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Best Ways to Get Over a Breakup and Move On

Whether it's the end of a two-week fling or the loss of a five-year relationship, the heartache that follows can be brutal. Here are the best ways to get over a breakup and move on.

Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash

Everyone reacts differently to heartache and rejection, but some responses are healthier and more effective than others. And many responses to grief, though they might feel good in the moment, can make the healing process longer and more difficult. 

After a breakup, it can feel like you'll never be happy again, or that you'll be alone forever. But those feelings won't last, and with a little self-care, you'll soon be feeling all the joy of life again. When someone you love is suddenly no longer in your life, you're forced to reshape your life in that absence. But painful as it is, you'll come out the other side even stronger. Here are the best ways to get over a breakup and move on.

Keep your distance.

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One of the most harmful things people do when trying to get over a breakup is try to stay close to their ex. In that first period of post-breakup pain, talking to or seeing that person might be all you can think about—and that's normal. When you love someone, you want to be able to go to them when you're in pain. Seeing your ex might make you feel better for a little while, but it drags out the relationship, making it hard for you to really move on. Many couples can eventually be friends after a breakup, but especially at first, it's important to let yourself move on—and that's not something you can do if you're still acting like you're together.

The dangerous thing about staying in touch with your ex is that the release of dopamine that happens when you feel that happiness about them resets your healing process—then, when all the reasons you broke up in the first place come rushing back, or the reality of the rejection hits again, it's as if you had just broken up in the first place. A lot of people have trouble breaking this cycle after a breakup, but its very important to do so. That's how you really move on from a breakup.

Delete them on social media.

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Keeping your distance doesn't just mean preventing yourself from calling or seeing your ex—you also need to keep yourself from obsessing over his or her social media. The desire to keep up with their activities, or to look through old pictures of the two of you on Facebook can be overwhelming, so you want to prevent yourself as much as possible—delete them from all social media, and don't go looking for them again.

Again, it's normal to want to see them, reminisce, and to have curiosity about their activities. But spending that much time thinking about them will also prolong the healing process. If you're getting constant reminders of that person, it's going to be incredibly difficult to get over the breakup and move on. Plus, you do not want to deal with the potential situation of seeing him with a new person. 

Surround yourself with people you love.

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Instead of falling back into the arms of your ex to make yourself feel better, surround yourself with people you love. Not only will this provide you with a support group that can help prevent you from reconnecting with him or her, but it also keeps the feelings of loneliness away. After a breakup, many people feel hopelessly alone, and worry that they'll die without ever finding love again. But it's hard to be that pessimistic when your friends and family are all around you, reminding you how loved you are and how worthy of love. 

A breakup may also be an opportunity to reconnect with old friends. When many people start dating someone new, they also start spending a lot more time with that person, and let other relationships fall to the wayside. So you can look at that post breakup period not as a time of grieving and misery, but as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and making make some new ones. The important thing is to keep yourself connected to people, and allow the positive relationships in your life to offer hope and help you heal.

Take note of the positive changes.

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After a serious relationship, you're going to be very different from the person you were when you first started dating. Relationships are all about compromise and sacrifice, and while that can be overwhelming worth the work, it can also be trying. So when a relationship ends, painful though it may be, try to take note of the positive changes in your life rather than dwelling on the losses. Breakups and heartbreak aren't all bad.

Maybe he hated your music, and you always had to listen with headphones—well, take the opportunity to blast your favorite band and bask in the sound. Or maybe she hated watching slapstick comedies—so get some popcorn and enjoy a painful Adam Sandler movie, if that's your thing. The point is, there are things that we have to put to the side for the sake of a relationship—but when that relationship ends, you're allowed to be selfish again. Taking note of those positive changes, and taking advantage of them is a great way to get over a breakup and move on.

Write it out.

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Even though you may know what you shouldn't and shouldn't do to get over a breakup and move on, research has shown that we're a lot better at following our own advice if we write it out. And that makes sense—when you write things down, you have to take a more honest stance, and have the opportunity to develop thoughts and feelings more thoroughly.

The other advantage of sitting down with a journal or word processor to hash out your feelings is pure catharsis. Putting things on paper has both a metaphorical and psychologically real effect of getting them out of our heads, where they're likely to fester and build. Plus, writing things down allows you to say the things you may not want to say to others, or even to yourself—you may even find that writing brings out thoughts and feelings you didn't realize you had. But at the very least, it's a proven way to ease the psychological stress of a breakup.

Change your routine.

