Heal your bro­ken heart

Cop­ing with heart­break is as tough as deal­ing with drug ad­dic­tion, but you can make it a tad eas­ier for your­self, says Salome Mit­ter.

Savvy - - Contents -

No mat­ter your age, a bro­ken heart can make you fall to pieces. What’s worse is even as you’re hurt­ing like crazy, you’re try­ing to ful­fil your other obli­ga­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and strug­gling to keep your life from fall­ing apart…


No mat­ter how much the cyn­ics might poo-pooh the idea, science proves that heart­break can be an over­whelm­ingly painful psy­cho­log­i­cal gash. Brain scans show that heart­break trig­gers the same mech­a­nisms in the brain that get ac­ti­vated when in­tense phys­i­cal pain is ex­pe­ri­enced. And while in­tense phys­i­cal pain gen­er­ally lasts min­utes be­fore it sub­sides to a throb, se­vere emo­tional pain caused by heart­break can con­tinue for days, weeks and even months.

There is no easy check­ing out of heart­break hotel. The one who broke our heart con­sumes our wak­ing thoughts and our trou­bled dreams. Des­per­ate to re­gain the love we lost, we go through a vi­cious cy­cle of try­ing to un­der­stand why the break-up hap­pened. Mem­o­ries threaten to over­whelm us. We can­not stop think­ing what could have been, we keep dis­sect­ing what went wrong and how it could have been avoided.

Nat­u­rally, this cre­ates se­ri­ous im­bal­ances in our daily life - from dis­turb­ing our eat­ing and sleep­ing pat­terns, to rob­bing us of our abil­ity to con­cen­trate, think cre­atively and func­tion nor­mally. Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies, 40 per­cent of heart­bro­ken peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms of clin­i­cal depression. The in­ten­sity of grief is sim­i­lar to that on the death of a close rel­a­tive.


At the core of this suf­fer­ing lies the fact that love is ad­dic­tive. With­drawal of ro­man­tic love ev­i­dently causes the ex­act response in the brain that comes when you quit an ad­dic­tive sub­stance. You un­dergo in­tense with­drawal. It’s the rea­son why we be­come so ob­sessed and des­per­ate, de­sir­ing noth­ing more or less than our ex to re­lieve our mis­ery and give us our ‘fix’.

Brain scans show that heart­break trig­gers the same mech­a­nisms in the brain that get ac­ti­vated when in­tense phys­i­cal pain is ex­pe­ri­enced.

No mat­ter how bad it might be for us, the need to re­con­nect and rec­on­cile with our ex is ex­tremely strong. Even when we know that our ex is wrong for us or that do­ing so would make us feel worse even­tu­ally, we can­not re­sist. We ei­ther text or call or stalk them on so­cial me­dia… And in do­ing that, we ac­tu­ally make it worse for our­selves. We not only lose ground that we had re­cov­ered, but we also end up in­ten­si­fy­ing our emo­tional pain.


Re­cov­er­ing from heart­break re­quires two main fac­tors – de­ter­mi­na­tion and the will­ing­ness to ac­cept that it’s over and to let go. Ex­perts rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing in or­der to set your­self on the path of heal­ing post a bad break-up… Cut off all con­tact with your ex. If that is im­pos­si­ble, due to im­por­tant rea­sons, aim for as lit­tle con­tact as pos­si­ble. Reach out to sup­port­ive friends, who would ex­press em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion for you. Stay away from the ten­dency to ide­alise your ex. In­stead, re­mem­ber and fo­cus on the way you were treated and that the re­la­tion­ship was toxic for you. The spa­ces in your re­la­tion­ship left by your ex’s exit will be glar­ing and dif­fi­cult to live with. Fill up the empty spa­ces left by your de­funct re­la­tion­ship by re­con­nect­ing with friends. Reen­gage in old ac­tiv­i­ties or start new ones.

Avoid the mis­takes that can set you back, and take the steps re­quired to heal.

Un­der­stand and ac­cept that it will be chal­leng­ing to re­cover from heart­break. This will make you more self-com­pas­sion­ate and avoid un­nec­es­sary self-crit­i­cism and self-blame.

Lim­it­ing your ex’s ap­pear­ances in your thoughts is key. Be aware that the brain makes us think about our ex in­vol­un­tar­ily and in­ces­santly. Help your­self by lim­it­ing the time you vol­un­tar­ily choose to think or talk about your ex.

Be­friend your heart­break, don’t deny it. Al­low your­self to

Fill up the empty spa­ces left by your de­funct re­la­tion­ship by re­con­nect­ing with friends.

grieve, don’t numb the pain. With griev­ing comes in­creased aware­ness of what’s truly im­por­tant to you, whom you love and who loves you. It will help re­solve sad­ness more ef­fec­tively than try­ing to fight it. When plagued by neg­a­tive thoughts, get up and do some­thing else. Take a walk or call some­one who is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­culty – think­ing of them and help­ing them will shift your fo­cus from your­self. Also put some dis­tance be­tween your­self and your thoughts - try ex­am­in­ing them from a dis­tance. Let your thoughts rush past, try not to dwell on them or over­think them. Ac­knowl­edge what you are feel­ing with­out draw­ing con­clu­sions from those feel­ings. This will al­low your mind to process the grief more quickly and re­turn to a more bal­anced state. Lis­ten­ing to mu­sic ac­tu­ally helps. Avoid the break-up, sad songs. In­stead, plug on some of your favourite feel-good tunes. This re­leases en­dor­phins, which lift your spir­its and help com­bat stress. This might sound shock­ing, but ex­tend­ing lov­ing kind­ness to your ex - whom you have no in­ten­tion of lov­ing ever again - helps your own heal­ing. It can bring feel­ings of sta­bil­ity and peace to your in­ner mind. This doesn’t mean you have to for­give or forget your ex’s past trans­gres­sions or stay in touch. In­stead, fo­cus on let­ting go of anger and ha­tred.

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