This week, I broke up with my significant other. We’d been dating and living together for two years–remember kids, don’t date your roommate!–and because of various communication problems and other issues, I thought it was best to end it. So far, the break seems amicable, but we’ll see as the weeks pass. Yes, we’re still roommates, though I have now moved into our guest room.
After more than a decade of dating and breakups, I’d hoped that it gets easier every time, but it never does. Each breakup is different, but they still affect me, and I’m sure all of you. I expect many days in bed and many pints of tea and ice cream.
Depression after heartbreak is still something scientists are trying to understand. In one study explained by Psychology Today, researchers compared fMRI brain scans of individuals looking at a picture of an ex-partner, looking at a picture of a friend, and being prodded with a hot probe on the arm. The scientists found that the brain lit up similarly when in pain and when looking at an ex-partner.
Another small study hints that relationships may be similar to drug addiction. If you’ve ever “craved” for an ex-partner or consider yourself still in love with that person, you may be craving the release of dopamine, and you might be affected with symptoms of withdrawal, much like a drug addict withdraws from a drug.
Cuddling and physical affection increases oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone). On the opposite side of the spectrum, breakups increase cortisol, which can increase heart rate, cause sore muscles and acne breakouts, slow down your digestive system, and more.
So how do we kick our post-breakup blues in the butt?
The American Psychological Association suggests that “expressive writing or journaling…is well-suited to coping with break-up.” In one study, participants were divided into three groups: one wrote of only positive aspects of their breakup, another about negative aspects, the third about an unrelated topic. Participants who focused on positive aspects reported feeling more positive emotions about the end of their relationship, like confidence, empowerment, optimism, and relief. Subsequently, these feelings can turn into personal growth and provide opportunities for self-improvement.
Since I’ve journaled for years, writing about my thoughts and feelings is no stranger to me. If I wanted to, I could find all the times I’ve had to end a relationship and read through everything I felt at that time. And if I did, I hope I can see how I’ve grown as a person and learned to deal with life’s struggles in more mature ways.
And I hope I grow from this experience as well.
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