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Break Up Blues: 13 Thoughts to Help You Recover

All too common holiday break-ups can trigger painful winter blues.

Source: @Wikimedia

If you are puzzling as to why there are more breakups during the holidays than other times of the year, you are not alone. There are a plethora of articles about relationships tumbling down the rabbit hole. However, if your heart is breaking because your love has left you, it is perhaps more important to look forward towards healing than looking back and hurting. Nonetheless, it may be helpful to understand “why it hurts so much.”

As with love at first sight, the pain of rejection affects the same areas of the brain as cocaine. Love can bring on cocaine-like high in a fifth of a second. Brain wave studies reported by Stephanic Ortigue, Ph.D., identified “the cortical networks associated with passionate love.” But the reaction to the break-up can last for days. In addition to emotional highs and lows, it can even include symptoms so severe that women in particular may find themselves in the emergency room with symptoms mimicking a heart attack.

Heartbreak pain is triggered by a hormone experienced after the loss of a loved one, a traumatic ending to a love affair, or divorce. This sends the heart’s pumping ability into a type of freeze mode affecting the left ventricle. Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky in the cardiovascular epidemiology research unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Harvard explained to me during earlier interviews that after the death of a loved one, the heart-attack risk is 21 times higher within 24 hours.

After a breakup, long-term couples might feel as if they have lost a sense of self. Research by Dr. Celia Harris and colleagues at Macquarie University found that in terms of remembering by long term couples may develop interconnected or collaborative memories such as the names of musicals, vivid descriptions. Even if you are in a short term relationship, being left alone can trigger anger, pain, and sadness. What is the solution?

13 Tips to Overcome Break-up Blues

After a breakup, even if you initiated the good-bye, you may find yourself crying more than usual and wishing you could crawl under the covers and stay there. On the other hand, you may want to reach out to your friends and complain bitterly. You may feel that you can never love again. But love is always possible. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Start your days with gratitude: By expressing gratitude you remind yourself of the good times you shared and how you have been freed to find a love who values you, a love whom you value.
  2. Resist the temptation to talk unkindly about your ex-love: Speaking kindly will encourage you to maintain a positive focus.
  3. Practice image replacement: If you find yourself feeling alone and falling into a dark hole, find a photo of yourself when you were happy and in love. Focus on the inner you, the person you know to be lovable and deserving of new love.
  4. Consider social media: If you go to a social media site and see someone who interests you, connect and be positive rather than recounting all the reasons for your recent break-up. Smile broadly and flirt.
  5. Try using a gratitude journal: Research from Gary Lewandowski (2009) has found that writing about positive aspects of a break-up increases feelings such as comfort, confidence, empowerment, energy, happiness, optimism, relief, satisfaction, thankfulness, and wisdom.
  6. Be careful about expectations: When you meet someone new, be careful that you do not impose expectations upon the person. For example, if you wanted a more loving relationship because your previous relationship lacked warmth, do not see a romantic in someone who simply squeezes your hand. And also watch for too much by way of public displays of affection.
  7. Make a new relationship checklist: Know the qualities you would like in a new partner. Think in terms of weighted averages. If you find a new person who has everything you ever wanted on your wish list, but he/she is married for example, that one factor outweighs all the positives and that person should come off the list.
  8. Guard against repeating the past: A new person may have a different profession or different looks, but still have certain traits or characteristics of your past love, traits that precipitated a break-up. Look beyond looks.
  9. Hug and be hugged: Research has shown the value of hugs. If you have a friend in your life who gives good hugs -- extend your arms, reach out, and ask. That person may not be “the one” for you, or even “the one for now.” However, the warm and loving arms of someone who is sensitive and caring by nature is like the sunshine – a little goes a long way.
  10. Remain open to infatuation or even love at first sight with a careful eye: Keep in mind that you want a new friend or a new relationship rather than becoming what one friend refers to as “another notch on the bedpost of life.”
  11. Make plans with friends who are upbeat, those who will encourage you to smile and embrace a new life about to unfold before you.
  12. Embrace laughter: Before brooding about “alone on the holidays call a friend who makes you laugh until your sides ache. Keep in mind that laughter is attractive to both sexes.
  13. Try mindfulness exercises: In "Three Mindfulness Exercises to Improve Your Dating Life," Ken Page who writes "Finding Love" at advocates approaching dating as an adventure of self-discovery.

In essence, rebound love may be just what the doctor ordered. Brumbaugh and Farley (2015) determined from two studies that there may be some benefit in rebound love.Keep yourself open to infatuation and love at first sight. And if it is too soon for another love relationship, be open to the friendly hug of someone whose warm and loving personality should be on your “must-have” checklist. The tenderness of touch is healing.

Have you read this? 16 Breaking up Tips and How Journaling Eases Heartbreak

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson


Bregtje Gunther Moor, Eveline A. Crone, Maurits W. van der Molen. The Heartbrake of Social Rejection: Heart Rate Deceleration in Response to Unexpected Peer Rejection. Psychological Science, 2010

Harris, C., Barnier, A., Sutton, J., & Keil, P. (2014). Couples as socially distributed cognitive systems: Remembering in everyday social and material contexts Memory Studies, 7 (3), 285-297