Can’t Get Over Your Ex? Here’s How To Train Your Brain To Forget Them

The first few months after a breakup can feel like walking into a field loaded with landmines. Step into the wrong restaurant, coffee shop or movie theater and you suddenly hear the click of the detonator and BOOM… in flood the happy memories. Your eyes mist, the sadness takes over, and an explosion of tears follow. We’ve always been told that the only way to heal the pain of heartache is with time, but here’s how you can actually train your brain to forget your ex.

  1. Choose to replay the bad memories, not the good ones. New York therapist Guy Winch told the New York Post that it’s time to get off your butt and stop avoiding the places that remind you of your ex. Instead, you should be facing them as soon as one month after the breakup. What if you went on frequent Target runs with your ex? Are you going to avoid Target forever? Hell no, you’re not! Target is life. Take your bestie on a shopping spree and make some new memories. Have cart races down the electronics aisle, try on funky outfit combinations and plan a scavenger hunt. Before you know it, Target will be out of the “no fly zone.”
  2. Keep a list of all the bad stuff handy. Whether it’s in a journal or saved as a note on your phone, create a list of all the suckiest parts of your relationship. Did they talk down to you? Write it down. Were they more obsessed with their hair than your relationship? Yup, add that one too. That ugly fight you had in Cabo last year? Definitely going on the list. Then, anytime a happy memory comes to mind, replace it with something negative from your handy list.
  3. Meditation isn’t just for hipsters—it may be the key to getting over your breakup. It’s time to put down your smartphone and quiet your mind. While it may seem like the last thing you want to do is be alone with your crazy post-breakup brain, training your mind to be less emotionally reactive is next on Winch’s list. As you start to meditate, there’s no doubt that their dreamy smile will seep into your thoughts. Acknowledge them, focus on your breath and let your thoughts redirect. If meditation isn’t in your wheelhouse, there are apps for that.
  4. Stop overthinking it. This one is easier said than done. Following a breakup, we can’t help but ask “why?” over and over and over again. When you start to feel yourself questioning where things went wrong, take control by saying, “It doesn’t matter. We’re totally over and there’s no point in looking back.”
  5. If you don’t already incorporate self-care into your life, now’s a good time to start. Like any other form of addiction (and yes, obsessing over your ex counts as one), being stressed out is like pouring gasoline on a fire. If you’re overwhelmed at work, running on a few blinks of sleep or completely riddled with anxiety, you’re likely to feel desperate for some comfort. Your first source of comfort just so happens to be your ex and your brain is more focused on the reward than the risk. Getting to be the little spoon for an hour is not worth the shame and regret you’ll feel afterward. Schedule a girls’ night, get a massage and go play with puppies. When you wake up, listen to some rain sounds and inhale those essentials oils. Treat yo’ self, girl.
  6. Find a badass woman to look up to. Role models aren’t just for teenage girls. Willpower and strength are as infectious as a cold. It could be a character in a book, a popular celebrity or freaking Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot OR the actual character—both are acceptable). Bonus points if you find one who handled a breakup like a BOSS. Then, when your ex comes to mind, ask yourself: what would (insert role model here) do? She wouldn’t cry into her ice cream, that’s for sure.
  7. Find a hobby that will kick your addiction to the curb. In order to resist the urge to fall back into old habits with your ex, use this as an opportunity to pick up a new hobby. Take cooking classes, get into kickboxing or learn how to tap dance. When thoughts of your ex arise, focus on perfecting your new skill. Knitting might not be the coolest hobby, but who am I to judge? You do you.
  8. Stop following your ex on social media. This one seems fairly obvious, but it can be seriously tempting to see what your ex is doing now that they’re not with you. You wouldn’t follow them in your car to see what they’re up to, would you? Hide in the bushes outside their apartment? No, because that would be super creepy. So, stop torturing yourself and resist the urge to stalk them on social media. Nothing you see will make you feel any better and will likely make you feel a hell of a lot worse.
  9. Cut yourself some slack. Breakups are hard. Stop torturing yourself. It’s probably not a good idea to listen to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on repeat, or watch The Notebook alone in your PJ’s with a gallon of ice cream. Unless you’re a masochist, this is not helpful. Like, not at all. Give your heart a rest and back away from the romantic comedies.
Caitlyn is a freelance writer living in Washington D.C.