Breakups suck. They’re not easy and you’re sad for ages and you just don’t feel like yourself. But it looks like scientists have finally figured out a way to get over a bad split.
Professors from the University of Missouri-St Louis recently evaluated three cognitive strategies to try and lessen the effect that those lingering feelings after a break up have on most of us.
For the study, the researchers recruited a group of 24 people between the ages of 20 and 37. All of them had been in a relationship with their ex for an average of two and a half years and most were still in love with their ex even though the reasons for the breakups varied.
The three strategies used on participants were: negative reappraisal of the relationship, reappraisal of love feelings, and distraction.
“Because remaining love feelings for an ex-partner are negatively associated with recovery from a romantic breakup, it may be helpful to decrease those love feelings,” researchers wrote. “Love regulation is the use of behavioural or cognitive strategies to change the intensity of current feelings of romantic love.”
The study then measured participants’ brain waves as they attempted each strategy based on prompts from the researchers.
They viewed photos of their ex at each stage of the study. In the first stage, they focused on their partner’s negative aspects, then the second stage was them being pushed to acknowledge their current feelings towards their ex, and the third stage was when they were asked random questions as a means of distracting themselves from thinking about the breakup.
The results? Well, the negative appraisal was the most effective, but it also made the participants feel worse. Love reappraisal didn’t do much to help them find acceptance and while distraction certainly helped the participants’ moods, it wasn’t seen as a valuable long-term strategy because it was more about avoidance than tackling the negative emotions head on.
Overall, however, reasearchers determined that people were most likely to use a combination of negative appraisal and distraction following a break up. "All three strategies decreased motivated attention for the ex-partner," the researchers wrote. "This reduced motivated attention for the ex-partner could make it easier to deal with encounters of (reminders of) the ex-partner."
So while breakups are hard and not fun to deal with, there are ways for you to get over your ex that don’t include busting the windows of their car.
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