Did you know that science can hold the keys to helping you get over someone you love?
Discover new ways science is unlocking the truth behind heartbreak… as I share my personal journey of lost love.
Some time ago, I met a truly delightful human. I mean TRULY delightful.
He was charming, handsome, considerate, generous, empathic, sensitive… oh and did I mention – handsome?
Think a delicious cross between George Clooney and Brad Pitt from Ocean’s Eleven. Seriously… it should be illegal to look that good!
Anyway… I digress…
He was also wounded… and haunted. He had many ghosts and even more hang ups. His gaze was loaded with pain, regret and fear. It still makes me sad to think of it.
It snuck up on me, I tried my damnedest to avoid it, and it even pains me to admit it but in a short space of time… I fell for him. Reasonably hard too (Bugger it! I really did try SO HARD not to. You have no idea…!)
As evidenced by the way my body reacted when I saw him some time ago (sweaty palms, shaking hands, total loss of appetite) it was clear I was not over him; so I got to work.
How did I get over him?
I’ll be honest… its a work in progress but I have made progress!
8 Ways Science Can Help You Get Over Someone!
1. Treat It Like an Addiction
The old 80’s song got it wrong… love is not a battlefield…
Its an addiction!
When its going well, its delicious and euphoric!
When its going badly, it sets you up for obsessive and self-harming behaviours, just like any other addiction (shopping, smoking, binge drinking, drugs etc).
Brains scans have shown that the brain operates in the same way for love as it does for an addiction.
In fact, post break up, the way the brain sees things is through the eyes of someone with a mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – such is the power of your brains bio-chemistry and synaptic connections!
How does one get over an addiction?
- Remove all temptation
- Go into isolation (referred to as The No Contact Rule)
- Self care and self love
- Supportive networks
- Distraction strategies
- Inter-friend-ions (Interventions by Friends)
2. Chemicals and Connections
The chemicals released by being in love – 0r any addiction – are namely:
- Endorphins (a morphine like chemical resulting in pleasurable feelings)
- Sex hormones – testosterone and oestrogen
- Serotonin (one of love’s most important chemicals; explains why they keep “popping” into your thoughts)
- Dopaimine (stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure)
- Oxytocin (“cuddle hormone”; improves communication, lowers stress levels)
- Vasopressin (long term commitment, stops you feeling hungry / thirsty & released after sex)
Memories are built from a series of synaptic connections that have been created around a person, place or thing over a period of time. The more you think of something, the stronger the synaptic connections become – the more branches connect to each other around it, building stronger memory and forging a stronger “connection” to the person, in your mind.
To move on from someone, you need to find ways to replace those chemical responses and to build other synaptic connections. By doing so, you begin to “forget” past connections (or weaken the synaptic connections) regarding your ex or beloved. Weakening these connections is how you start to “get over” someone.
Studies conducted by investigators from the University of California showed that “weakening synapses likely disassembles neuronal assemblies to inactivate a memory” i.e. by NOT thinking about something or someone and focusing your attentions elsewhere, you weaken the connection in your mind and their the memory starts to fade… you begin to “forget”.
By engaging in loads of feel good, fun activities with people who care and support you, your brain will start to re-wire itself, forming new synaptic connections of fun, love and good times WITHOUT your ex. You will simultaneously begin to forget your ex or beloved because you are physically and mentally “distracted“, and your brain is flooding itself with feel-good chemicals (see above).
Make a list of 100 Things to Feel Good About / 100 Things That Feel Good and start working through that list.
Rally the troops – supportive friends, family and others – that can participate with you in these activities. Get back out there loving life and watch your brain start to re-wire itself and “forget” your ex or beloved without you even trying to!
This is science emulating life – we do this type of thing automatically after a break up or rejection but now you know why you can focus on it and make it a force of habit over time. This habit will serve you in aiding you to “forget” your ex.
3. Your Heart IS Broken
A study conducted by the University of Amsterdam was conducted to determine the physical results of rejection on the body.
After rejection was experienced by members of a control group within the study, it was observed that the heart rate slowed considerably and there was a substantial delay before it returned to normal (or baseline) after experiencing rejection.
Put simply, you literally FEEL your heart “break” (or at least slow down considerably) when you are rejected by someone – especially an ex or beloved. There is a physical reaction to this rejection which is caused by activity from the para-sympathetic nervous system.
The best way to distract the para-sympathetic nervous system from the rejection?
