A broken heart can feel like the end of the world, especially if you didn’t expect it – and moving on can feel impossible.
But it is possible – and one psychologist has identified the foolproof ways to fix a broken heart.
Psychologist Dr Guy Winch, author of How To Fix A Broken Heart, has become an expert on healing post-relationship pain after experiencing the phenomenon multiple times.
Using studies, papers, and insights into his own clients’ recovery, Dr Winch narrowed down some of the most common problems you may encounter after a heartbreak – and how to remedy them.
Extracts from the book were recently publish in the Daily Mail.
When it’s over but your brain can’t admit it
When the relationship ends but you still crave their voice, read old texts, or look at pictures of happier times, you are probably going through withdrawal, similar to drug addicts.
Being in love is like being hooked on a drug – and breaking up is similar to addiction withdrawal.
According to Dr Winch, who has studied the research on the subject, when we are heartbroken our brains respond the same way to addicts withdrawing from Class A drugs, such as heroin.
But just as an addict needs to fight the urges to use drugs, those who are heartbroken need to think rationally.
According to Dr Winch, certainty, or understanding why the break up happened, is necessary before we can move on from a breakup.
He suggests listening when your ex tells you why exactly the relationship didn’t work- or making up your own reason if there is not a clear one.
If the relationship ended without clear reasons, “it is not you, it is me,” don’t beg your ex for a reason. Simply create one – Dr Winch suggests one that is kind to your self-esteem, such as “he had a commitment issue.”
By understanding or coming to an understanding about why the relationship has ended, we allow ourselves to stamp out any hopes for reconciliation and move forward with our lives.
Social media stalking your ex just makes you feel worse
Chances are when we are stalking our exes on social media, we will find something we don’t want to see.
But the subsequent feel of your heart dropping and the jealousy aren’t conducive to getting over your heartbreak – rather social media snooping can just make it harder to move on.
According to Dr Winch, you have to remove the temptation.
While it may seem childish to unfriend or unfollow your ex post-breakup, you have to think about yourself during this time – and eliminating our options to hurt ourselves by opening old wounds is necessary.
Burn all cyber-bridges – limiting your access to your ex will automatically make you feel better.
When everything makes you cry
If even the most inconsequential things make you cry, such as forgetting to bring an umbrella on a rainy day or you lash out at a friend over a minor disagreement, you may worry you are having a mental breakdown.
But you aren’t losing your mind – and the stress hormone cortisol is most likely to blame for your erratic behaviour.
The emotional pain of a breakup often results in your body pumping itself full of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and affects coping mechanisms.
The first step in fixing the problem is understanding that it is normal, according to Dr Winch.
So if the littlest things are setting you off post-breakup, take a moment to recognise that our reactions are most likely caused by our bodies response to the breakup, and not by new permanent personalities as sad, angry, jilted exes.
When you blame yourself
It turns out that blaming yourself for the breakup can actually make it harder to move on – and can result in something called “complicated grief.”
While it is normal to wonder, “What did I do wrong?” giving in to negative thoughts can sabotage our efforts at mending our broken hearts.
This is important.
According to Dr Winch, if two different people, other than our close family, make the same point post-relationship but we still have a difficult time accepting it, we need to consider that they are most likely telling the truth.
For example, if multiple people say you are attractive but you bristle at the thought they are telling the truth, it may be time to analyse the reasons you don’t accept the compliment.
The underlying reason may be low self-esteem – a thought that needs to be let go of.
You still believe he was “the one”
Looking back on a relationship in hindsight, it is easy for our minds to trick us into remembering the relationship as much better than it really was.
But just because you can’t remember their annoying flaws like leaving clothes all over the floor or the things about them that made you scream, that doesn’t mean those bad times didn’t exist.
You have to force yourself to remember the relationship clearly – that does not mean convince yourself that they are actually a terrible person.
Instead, Dr Winch says the heartbroken must remind themselves of the flaws in the relationship.
It was never just rainbows and butterflies, and reminding yourself that your ex was not perfect will stop you from worrying you will never find someone “as perfect.”
You never want to go to your shared places again
Withdrawing from the places where memories of happier times still linger may sound appealing, but it can only make the heartbreak worse in the long run.
According to Dr Winch, shunning places you shared is a bad idea.
Rather, we need to “cleanse” our associations with these places by reclaiming them – make new memories, take other friends, or celebrate an occasion. By making new associations, we can replace the old bad ones.
So if that park where you met while walking your dogs makes you look away every time you drive by, make plans to have a picnic with a friend.
Your self-identity is off
Being in a relationship is all about “we” – but what happens when you have to go back to a “me” and an “I” again?
According to Dr Winch, studies have found that failure to find ourselves again increases the psychological distress of a broken heart.
Do not let your heartbreak define you.
Remember the things you love, and do them. And if they were activities you loved to do together, continue to do them anyway.
In order to move on, we need to reconnect to who we were before the relationship.
Also, if your new post-breakup self has bangs or dark hair, that is perfectly fine too.
Get back on the dating horse
If you are afraid of dating again or feel you need more time to recover from the heartbreak, ignore the instincts.
According to Dr Winch, one variable has been found to predict healthier and quicker adjustment to heartbreak – finding a new partner.
It may feel wrong, but going on dates with a new person can boost our fragile self-esteem and remind us that there are many other fish in the sea.