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When you're in a relationship for a long time, the person you love just becomes part of your daily rhythm. As a result, you feel their absence in every little thing you do, making it hard to move on and stop thinking about them. And while the grieving process usually does require much reflection, that's different than dwelling, and you want to avoid unexpected reminders of that person.

There's a common trope in movies involving breakups, where a girl gets dumped and immediately gets a radical haircut. And while there's no reason having short hair will suddenly make your breakup easier, the spirit of the trope isn't far off: making changes to your life can help purge your ex from all those little corners of your mind, letting you get over the breakup and move on properly. You don't want to have to feel sad every time you do laundry, because he used the same laundry detergent—so, change your laundry detergent. These little things will help you make your life your own again, which is an important step in healing after a breakup.

Pick up a new hobby.

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In the same vein as changing your routine, it helps a lot of people to pick up a new hobby after a breakup—or, to pick an old hobby back up. Often in relationships, we partake in shared hobbies and adapt our hobbies so that we can do them with our significant other. And that's wonderful in a relationship—shared interests and activities are an important part of a successful romance. But when the relationship fails, that can leave those hobbies feeling tainted, and doing them only makes us think of our ex and feel sad.

Once you're well and truly moved on from a relationship, you'll probably want to go back to some of those hobbies. But in that post breakup period, you may want to consider filling your time with things that don't remind you of him or her, whether that's a new hobby, or one that they just didn't care to do with you. 

Let it out.

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Right after a breakup, it can feel like your world is ending. And while it's not, there's no sense denying that you're feeling sad. So, while its important to avoid dwelling by keeping yourself busy and surrounding yourself with loving people, it's also okay to let yourself really feel that pain. Sometimes it may help to talk with a close friend or family member, and just let yourself cry and yell and get all of your feelings out. But just having a good cry on your own can help, too—just don't let yourself cross the line between a cathartic cry and wallowing. 

As I mentioned before, writing can really help cleanse yourself of many of your negative feelings. But rationality only goes so far, and sometimes the raw emotions built up inside of you just need to get out. So don't be ashamed to scream into a pillow or sob for half an hour—the truth is, you'll probably feel infinitely better afterwards.

Take care of yourself.

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The post-breakup blues are terrible, but frankly, they're also a good excuse to focus entirely on yourself. This is a time to be selfish, and to be kind to yourself. That can mean a lot of things: if you want to eat an entire pint of ice cream in the bathtub, go for it. If you want to break out the wine you were saving for a special occasion and watch bad rom-coms, or horror movies if you want to be safe from emotions, go for it. It's okay to pamper yourself.

But taking care of yourself doesn't just meaning following your hedonistic whims—it also means practicing serious self-care. Don't pressure yourself right at first, but as you begin to heal, you want to make sure that you're eating well, trying to get some exercise, and doing stimulating activities—not just binging Netflix and eating chocolate (though again, those things are great in moderation too, because there are quite a lot of great breakup movies to help cure your broken heart). 

Self-care isn't just about taking care of your body. Things like eating well, exercising, and doing activities that keep you active and engaged go a long way in helping your mental health, and preventing you from slipping into a more lasting depression. These are also steps that will help you feel in control of your life, which researchers have shown is crucial when you want to get over a breakup and move on.

Don't dwell.

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It's been mentioned already of course, but I have to emphasize one of the most important parts of the post-breakup recovery process: not dwelling. The reason this is so important is that it's the most difficult—when someone you love is no longer in your life in a tangible way, we have a tendency to try and keep them there in our thoughts, preventing us from truly letting them go and moving on.

Things like blocking their number, deleting them on social media, and enlisting friends and family to keep you distracted are all important parts of this process. But you won't always have a great new activity or plans with friends, and so it's important to find ways to keep your mind occupied, even when your body can't really. You want to find things that excite and interest you, that you can think about when you're driving or falling asleep or doing any number of other activities that may result in your mind wandering—because the last thing you want is it constantly wandering back to your ex.

Follow your heart.

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The final bit of advice I have in the wake of a painful breakup is to follow your heart. Obviously, don't follow it back to your ex, which is a place it will certainly try to lead you. But do follow it to the other pleasures in life—if you think something might make you feel better, and it doesn't hurt anyone or risk your own health or safety, go for it. Researchers have actually shown that regardless of the actually effectiveness of a remedy, belief that it will work is enough to soothe emotional—essentially, there's an emotional placebo effect just as much as there is one for physical ailments. So if you've heard some bit of obscure advice on how to get over a breakup and move on, give it a shot. Just the act of trying to help yourself may have a major impact on your emotional state.

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