Anyone who's suffered the end of a relationship knows how tempting it is to push that heartbreak right out of your life with a new fling. But denying the pain, distracting yourself and rebounding right away into someone else's arms may not be the best way to recover after a breakup.
"People drink or go out and hookup to numb the pain of a breakup, but in the morning you still have all the feelings about the breakup. It doesn't stop the feelings, it just delays the feelings," relationship counselor Laura Young, a licensed clinical social worker, told CBS News.
New research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that repeatedly reflecting on a breakup, rather than pushing it out of your mind, actually speeds emotional recovery.
In the study, 210 recently separated young adults were divided into two groups and answered questions about their loneliness and distress about the breakup. Then one group was assigned to complete a number of assessments during additional sessions, including privately recording their breakup stories and other reflective exercises, while the others did not. After 9 weeks, both groups were surveyed again.
The results showed that those who did the breakup-assessment exercises reported lower levels of loneliness and had developed "a clear, independent sense of self." Actively and repeatedly reflecting on the breakup appeared to help them make a better recovery.
If you're newly heartbroken, here are Young's suggestions to help you recover post-breakup:
1. Take your time. Young says "honoring the loss" is one of the most important things you can do when dealing with a breakup. She says too many people try to rush through their recovery thinking they should be over it by a certain time. There is no specific amount of time that it takes to get over someone. "I think it's important to not date right away. Most people are not available for a relationship right after a breakup. They need to process the hurt, anger or resentment that they are feeling before engaging in a new relationship."
2. Do your work. Taking the time to process and understand the ending of your relationship by engaging in therapy, self-reflection, self-assessment and counseling can be very helpful. "If a person stays in therapy long enough they can learn what they gained from their relationship and how they can use that knowledge in the future," says Young. Above all, she says, have compassion for yourself. "Hold yourself accountable for your actions, but don't beat yourself up," she says.
3. Be curious, not critical. If you can explore the reasons why your relationship ended with an attitude of curiosity, you can learn from your past and choose a more appropriate partner next time. Also, Young adds, if you feel compelled to reach out to your ex or are tempted with thoughts of breakup sex, simply ask yourself why -- without judgment. "Some people get more clarity through having breakup sex. For others it makes them feel bad. It's all about staying present to your feelings, being aware and being honest with yourself," says Young.
4. Let your friends know what you need. Friends can be a great source of support when coping with a breakup. But some friends will take sides and project their feelings onto you about your relationship, and that can harm your recovery. Young says to be very clear about what you need from your friends. "Tell them, 'Please be patient with me,' or, 'Remind me not to reconnect with this person.' Help them help you."
5. Be thankful. "You are going to be ok. You will keep growing," Young says. Reminding yourself of what you are thankful for keeps your heart open. "Tell yourself what you gained through your relationship, and say to yourself, 'Thank goodness I can feel love.'"