How to get over your ex, using science

  • 12/06/2018
Researchers studied three different strategies to get over a break-up.
Researchers studied three different strategies to get over a break-up. Photo credit: Getty

If you need help getting over your heartbreak, a new study could have the answer.

Sandra Langeslag, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Missouri-St Louis, worked with a research team to analyse which method of getting over a break-up produced the best recovery.

They studied 24 subjects aged between 20 and 37, all of whom had been in a long-term relationship that had since ended. The average length of the relationships was two and a half years.

Some subjects had been the ones to end the relationship, others had been broken up with, but all still had some feelings for their former partners.

The subjects were split into four groups who each used a different break-up coping strategy. The first group were told to think negatively about their ex, while the second thought positively about them.

The third group thought about positive things unrelated to their former partners. The fourth group was a control group who was told not to think about anything in particular.

Researchers then showed the subjects photos of their exes, and measured the intensity of each person's emotional response using electrodes and a questionnaire.

They found that all three coping strategies resulted in decreased emotional responses to the photos.

However only the subjects who thought negatively about their exes reported feeling less love toward them. The members of this group were also found to be in a worse mood than at the start of the study.

Members of the third group, who thought positively about things other than their exes, reported that their moods were improved, but the distraction strategy did not seem to affect their emotional response to their exes.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Ms Langeslag, who is also the director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the university, told TIME that these strategies were all just short-term solutions for a problem that takes time to solve.

"Love regulation doesn't work like an on/off switch," she said.

"To make a lasting change, you'll probably have to regulate your love feelings regularly."

However she said writing an exhaustive list of your ex's negative qualities once a day can be an effective cure for heartbreak, although this will probably make you feel worse before you feel better.