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How to Cope After a Breakup, According to Science

 

How did you get over your last breakup? Maybe you took out your frustration at the gym. Or you dusted off your favorite Linkin Park album and listened to it on repeat for a few days (or weeks). And in this day and age, maybe you hopped on Tinder to find a reboundScience says that breakups can have serious short-term effects on your mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, new research has found the best way to get over ’em.

 

I Tried So Hard and Got So Far

A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General looked at 24 young adults (aged 20-37) who were suffering from heartbreak after ending long-term relationships that lasted anywhere from two months to eight years. They were asked to test three different coping strategies, plus a control condition:

  1. Negative reappraisal of the ex-partner. This involved focusing on negative traits about the ex, like annoying habits or shortcomings. Many people do this naturally.
  2. Reappraisal of love feelings. Here, participants actually accepted their unrequited love in a non-judgmental way, and were encouraged to read and try to believe statements like “it’s okay to love someone I’m no longer with.” Think motivational quotes.
  3. Distraction. In the past, you’ve probably had friends who told you to “stay busy” after a breakup to keep your mind off your ex. That’s the idea here; these participants were told to think about anything that didn’t involve their ex in any way — their favorite food, for instance — and to keep those unrelated thoughts positive.
  4. Nothing. In this control condition, participants were instructed to not think about anything in particular. Easier said than done.

Researchers then connected participants to an encephalogram (EEG) to measure their brain’s electrical activity while showing them photos of their ex. Specifically, the EEG measured late positive potential (LPP), which is “a measure of not only emotion but motivated attention, or to what degree the person is captivated by the photo,” according to TIME’s Andrew Gregory. That combined with a questionnaire the participants took provided the researchers with data on their emotional responses Read more

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