In the aftermath of a breakup, it is usually recommended that you focus on other things to distract from the pain. However, research has found that the opposite can have a healing effect and improve wellbeing faster.
According to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, repeatedly talking through and reflecting on feelings associated with a breakup actually results in an overall stronger sense of self.
The findings were part of a study that analysed the distressing effects of breakups - by asking 210 participants who’d recently parted ways with a significant other to either partake in in-depth questionnaires, psychophysiological measurements, and interviews or one simple questionnaire.
The study specifically looked at “self-concept reorganisation,” the process of seeing yourself as separate from an ex and a relationship.
Researchers were surprised to find that the group of participants who were forced to think about and discuss their breakups actually improved faster - because they were able to “psychologically untangle” from their ex-partners.
Of the findings, the study’s first author, Dr Grace Larson, said: “The process of becoming psychologically intertwined with the partner is painful to have to undo.
“Our study provides additional evidence that self-concept repair actually causes improvements in well-being.”
Although researchers were not sure why the method helped heal participants, they hypothesised that it had to do with crafting a new “narrative” and looking at the breakup from a “distanced perspective.”
“It might be simply the effect of repeatedly reflecting on one’s experience and crafting a narrative - especially a narrative that includes the part of the story where one recovers,” Dr Larson said.
While the researchers are aware that not everyone who is going through a breakup can participate in a research study, they believe that attempting a similar process on one’s own, such as “weekly check-ins” written in a journal, can have the same effect.