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What to Do After a Breakup to Be the Bigger, Better Person

A guy who learned what to do after a breakup, standing on top of a mountain he just climbed up looking proud and reflective.

Breakups are messy. It’s easy to go into them trying to be civil and kind, but when emotions run high, well, they get the better of us. If breakups stand for one thing, it’s change, which means no matter how you behaved in the relationship it’s what comes after the breakup that matters. You can be someone better. Here are seven tips to help you get there.

1. Put a no contact rule in place.
When you’re newly single, the first thing that you notice is the loneliness. Your partner isn’t your partner anymore. It’s natural to feel this way, but you need time off to let yourself get adjusted. Tell them you don’t want to be in touch for at least six weeks, then turn off your notifications for them on your phone and on social media. It’s not personal—it’s about getting your brain used to a life that doesn’t include them.

According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, the brain in love functions like a drug addiction. Because your brain is addicted to your ex, it needs time away to adjust to being single. But that’s not enough, you also need to put them out of your mind. Stop mentioning them in casual conversation. Stop lurking on their friends’ social media. Don’t tell yourself things would be better if they were there. In other words, let them go.

2. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the mindstate of awareness, in other words, being present. According to this 2011 psychological study, mindfulness offers tons of benefits, which include: better emotional regulation, the ability to respond to stress, increased immune system functioning, and neuroplasticity, or the ability to form new brain connections. All of these point to a better ability to bounce back from your breakup, even a particularly nasty one.

Practicing gratitude or meditating are both ways to increase your mindfulness that require very little effort. Start by keeping a gratitude journal and write one thing per day that you’re grateful for in it. If you’ve never meditated before, I recommend the app Headspace, which has meditation courses that are as short as one minute.

3. Lean on your friends.
The Bill Withers song “Lean On Me” was written for moments like these. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for support. You don’t have to shoulder the burden by yourself, and remember it’s not weak to ask for help. But also remember, they won’t know to help you unless you ask for it. Whether you need some one-on-one time or a night on the town, lean on your friends to get the love and support you need.

4. Forgive your partner and yourself.
When things go sour in a relationship, usually both people play a part. Part of the healing process is forgiving yourself and your partner, no matter whose fault you feel it is. The relationship is over. You don’t have to forgive right away, but you do have to forgive eventually. The longer you spend brooding about it, the longer it’ll take to get past it.

5. Take a class.
One of the best ways to better yourself is to take a class. When you finish school, you’re told to take your education into your own hands. For most of us that means booting up Netflix on an iPad, which is fine but not the best long-term medicine for a breakup. Classes are great, because you get to learn a new topic or skill and meet new people, both of which are great for building self-esteem after a breakup.

6. Focus on improving your health.
In the west, it’s popular to look at mental health and physical health as separate and distinct. This isn’t the case. Improving your physical health, will improve your mental health.

If you’re looking to reinvent yourself post-breakup, starting an exercise plan is a great place to start. There are a number of ways to start a new exercise regiment from taking a class, to getting a personal trainer, to running. While the progress may take a while to show on your body, you’ll start feeling better immediately. The endorphin rush that exercise brings has been proven to improve moods.

7. Date outside of your friend group.
When you’re ready to meet someone new, take it outside your current friend group, especially if you and your ex shared mutual friends. Dating outside your friend group minimizes personal drama, and there are so many online dating options out there now, that it shouldn’t be difficult to meet someone.

It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of a bad breakup, but you don’t have to be that person. No matter what anyone says, working on yourself and moving on is always the best course of action. Take a step at a time, one by one. You’ll get there and you’ll be better for it.

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