How To Get Over Someone You Love And Move On

Photo: Getty
blonde woman with her arms up slightly smiling
Heartbreak

If you're suffering after a breakup, rest assured that you can and will learn how to get over someone you love and move on, even when the person in question is someone you once thought you'd love forever. No matter who did the dumping, it's your job to do the hard work of mending your broken heart and loving yourself the same way you deserve to be loved by anyone else.

Heartbreak is something most of us will face at one time or another over the course of our lives, so you are far from alone. In fact, there are likely millions of people like out there like you, wondering how to let go and move on.

Unfortunately, the grieving process takes the one thing we can’t alter — time.

RELATED: 5 Real Reasons Breakups Are So Painful (No, You're Not Just Being Dramatic!)​

To help you get over your ex once and for all, I've compiled a list of steps based on professional experience as well as scientific research. Its effectiveness comes from the fact that it helps you truly heal and move on — not just pretend it never happened (which keeps you stuck).

Here are 21 steps to take in order to get over someone you love.

1. Let yourself feel sad.

Speeding up the healing process requires taking the simple, albeit undeniably difficult first step of allowing the pain to wash over you.

Too often, people get caught in the false narrative of how important it is to always be positive. Because this means repressing their true emotions, they find themselves passively giving in to impulses and knee-jerk reactions, leaving them feeling helpless and out of control as they wonder why they’re still stuck and can't seem to move on.

Now let's be clear: You don’t need to (and you shouldn't) wallow in your emotions. But you should face your fears and truly feel whatever it is you feel so you can move through all the stages of grief during your breakup.

In order to do this, you must first free your mind from judgment by telling yourself that all of your emotions are acceptable, even the ones that make you feel bad.

Rather than continuing to run from the inevitable pain that comes with accepting such a thing, being honest with yourself requires you to then sit in your emotions and allow them marinate.

Once you've done that, you'll be ready to take the next crucial steps.

2. Face the truth.

When you're in the midst of a breakup, it's normal to resist the experience and get caught in a trap of denial. You tell yourself you simply don’t deserve to go through so much pain. You want to believe you’re immune to life’s sorrows and that, if you just believe hard enough, it will all go away and everything will be fine.

Unfortunately, while it is true that you don't deserve to be in pain, that's just not the way life works. Only by being honest with yourself about the reality of what's happening can come to allow accept things as they are.

3. Ask your loved ones for their support as you heal.

Even though your heartbreak is a personal experience, you don’t have to go through all of it alone. Sure, no one else can feel what you’re feeling, but you can still rely on the people you love for support. Anyone, from friends and family to coaches and therapists can offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a safe space where you can blow off a little steam.

You need to grieve the loss of your relationship and your ex before you can truly move on, and surrounding yourself with people who love you and a strong network of supporters can help you do that.

4. Practice loving self-care.

No, this doesn't mean lotion and tissues — it means self-care. After a breakup, look at your wants and needs and take care of yourself on an emotional level.

What makes for the best, most effective self-care varies for every individual, so establish a self-care regimen that works for you. A lot of times that means eating delicious food with friends, joining a hiking club, or signing up for a yoga class. Maybe it means meditating or getting a massage.

RELATED: 6 Important Reminders For Anyone Struggling With Heartbreak

5. Work on self-improvement.

It boils down to is this: If there is something that will help you improve yourself, go out and do it.

When you're working toward actionable goals for self-improvement, you'll feel happier, even when you're still on the mend after a bad breakup.

6. Take an OTC painkiller.

Fascinating scientific studies have shown that taking Tylenol according to label instructions can help ease the physical pain of heartbreak. Of course, you should always ask your doctor before taking any medication, and Tylenol shouldn't be taken while your drinking alcohol or soon after, but early studies showed that it was effective for treating the pain that comes along with that broken heart feeling — which, by the way, is actually real pain with real side-effects.

Just remember that taking Tylenol (or possibly even Ibuprofen, if you are a woman) may also dull your happiness, so use it with caution. Finding sources of joy and allowing yourself to feel that happiness is also important for your healing.