- Get busy
- Build a support network
- Engage in oxytocin producing activities
As above, allow your body to be flooded with all those feel good hormones, whilst re-wiring your synaptic connections in the brain. This in turn will change the response of the para-sympathetic nervous system and provide positive stimuli for it to respond to.
That feeling of “all is well” (known as “wellbeing“), of expansive fun and joy, of “being lost in something” is what we are going for here – your heart will heal when you can deliberately and consciously put yourself in that space as often as possible.
4. Form Other Connections
The basic “process” of “falling in love” is:
- Seek out a valid candidate
- Reveal intimate details about yourselves and your lives to each other
- Stare into each other’s eyes for a least 4 minutes
This process will kick start the chemical chain reaction that is “falling in love”.
So, if you need to “get over someone” then do the above activity with someone else!
It doesn’t need to be a stranger – you can do this with a good friend. This will create the same chemical chain reaction within your brain that you had going on with your ex or beloved. That chemical chain reaction will start to override the chemical chain reaction caused by fantasising about your lost love… as outlined above.
They do say that…
The best way to get over someone is to be with someone else!
This is actually true… in a sort of a fashion.
Seek out a dear and trustworthy friend with whom you can perform this exercise. Complete it once or twice a week and you will find that after a few times, the feelings you had for your Lost Love will dissipate as your brain rewires and forms new synaptic connections regarding this new person.
NB: If you intend to do this to actually Fall In Love with someone else, be sure to select a complete stranger who’s energy you are attracted to in some way… and be careful! This is potent stuff!
5. Get The Lesson
Recent studies conducted by psychology and divorce researcher Grace Larson showed that those who spent time in introspection, self reflection and underwent a period of intensive psychological tests (four times a week for nine weeks – intense right?!) reported feeling “much better” (or a feeling of wellbeing) and reported feeling a sense of returned independence; what is known in psych circles as “self-concept reorganization“.
In spiritual circles, we snigger and chuckle and think …
In all fairness, science is starting to bridge the gap here – and that’s great!
The point here is that by forcing yourself to take time to reflect on the relationship and look for the positive lessons you have learned from it, you will actually assist your brain in “getting over” someone.
When I am speaking with someone who is still “hooked” into someone else – or indeed myself – I outline a little plan for them, based on spiritual principles – now echoed by recent scientific studies:
- Release and Let Go
I ask that they perform a Full Moon Workshop type cleansing and clearing ritual and to imagine their ex or beloved walking away from them over a grassy hill and out of sight.I ask them to imagine themselves in a ball of white and pink light and to see the threads connecting them to their ex or beloved.I ask them to cut the threads with a giant sword or knife or golden scissors – whatever feels right – and to see the place the threads connected with golden netting.Whenever they think of this person I suggest they repeat the following mantra:
I forgive and let go, with love and light
- Self ReflectionI then suggest that they buy or commence a journal.I suggest some pointed, hard hitting and honest questions that they really would struggle to deny answers to. Things like:
- What was my first initial sense about this person?
- What did I love about this person?
- What did I not like about this person?
- When did I sense something was starting to change between us?
- Did I contribute to this situation in any way – if so, how?
- What are the positive lesson I can take away from my time with this person?
- What would I change and do differently next time?
- What am I grateful for?
This period of introspection and reflection can last for days, weeks and sometimes months (usually its months for me because I am such a deeply feeling, empathic soul… bugger it!)
Whenever I feel myself being drawn back into thinking about or wishing for the other person, I simply repeat the loving mantra:
I forgive you and let you go with love and light
as I see them walking away from me down a grassy hill out of sight.
This process gives my mind something else to cling to when I am attempting to divert my thoughts. I then throw myself into a feel good activity to release oxytocin and endorphins, and rewire my synaptic connections (as above).
If I do not catch my thoughts early, they can nose dive into an emotional spiral of yearning, wishing and pain. That is to be avoided at nearly all costs!
Reason being is that each and every time you think of and start to wish for, yearn for, regret or desire a Lost Love, you are reigniting the connection through your brain’s bio-chemistry and you are rewiring the same synaptic connections you just spent days / weeks / months trying to cut off.
Fantasies about your ex or beloved are the enemy of getting over them. Period.
6. Let It All Out
With your emotions laid out on the table, you are then free move them around and discard the ones you don’t want.
By utilising various methods to “let it out” including
- Videos or v-logs
- Blogging (or writing of any kind)
- Voice recordings or pod casts
You are giving yourself the chance to objectively view how you feel and giving yourself space to choose.
