When it comes to getting over a breakup, it may just be mind over matter — at least, according to science. A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has given some insight into the best way to cope with the end of a relationship, and it could be more simple than you think.
The study, released earlier this week, indicates that the placebo affect may do wonders for your mind as much as it does for your body. In fact, researchers found that just believing that you're taking steps to get over a breakup can help you put the relationship in the rearview mirror. Apparently, that belief can be strong enough to trigger parts of your brain associated with emotions and even lessen the pain that you could feel.
For the study, researchers at the University of Colorado recruited 40 participants who had experienced an "unwanted romantic breakup" within the past six months. They were asked to bring a photo of their ex as well as one of a friend of the same sex, and were asked to recall the breakup while looking at the photo of their ex as researchers tracked their reactions via an fMRI. (The photo of their friend was there to give them some emotional relief.)
They were also given a nasal spray, and half of the group was told it would alleviate their emotional pain, while the other half was told that it was just a saline spray. The ones who thought it would help with their pain actually did seem to feel better when researchers looked at their fMRIs.
"Breaking up with a partner is one of the most emotionally negative experiences a person can have, and it can be an important trigger for developing psychological problems," Leonie Koban, first author of the study, said in a press statement. "In our study, we found a placebo can have quite strong effects on reducing the intensity of social pain."
While 40 people is a relatively small sample size, the study does raise an interesting point about how placebos can affect us mentally as well as physically. But if that doesn't work, there are of course other tips you can try to get over a breakup.