7. Distract yourself

According to a small study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2018, people who were suffering from heartbreak after the end of a relationship found distraction to be an effective way to cope with a breakup. According to the study's abstract, "Distraction did not change love feelings but made participants feel more pleasant."

In other words, while distracting yourself from your heartbreak may not reduce the amount of love you feel for your ex, it can help you feel happier in general — which no doubt could also help you heal.

So make plans with friends, try something new and exciting, or maybe even take a little road trip. Anything to get your mind of your ex for a little while.

8. Get a little exercise.

Scientific research has repeatedly found a strong link between happiness and exercise, and experiencing joy can help you get over someone by pulling you out of your funk.

You don't have to do hours of yoga or spend hours on a bike to feel good and experience this benefit. Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University, notes that the happiness-related benefits of exercise are often felt within five minutes of getting your body moving.

So take a little walk around the block or take a quick bike ride around the neighborhood, which can even help you manage and reduce stress and anxiety. Your body and your brain will be better for it.

RELATED: 10 Spiritual Practices That Will Help You Get Over Your Bad Breakup

9. Remember what wasn't working in your relationship.

The 2018 study cited above showed that negative reappraisal, which is essentially shifting your focus toward the bad things, can be an effective way to get over someone you love. However, the study cites that it has a downside.

According to Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., "Unfortunately, this involves dwelling on negative thoughts that can make an individual feel worse, at least in the short run. In the long run, however, negative reappraisal can be an effective coping strategy."

No human is perfect, so there are probably some negative aspects of your ex or your relationship for you to shift your focus toward. Don't hold onto these things and let negative emotions take over, but face them in a realistic way.

10. Reframe your breakup in a more positive way.

One very effective way to reduce the feelings of love you have toward your ex is to try a technique called positive reappraisal. In this technique, you shift your focus to the positive aspects of the breakup.

For example, if you and your ex broke up because you were fighting so much, instead of lingering on how much it hurts, you could try reframing it as, "Now we both get to have more peace and I have cleared the way for a new relationship where I can have more joy and easier communication."

Simply put, positive reappraisal is like finding a silver lining in a bad situation. You can't control your thoughts and feelings, but you can help direct your energy and your mind in ways that can help you heal.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

11. Try something totally new.

Not only will a new experience help distract you from your heartbreak, it can seriously pull you out of a funk. It has been shown that trying new things can help you be happier.

From Time Magazine, "Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University looked at 30,000 event memories and over 500 diaries, ranging from durations of 3 months to 4 years, and says that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences."

In addition, trying something new can also help you feel braver and stronger, two things that will help you as you learn how to get over someone you love.

12. Make a conscious effort not to allow yourself to get stuck.

The worst place to deal with a breakup is on your living room couch, where you're prone to getting stuck in your emotions. Instead, open yourself up to making new connections (even if it’s with old friends) and having new experiences (even if that means stepping outside of your comfort zone) as a way to help you get over someone. Keep moving, get out of the rut you feel stuck in.

You can only get true fulfillment when you’re willing to let yourself experience what life has to offer. Remember that objects in motion stay in motion, and emotion is motion. Just like clouds floating across the sky, your emotions doesn't stay idle.

Your emotions will pass by you eventually, which is why time heals (almost) all wounds.

RELATED: How Long It Takes To Get Over A Breakup, According To Science

13. Spend time in nature.

Even if you find the outdoors more mediocre than great, getting out in nature is an excellent way to deal with a breakup.

Use the woods or a desolate beach as a place to reflect. Write down the things you want to let go of and then, quite literally, let go of them — burn them (safely), tie them to a balloon and release them, or put them in a bottle and toss them out to sea.

Allow the solace and serenity of Mother Nature to be your wing-woman as you work to heal your broken heart.

14. Get creative.

Research has found that making art can be incredibly healing. Get out the paints, make a mosaic, or build a piece of furniture. It doesn't matter what it is or how the final product turns out, just flex your creativity.

Just remember not to judge yourself, the outcome, or your process.

