Breakups can be incredibly painful. Since we are genetically wired to form connections with others, it makes sense that the end of a relationship can trigger intense emotions. Whether you decided to “call it quits” or were blindsided with rejection, it can be challenging to figure out how to cope in a healthy way.
You might be tempted to numb your feelings with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s or an alcohol binge, but these coping strategies only provide temporary relief and often make you feel worse in the long-term. As a psychotherapist and someone who has been through painful breakups, here are my tips for using mindfulness to cope with a breakup.
You don’t have to believe everything that you think. After a breakup, it’s important to pay attention to the stories that your mind is telling you. For example, you might often think, “I always fail at relationships. I should just give up.” Or you may be thinking, “I won’t meet anyone else who cares about me.” Rather than actively trying to change your unhelpful thoughts, take a moment to notice them as they come up. Recognizing that not all of your thoughts are true is the first step toward decreasing their power. Then, try to think of something more helpful. For instance, if you have the thought “I always fail at relationships,” you could instead focus on positive things that you learned from the relationship. You could tell yourself that your relationship was not a failure because you learned things and grew as a person. Psychotherapist Dr. Lisa Long says, “I often tell my clients to examine the facts. It is easy to overlook the difficult parts of a relationship after a breakup because we are focused on magnifying the positives and the good we felt in the past. Paying attention to the facts helps us stay grounded and aware of the reality of our situation. At times our mind can make a situation seem much worse than it is.”
It’s tempting to numb painful emotions either through binge-eating, not eating, drinking alcohol, having rebound relationships, or becoming a workaholic. But these strategies are ineffective in actually allowing yourself to grieve and heal. They might make you feel better temporarily, but will often cause you to feel even worse in the long run. Psychologist Dr. Michele Leno explains, “There is no need to pretend that everything is fine. Allow yourself to cry, as this is very healing and freeing. You might be inclined to bury your feelings, but acknowledging and embracing them strengthens you.” Following a breakup, it is normal and healthy to take some time to grieve. Additionally, practice being mindful of the emotions that you’re experiencing. It is also important to be compassionate with yourself; practice speaking to yourself kindly and engaging in self-care. Some self-care ideas include meditation, finding joyful movement, buying yourself flowers, taking a bubble bath, cooking a delicious meal, getting a massage, taking a walk in nature, or cuddling with a dog or cat.
After a breakup, it is normal to dwell on negative thoughts. However, shifting your focus to what you are thankful for can be powerful. Gratitude has been proven to boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and even improve your physical health. Long says, “Staying on top of having an attitude of gratitude will help you bounce back after your breakup. You will be able to recognize so many positives around you that this small bump in the road will be easier left in the past.”
Integrating mindfulness practices into your daily routine can be helpful, especially when you are coping with a breakup. Sitting mindfully with intense emotions may seem like the last thing you want to do, but it is a critical step in the healing process. Not all relationships are meant to last forever. However, through each relationship, we can learn and grow as individuals. You can heal and even emerge a stronger person following a breakup. You might not see it now, but this ending may have ultimately been a gift. And the future is full of new and exciting possibilities.