Rita Watson MPH

With Love and Gratitude

20 Ways to Recover from Holiday Heartbreak

Recovery is possible and gratitude is a stabilizer.

Posted Dec 23, 2016

Source: wikicommons.org

It seems that this season to be merry is also a season of broken hearts.  While we think in terms of gift-giving and partying, for many singles it will be a time of heartbreak. There have been reports over the past five years — ranging from colleges to Facebook gurus — telling us that all the love that was once in the air has a way of evaporating in December and January. For some it will be a time of weeping and depression.  For others their broken heart will result in a trip to the emergency room, with what is known as stress cardiomyopathy, the broken-heart syndrome.  Still others will rebound.

Ending a relationship is rarely easy. “Some women mourn the relationship even before saying or hearing the words, “It’s over.” Why is this so? When a relationship is ending, women know intuitively as Yale physicist Henry Morganeau pointed out to us many years ago in Einstein's Space and Van Gogh's Sky: Physical Reality and Beyond.

Before the ending, women often try to analyze or fix the problem. Then there comes the realization, you are being dumped. Is there any way to mitigate the sadness?

Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a psychologist at Monmouth University, has reported on coping strategies to promote positive outcomes. He believes in the gratitude journal. Researchers found:

. . .that those who focused their writing on the positive aspects of their break-up (factors leading up to the break-up, the actual break-up, and the time right after the break-up) reported experiencing more positive emotions regarding their relationship's end and did not experience an increase in negative emotions. The increased positive emotions included feelings such as: comfort, confidence, empowerment, energy, happinessoptimism, relief, satisfaction, thankfulness, and wisdom. (Lewarndowski 2009)

But sometimes, you need to go through a process of mourning and then recovery. 

  1. Mourn. Cry. Be sad. Hide under the covers – but for no more than three days.
  2. On day four, or even sooner, be grateful.
  3. Try using a Gratitude Journal.
  4. Consider recounting at least two special moments that you shared together for which you will always be grateful.
  5. Start every day thereafter with gratitude: By expressing gratitude you remind yourself of the good times you shared and how you have been freed to find a new love who values you, a love whom you value.
  6. Resist the temptation to talk unkindly about your ex-love: Speaking kindly will encourage you to maintain a positive focus.
  7. 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.
  8. Stay off social media: If seeing smiling friends and new hook-ups are hurtful, take a vacation from all the sites.
  9. 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 be suspicious of too much by way of public displays of affection.
  10. Flirt: 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.
  11. Trust your judgment: If something doesn't feel right, then turn away. 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 -- immediately.
  12. Guard against repeating the past: A new person may have a different profession or different looks, but still has certain traits or characteristics of your past love, traits that precipitated the break-up. Distance yourself. Look beyond looks.
  13. 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, warm and loving arms of someone who is sensitive and caring by nature is like the sunshine – a little goes a long way.
  14. Make plans with friends who are upbeat, those who will encourage you to smile and embrace a new life about to unfold before you.
  15. Embrace laughter: Before brooding about "along" one on the holiday, call a friend who makes you laugh until your sides ache. Keep in mind that laughter is attractive to both sexes. (The Duchene Smile)
  16.  Break the ties: As hard as it might be, breaking up by actually breaking up may help you better adjust to life without your former partner.  Maintaining contact just prolongs the sadness and deters you from forming new relationships. (Sbarra & Emery, 2005). As such, you never want to have sex "just this one more time."
  17. Put on a happy face – even if you are faking it: The research on gratitude from the lab of Dr. Robert Emmons, University of California, Davis, points out that if you express the gratitude you may not necessarily feel, eventually you will begin to feel the gratitude that you express. (Gratitude Sparks Love)
  18. Try Exercise:  There is evidence that physical exercise is an effective intervention that can help you overcome moodiness and sleep problems, which can impair cognitive abilities. O’Dougherty, Hearst, Syed, Kurzer, & Schmitz, 2012). 
  19. Become a volunteer and give your heart to others.  We often read of couples who meet in the workplace and then marry. Here is an interesting piece from CNN about volunteers who meet and marry.  (Volunteer love)
  20. Make the decision to rebound: 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.

 “Analyses indicated that people in new relationships were more confident in their desirability and had more resolution over their ex-partner. Among those in new relationships, the speed with which they began their relationship was associated with greater psychological and relational health. Overall, these findings suggest that rebound relationships may be more beneficial than typically believed.” 

One of the most important actions you can take to heal after a break-up is to maintain a positive attitude while you make an effort to reach out to new people, challenges, and experiences. By looking forward instead of back, you open yourself to moments of serenity that can be life-changing.

Copyright 2016 Rita Watson


Brumbaugh, C.C. and Fraley, R.C., Too fast, too soon?  (2014) An empirical investigation into rebound relationships,"  The Journal of Social Relationships. 

LeShan, L. and Margenau, H. (1982). Einstein's Space and Van Gogh's Sky: Physical Reality and Beyond. Macmillan.

Lewandowski, G. (2009). Promoting positive emotions following relationship dissolution through writing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(1), 21-31.

O'Dougherty, M., Hearst, M. O., Syed, M., Kurzer, M. S., & Schmitz, K. H. (2012). Life events, perceived stress and depressive symptoms in a physical activity intervention with young adult women. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 5, 148-154.

Sbarra, D. A., & Emery, R. E. (2005). The emotional sequelae of nonmarital relationship dissolution: Analysis of change and intraindividual variability over time. Personal Relationships, 12, 213-232