15. Take each day as it comes.

It sounds trite, but taking a day at a time can help you manage any big or overwhelming experiences. Today might be sad, devastating and lonely, but tomorrow is a different day.

Focus on what you can do for yourself today and let tomorrow be a hopeful, fresh new start that is full of possibilities.

16. Process your thoughts by audio journaling.

Traditional journaling in a diary isn't an effective strategy for everyone. So if you feel more comfortable talking through things than putting them down on paper, consider audio journaling — where you record your thoughts, rather than writing them.

This cathartic process can help you to get things off your chest and better process the emotions you're feeling post-breakup.

RELATED: Why Journaling Is The Best Form Of Self-Care + 10 Writing Prompts To Spark Creativity

17. Write, write, write.

Writing can be incredibly healing. Not only can you express everything you're feeling without having to worry about other people's judgement, writing about experiences actually helps us process trauma and pain.

Harvard Health explains, "Writing about thoughts and feelings that arise from a traumatic or stressful life experience — called expressive writing — may help some people cope with the emotional fallout of such events."

The theory is that writing can help people overcome emotional inhibition and can also help people practice emotional regulation — both of which can help you heal and move on from heartbreak. So whether it's keeping a written diary or journal or writing poetry, writing can help.

18. Take care of yourself by watching what you put in your body.

Our first reaction when we are sad is often to pop open a pint of ice cream — and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But over time, making healthier choices in what you eat and drink can help you feel happier and more resilient.

Dr. Eva Selhub, a physician, states that our happiness is very much tied to our overall diet in the long-term, explaining, "Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the 'waste' (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells."

In other words, your brain will work better when it's appropriately nourished. In addition, what we eat can greatly affect our moods. "Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions."

Finally, limit your alcohol intake. As WebMD explains, "Alcohol is a depressant. That means any amount you drink can make you more likely to get the blues. Drinking a lot can harm your brain and lead to depression."

Also, as we all know, drinking too much can lead us to make poor decisions like drunk-dialing the ex you're actively trying to get over, which can impede your process along these steps.

19. Take a social media break.

Social media can do a wonderful job of helping us feel less alone, and if your social media use does that for you — or even just provides a short-term distraction or a little laughter — then that is great.

But if you find yourself on social media "stalking" your ex and their friends and family, that is likely an unhealthy habit and you'll benefit from stepping away from it for a while. Trust your gut, if being on Facebook or Instagram is making you feel worse, make a different choice while you're actively trying to get over someone you love.

20. Find a new direction.

As you heal from your breakup and get ready to move on with your life, make sure you've learned all the lessons you can from the past. After all, there's no such thing as a failed relationship. Each relationship — even ones where your heart feels broken — offers us opportunities to grow and gain wisdom for our future happiness.

You may feel tempted to jump into another relationship in order to move on, but first be sure you've found a new direction for yourself. What do you really want? Who do you really want to be, both in your personal life and in a relationship? Are you truly ready for that new life? The next step, below, should help you determine that as well as make sure you're not just pushing away any hurt or actively staying in denial.

21. Learn how to sit with your emotions.

As part of your healing process, make an active choice to feel and experience your emotions when you have them. Deal with them. Acknowledge them. Be mad at them or sad at them. But allow yourself to exist with them in the moment.

Need help with sitting with your emotions? There’s an app for that! Insight Timer is an app you can use to give yourself a small block of time (start with 15 minutes or so) and allow yourself to simply sit with your emotions. You can ask yourself how to get over someone you love as you sit down, then just let all of the emotions wash over you. You may even get the answer from yourself.

So to help you get over your breakup more quickly, practice sitting with your emotions, accepting them, and then going on with your day. Sitting with your emotions on a regular basis helps you remind yourself that, no matter how painful your breakup was, you are strong enough to survive it.

RELATED: 9 Ways To Let Go Of Someone You Never Thought You'd Lose

Clayton Olson is an International Relationship Coach, Master NLP Practitioner, and Facilitator who offers private virtual coaching sessions and online group workshops. Visit his website to learn more.