Due to endless innovation in technology, our awareness of, and access to, romantic alternatives is at an all-time high, and people are capitalizing; dating has exploded.
Unfortunately even love can’t escape the clutches of mathematics, so with a greater number of exhilarating relationships comes a greater number of deflating breakups. In fact, dumping someone has becoming such a popular exercise we’re already making apps to automate the process.
But as I’ve written before, we should all and can all get better at finding The ‘Up’ in Breakup. Since every person and every circumstance is different, there’s no universal recipe for recovery and enhancement. But there are some ingredients most of us can use to get there faster and healthier.
1. Improve Your Diet
For social young professionals, a popular instinct after a break-up is to ramp up the partying and chase a sense of personal control with an ironic lapse in physical attention. It must be the opposite for so many reasons; this is the time to get an oil change, not just burn gas. Nutrition will enable your mind and body to accomplish the difficult task of staying focused, motivated, independent, and inspired. You should absolutely cut loose every once in a while to shake off the cobwebs, but as a baseline, distraction will not be as effective as strength.
2. Assign a Text Message Substitute
This is like a “sponsor” that people are assigned when overcoming addiction through a formal program like AA. Because sometimes, that’s what this is going to feel like. Pick someone who is reliable, dead f***ing honest, and who knows you well. Then every time you feel like sending a classic desperate, attention-seeking ex-text, message this person instead. Very tactical but also very effective.
3. Take Up a Totally New Hobby or Activity
One of the greatest things I have ever read about break-ups was in a 2012 Rolling Stone article that featured John Mayer. In the piece it states that, according to the musician himself, Mayer started practicing the Israeli hand-to-hand combat system of Krav Maga because he had recently gone through a break-up and wanted to “get good at something she doesn’t know about.” That is not petty; that is brilliant. The more things in which you excel without your ex, the more you will appreciate the limits of their necessity and the potential of your independence.
4. Practice “Snapping Yourself Out of It”
Negative thoughts will creep into your mind and when they stay there, overwhelming emotions will follow. Then you’ll start acting lame and unproductive. Understand that that is the order and then acknowledge your ability to control it. Do not overestimate the valuable shelf-life of grieving. The concept of meditation is not hogwash; it is an effective, healthy way to clear your mind of toxic thoughts by developing focus rather than sourcing distraction. In smaller, more colloquial doses, this is also known as “snapping the f**k out of it”. Actually practice like you would to mature any other muscle. Think of something from the past and then actively move your thoughts away from it. Get good at it; the benefits you will get from this strength reaches far beyond your love life.
5. Spend Time With Your Most Social and Outgoing Friends
We tend to gravitate towards our closest and most supportive friends after a break-up. And this is both helpful and natural as we justifiably miss the sensation of being cared for. But equally as important as feeling loved in these circumstances is constantly being reminded that there are still billions of other things, places, and people out there constantly creating new opportunities to enjoy life. Your comfort zone is almost your enemy right now so take time to get out of it and at least acknowledge some options.
6. Avoid Weak Generalizations & Crazy Rules
It’s important to learn from significant experiences and update your understanding of the odds. But it’s also critical that you don’t overshoot the correlations; you now know what might happen if _______, not what will happen when ________. “I’m never dating someone younger”, “I need to be single for a while”, “Serves me right for dating a rich banker, “Long distance never works”, etc. These kinds of conclusions might make you feel protected, but nothing about them is inherently productive or even accurate. Take your notes, be specific, do some reading, acknowledge the patterns, and then file it all under ‘Valuable Information’.
The key is to adopt a perspective of engage, enhance, and refine – not reject, replace, and discard. The difference is subtle, but critical. Break-ups, for many, will always be hard. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get better at them. They’re going to happen, so rather than constantly stewing over the ‘ifs’ and ‘whys’, let’s redirect more energy and attention to a healthy ‘how’.