

Now, you might be thinking, sure, getting closure would definitely be a big help, but how does one go about actually getting some? Well, friends, I’m so glad you asked. According to best-selling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, the first step to getting closure is taking the time to mentally process where you are, and what’ve you done up until this point.

“This applies even in the case of a lost romance,” Winter tells Elite Daily over email. “Mentally organizing our narrative around our last achievement, relationship, job, or environment gives us a sense of clarity.” And that clarity, she adds, is what’s ultimately going to help you pinpoint why you want to move forward, and what you want to accomplish later on.

The next step to getting closure is asking and answering a series of questions. Unfortunately, the only person who can really give you closure, is yourself. Which, I’ll admit, isn’t exactly comforting, but it’s definitely worth noting because, sometimes, your boss, an ex, or best friend isn’t going to give you a reason why something has to end. Instead of falling into the trap of blaming yourself, licensed clinical psychotherapist, Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D. MSS, MA, tells Elite Daily that it’s more beneficial to focus your attention on what you’ve learned from the people involved in your situation.

“Pretend that you are going before the Love Judge, or the Work Judge, or the School Judge, or whatever kind of Judge fits your situation,” Wish suggests. Then, in a journal, “plead your case,” so to speak. Write down things that were out of your control, behaviors of others, any misinterpretations you may have had, things you couldn’t possibly have known. From there, write down your personal defense, and revisit it often.

By focusing on getting the full picture of a situation, and learning from it, Wish says, you'll be able to forgive yourself if you didn't handle things as well as you would have liked, and move on to better times ahead.