Few people realise that they do actually have the right to CHOOSE how they feel about anything in their lives. This has been proved by science over and over, particularly in the field of quantum physics.
Emotions are actually physiological responses in the body, stimulated by messages received from the brain. That is all. Like most things to do with our bodies, we can choose the stimulus / response scenarios we wish to engage in.
Does it sometimes take effort? ABSOLUTELY!
What it also takes is STRATEGY.
Simply saying to yourself “I choose how I feel” is great but not a particularly powerful strategy. There are better ones out there – such as outlined in this article!
7. Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress is the first thing that will plunge you back into a downward spiral of regret, longing and pain regarding your ex or beloved.
The single best way to ensure you can bounce back from a nasty break up or situation of unrequited love is to manage your personal stress levels.
This is where the “Self Care” and self love aspect of a break up comes into play. Our minds and bodies instinctively start craving people, places, activities and foods that are nurturing, indulgent and nourishing (sometimes nourishing LOL – depends how many wines you consider nourishing!)
By managing your energy levels and ensuring you are focusing on maintaining equilibrium and calm in your life, you will find your emotional nosedives overall will become less frequent. This will in turn equate to less regretful thinking or fantasising about your ex or beloved.
I know from personal experience that when I am overwhelmed, tired or stressed the first things I start to think are either:
a) Where I am going wrong or not doing enough
b) About things I regret or wish I could change (Enter: Lost Loves and Exes)
When I am focusing on maintaining equilibrium in my life and mind, I can drop into my feminine space more quickly and hear my intuition more clearly.
My intuition – as with most women – is the thing that says…
He was not for you. There is someone better out there – so get to work and draw him forth.
The more often I hear that message and believe it, reinforce it and continually manage my stress levels so my intuition is audible and clear, the better I feel. I can keep forcing my mind to go back to that message of empowerment and clarity when ever a sneaky “What If” thought enters my mind.
8. Beware The White Bear
The “White Bear Effect” is a phrase coined by psychologists relating to what occurs in the brain when a person attempts to forcibly remove something from their thinking… they become obsessed with it.
Don’t think about the White Bear
You’re thinking about a White Bear aren’t you?
If you attempt to forcible “clear out” your ex or beloved from your mind, as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, you will find yourself ruminating and thinking about them more and more.
This crosses over into another area of spirituality (where I chuckle to myself once again) and is best summed up in this phrase:
What You Resist, Persists.
– Carl Jung
You can not FORCE your mind to clear your ex out of your head by saying “I must not think about xyz”.
You must provide ALTERNATIVES to focus upon.
Ever wondered why our minds and bodies naturally gravitate towards things like indulgent foods, movies, books we can lose ourselves in, exercise, old hobbies and old friends when we go through a break up?
It is an intuitive response to avoid pain – and to distract the mind.
By getting busy with things you love to do, reconnecting with old passions, hobbies and friends, your mind has new experiences rich with dopamine, endorphin and oxytocin by-products that will enable your mind to gently re-wire itself (as in the synaptic connections outline above).
In re-wiring itself, your mind begins to think in a new way. In thinking in a new way, you let go of the old way – i.e. your ex or beloved will simply fade into the background as you indulge and enjoy these new experiences.
Beware the White Bear! Don’t shove him out of sight; give it something to play with instead.
So there you have it!
Science can play a role in helping us to understand the mechanics of love, connection and rejection (i.e. its an addiction and should be treated as such).
By combining both scientific and spiritual practices and strategies, you will be well on your way to forgetting that someone and focusing on redesigning your life to attract an even better someone else!
Love and light (and lots and lots of hugs because they release oxytocin!)
Larson G, Sbarra D. Participating in Research on Romantic Breakups Promotes Emotional Recovery via Changes in Self-Concept Clarity. Social Psychological & Personality Science. 2015.
Anatomy of Love by Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist
The Willpower Instinct: How Self Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Avery 2012) by Kelly McGonigal, Psychologist – Stanford University
Study: The Heartbrake of Social Rejection – Heart Rate Deceleration in Response to Unexpected Peer Rejection; Bregtje Gunther Moor1, Eveline A. Crone1,2 and Maurits W. van der Molen1 Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam and Leiden University, Institute for Psychological Research
Source: d’Oleire Uquillas F, Liu Y, Kou J. Love-related changes in the brain: a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 2015.