The Most Effective Way To Get Over Your Ex, According To Science

Photographed by Ashley Armitage
Heartbreak is one of the most universal experiences we humans go through, but everyone has their own way of getting through it, whether it's quietly pining after their ex alone in bed or burning an effigy on a bonfire with a group of close friends.
According to a new study, some breakup behaviour is more effective than others in ensuring you're able to move on.
The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, compared three cognitive strategies for falling out of love, and found that you're more likely to be able to put a past relationship behind you if you keep reminding yourself of your ex's negative qualities.
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The 24 participants aged 20-37, all of whom had been through a breakup and were still upset about it, were shown 28 pictures of their ex and asked to follow one of four techniques in between seeing each image.
One group was told to think negatively about their ex and their qualities, another was asked to follow a technique called "love reappraisal" (accepting their feeling of love towards their ex), a third group was given distractions (thinking about positive things that didn't involve their ex), and there was a control group which was asked to think about nothing in particular.

Those who were asked to focus on their ex's flaws reported decreased feelings of love

At the end, those in the love reappraisal and distraction groups reported the same level of feelings towards their ex, but those who were asked to focus on their ex's flaws reported decreased feelings of love. "This suggests that in the context of a romantic break-up, negative reappraisal is an effective love down-regulation strategy, whereas distraction is an effective positive emotion up-regulation strategy," the researchers wrote.
This came at a price, however – they were also the only group to end up in a worse mood than when they started, although if this strategy helps people to better get over breakups it may be worth the short-term distress, researchers noted.
Longer term, however, it's unclear which method would be most effective and the academics said further research is needed. "To evaluate which regulation strategies would best help people cope with a break-up, it would be essential to consider both the short-term and long-term effects."
The symptoms of heartbreak – insomnia, reduced immune function, broken heart syndrome, even depression – can be debilitating and for those with day jobs to do and bills to pay, it can be difficult to get through it in good spirits. So, while time may be the only guaranteed healer, it's empowering to know that we can help ourselves get over someone faster.
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