For anyone who's been through a heavy breakup, you'll know that it can be an extremely tough time. Especially, if your partner is someone close to your social circles.
But, new research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has found the best strategies for getting over your former lover.
Twenty-four heart broken people, aged 20-37, participated in a study to see how different cognitive strategies could help them get over their exes. Participants, on average, had been in a relationship for 2.5 years - some dumped, others who called it off but all upset and still had feelings for their former partners.
In the first test, researchers asked partakers to think negatively about their ex - asked to highlight negative traits about them.
In the second strategy, people were told to accept what how they felt and acknowledge that those feelings were normal.
Thirdly, distraction was used as a tool to ease suffering. Thinking about positive things unrelated to their ex such as food provided much needed diversion from heartache.
Lastly, in a controlled trial, participants didn't put any strategies into place.
After testing the four strategies, researchers showed subjects a picture of their ex similar to how they might see them on their social media feed. Placing electrodes on the posterior of their scalps, scientists measured the emotional reaction to the photo. With additional questions, they were able to accurately measure the emotional response to the photo.
Results showed that all strategies helped to significantly decrease emotional responses compared to the trial without using prompts. Interestingly, thinking negatively towards your ex also immediately decreased feelings of love but could impact emotional wellbeing in the short-term.
Meanwhile, distraction proved to be effective in feeling better, but didn't influence immediate feelings towards their ex. "Distraction is a form of avoidance, which has been shown to reduce the recovery from a breakup,” says study co-author Sandra Langeslag, director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
“Love regulation doesn’t work like an on/off switch,” adds Langeslag. “To make a lasting change, you’ll probably have to regulate your love feelings regularly.”
"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,” continues Langeslag.