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4 Ways to Heal Your Broken Heart

Heartbreak hurts, plus it affects our judgment. Suddenly, driving by our ex’s house “just to see,” posting overwrought poetry on our blog, and a six-pack nightcap all seem like good ideas. Is there a quicker and healthier way to make it through the heartache?

By
Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
6-minute read
Episode #202

Just don’t let your feelings cross the line into behavior—don’t key their car, post revenge porn, or boil their bunny—it doesn’t help, plus it makes you look unstable.

Thankfully, feeling bad doesn’t last forever. Timelines are different for everyone, but one study that followed college students after a breakup found that anger dissipated within 7-18 days after the breakup, while sadness declined slowly over the course of a month.

Tip #3: Rebound for the right reasons.

Rebound relationships have a bad reputation, but a 2015 study found that getting into a new relationship quickly can actually be healthy. A rebound can make you feel more confident and desirable when you need it most, and can help create a much-needed sense of resolution. It’s an example of putting behavior before thinking in the best possible way—when you see yourself getting into a new relationship, you think, “Well, I guess I must be over my ex, or I wouldn’t be doing this.” What’s more, in the study, the faster the participants got into a new relationship, the greater the boost. 

But “why” is key for a rebound. No-no’s include getting into a rebound relationship as revenge, as a way to force yourself to heal, or, if they remind you of your ex, as a substitute for your old relationship.

Rebound relationships can be ideal if they help you bounce back from feeling rejected and worthless—there’s nothing like feeling attractive and in-demand when you’re a bit shaky.

But rebound relationships can be ideal if they help you bounce back from feeling rejected and worthless—there’s nothing like feeling attractive and in-demand when you’re a bit shaky. And they’re especially helpful if your previous relationship was bad. So if you’re like Kelly Clarkson and can breathe for the first time after your breakup, go ahead and rebound.

Tip #4: Remember (and build) on who you are.

When a relationship falls apart, we simultaneously fall apart as individuals. When you build a life with a partner, they naturally become your go-to confidante, companion, and supporter. When you break up, you lose their knowledge of how to make the perfect smoothie, their razor-sharp sense of direction, their pestering you to exercise, and their ability to make you laugh even when you’re grumpy. Therefore, something called self-contraction happens after a breakup—it means gaps appear in your knowledge base, resources, and sense of self. 

The antidote is to expand again. Get out there, not necessarily dating, but simply doing stuff. Do things you used to love but might have let go of. Try things you’ve been meaning to try for years. Meet new people, to date or simply to hang out with. Indulge in post-breakup cliches like a new hairstyle, new bedsheets, or personal training sessions. Stay in and decorate your nest or go out and explore the world. Oh, and try out some killer smoothie recipes.

No two ways about it, breakups are the worst. But you know what they say about what doesn’t kill you. Hey, someone should write a pop song about that.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.