Getting over a breakup is never going to be easy, but you can make it a lot less painful if you are strategic about how you cope in the first few weeks after it happens. Because I counsel men and women on relationship issues, I have watched hundreds of clients over the years go through a breakup. In this list, I highlight the behaviors that are most successful in helping a person to move on and get their happy back quickly.
1. Figure out who your most fun friend is.
Perhaps you already know who your most fun friend is. If not, take inventory of your social crew and ask yourself who is the most fun or who makes you laugh the most. In short, spend more time with that person! Happy, fun individuals can rub off on us when we’re feeling low, so make arrangements to get together as often as possible with your most fun friend after a breakup.
2. Have a small party at your place.
If you broke up with someone yesterday, you probably won’t feel like having a party today. If the breakup was a week ago or longer, it’s time for you to get social again. Schedule a gathering at your place in a couple of weeks – a dinner party, sports-watching party, or a movie night with a handful of friends. Nothing heals a broken heart like reminding yourself that you have friends who dig you.
3. Put a mini trip on the calendar.
Having something to look forward to is an absolute requirement to feeling happy and motivated. Though you might not feel like taking a trip at this moment, planning one in a few weeks or a month might be just the medicine you need to soothe your broken heart. Plan a mini vacation – two or three days – that you can look forward to and you will instantly plant a little hope on the horizon.
4. Force yourself to engage in physically exhilarating activities.
For all you workout haters, I have good news: This step doesn’t require running five miles on the treadmill. No, I’m talking about something else. We have enough research these days to know that getting physically active boosts your mood and gives you more energy. After a breakup, it’s precisely these two factors – bad mood and low energy – which suffer. To get out of your funk, try at least one exhilarating activity per week. While physical exercise at the gym counts, that’s not the real goal here: The real goal is to try activities which get your heart pumping and give you a happy rush. Call a friend and make a plan to go dancing one night, or try the bumper cars or a roller coaster at an amusement park.
5. Take a class or workshop.
Taking a class or workshop at a local school or community college is one of the best things you can do for yourself after a breakup. Self-disclosure alert: A pottery class was especially helpful for me years ago! Taking in something new and fun – cooking, guitar lessons, whatever – is a great way to focus your mind and distract you from the sadness of the breakup. Plus, meeting new people is a total bonus!
6. Set one new challenge.
I wouldn’t be a good psychologist if I didn’t encourage you to set one new challenge for yourself when you’re feeling down in the dumps. Even though setting a goal may sound like it takes work on your part, it actually does something else: it gives you hope for a fresh start. Set one new challenge after a breakup and you will give yourself something productive to focus on instead of wallowing in sadness or bitterness. Try losing ten pounds if you’re overweight; finally update that resume; or repaint or reorganize your entire bedroom. These challenges are helpful because they make you feel like it’s time for a new beginning.
All of these behaviors can significantly improve your mood and distract you from the sadness and anger you may feel about the relationship you lost. Yet perhaps the most important behavior to keep in mind is to avoid all contact with your ex.
After a relationship ends, one ghost that haunts you for the next few weeks is inevitably the I-need-my-stuff-back dance. “But I need to call him to get my stuff back!” Honestly, go without it – at least for a while. Do not have contact with your ex in the first month after a breakup if you truly want to try to get your happy back. You will thank yourself later, once you’ve moved on!
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.