What To Do When You Need To Get Over Someone

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In the face of a breakup, divorce, or even the challenges of unrequited love, the road toward healing can seem long and daunting. Especially for people in a long-term relationship, it can be hard to imagine what it might look like to have a life of joy and fulfillment without them at the end of a romantic relationship. Despite the difficulties, bringing ourselves back to a happy, healthy place and making space for future relationships requires us to figure out how to get over someone fast. The pain of loss can manifest in many forms, but there are a few scientifically backed strategies and coping mechanisms you can use to try and alleviate it and move forward. Engaging in activities like joining a cooking class, spending time with friends, or seeking guidance from a licensed therapist can be an integral part of the healing process, ultimately helping you become a better person and establish a strong support system.

The psychology and physiology of loss

Some psychologists have dedicated their entire careers to understanding how people cope with relationship hurts and the process of moving forward after a loss. Even if that research doesn’t make our experiences any less painful, it has provided us with a much deeper understanding of why these feelings are so deeply felt and so challenging. This knowledge can allow us to take a more informed and practical approach to putting a past relationship behind us and moving forward toward new opportunities for joy and new relationships.

Most people have experienced romantic rejection of varying degrees at some point in their lives, and it’s almost always an unpleasant experience. Feelings of dejection, lowered self-esteem, and a profound sense of loss are all incredibly common in the wake of a breakup or divorce. These psychological symptoms can be very challenging to cope with alone, which is why many people find it beneficial to talk to someone about them, such as friends or a therapist. However, the psychological experience isn’t the whole story. Addressing physical reminders and spending time with new friends can also be helpful in managing emotions and focusing on the future.

Relationship experts and researchers have found that “heartbreak” and similar feelings are not just emotional states, but can also be intensely physiological experiences. Their work has shown that heartbreak affects our brains in the same way that physical pain does—meaning that the hurt we experience is just as much our body’s reaction to feelings of loss as our mind’s.

That’s why it’s not uncommon for people who have experienced a recent loss to report symptoms like stomach aches, muscle soreness, breakouts of acne, or other physical reactions.

Similarly, our bodies can become heavily dependent on the presence of a partner to create dopamine—the ‘pleasure chemical’ in the brain. One study on subjects who recently experienced an unwanted breakup shows how the loss of their partners created a state of withdrawal in their brains, similar to the kind people might experience when quitting an addictive substance. To put it another way, caring for both your body and your mind post-breakup can be important for healing.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Three strategies for moving on from a relationship

There is no hard and fast rule for how to get over a guy or a girl because every person and relationship is unique and everyone heals at their own pace. That said, researchers have found a number of cognitive strategies that can help decrease the emotional fallout of a relationship that has ended. Here are three, research-based approaches that may be helpful when trying to get over someone. They are not mutually exclusive, so feel free to try one or all of them.

1. Reappraise your relationship

The truth is that even the healthiest romantic relationships aren’t perfect. With this in mind, it can be constructive to think about the things that were not right or that you didn’t like about your past relationship. It may feel wrong or difficult to focus on the negative, especially when you’re still full of love and care for the person. However, research shows that this may actually be a valid and practical approach for getting over someone.

In a study on negative beliefs post-breakup, it became evident that people who spent time thinking about their partner’s negative traits had an easier time getting over them. So while those qualities may not always be the best thing to fixate on while in a relationship, they can actually be helpful when trying to move past your feelings for someone. However, it is important to note that while participants who used this method had an easier time getting over their former partners, they still reported it to be an emotionally challenging experience. This method isn’t a cure-all, but it can help.

2. Consider the positives of the present

Getting over someone often requires us to accept new life circumstances. This acceptance can be complicated, but there is at least some truth to the cliche that "every cloud has a silver lining”. For example, newfound alone time may feel lonely or hard to manage, but it may also represent the chance to explore new hobbies or interests you’ve never had the time or space to try before. No longer living with a partner may mean you can move to a city you've always wanted to live in or travel to places you never could before. Even no longer having to compromise on where to get takeout food from can be a positive to add to your list, as your brain may be able to recognize the merit of even the smallest benefits.

That’s just one example of the type of thinking that can help people come to terms with post-breakup realities. A study by the American Psychological Association also found that writing can be an excellent tool for uncovering positive takeaways from otherwise negative situations. Researchers found that it doesn’t matter what kind of writing you may decide to do—as both creative writing and journaling were equally successful approaches—so long as the topic focuses on the positives of the situation’s aftermath. 

3. Pick up a new hobby

This tip is often the most straightforward way to address the dopamine deficit many find themselves in after a relationship ends. Starting a new hobby can also serve as a form of self-care that can help fill the time and emotional space you may find yourself with after a breakup.

The exciting thing about this approach is that there are limitless options to choose from. Depending on how much time you find yourself with, you may take up a creative activity like writing, painting, or crocheting. One study showed that just 45 minutes of a creative activity resulted in measurably improved self-esteem in the subjects, regardless of age, gender, or previous artistic experience. If the end of your relationship has you feeling down on yourself, taking up an art-based hobby may help.

For many people, starting a new exercise routine is another healthy and reliable outlet for moving past a relationship. Running, yoga, and weight training are good options, but they are far from the only ones. The endorphins released through vigorous exercise of all different kinds represent a scientifically-proven method of dealing with symptoms of depression for those who may experience this mental health condition after a breakup. Even for those who aren’t experiencing a mental health disorder as a result of a relationship that has ended, exercise can still provide feel-good effects.

If you’re looking for a new hobby, you might try following your heart, your passions, or your curiosity and exploring something you’ve never had the chance to do before. For example, if you’ve always loved traveling, this might be an opportunity to take a solo trip to the beach. Don’t forget that the point here is generally not to distract yourself from your feelings. Instead, the purpose is to find a meaningful way to manage and work through the sensation of loss. Distractions typically work best when they’re there to aid in the healing process, not to replace it.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

How therapy can help you get over someone

While you can undertake all the options listed above by yourself, one of the most effective methods for getting over someone is to talk about it. While confiding in trusted friends and family is often beneficial, there are times when professional help can provide the added support you need. Studies suggest that both online and in-person therapy offer similar benefits, which means that you can choose the method that feels most comfortable for you if you decide to go this route. If you’re interested in virtual therapy, a platform like BetterHelp can match you with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat at your convenience. 

Many therapists turn to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help a client who is facing the challenges of a recent breakup or divorce. CBT is centered on teaching mindfulness practices that can help individuals deal with mental distress with the aim of reframing their thinking. It can also be an effective treatment for mental health conditions like depression. CBT can be carried out in-person or online, with one recent study finding evidence for “online mindfulness-based interventions in reducing psychological distress”. This kind of therapy can help provide the perspective you may need to work toward moving past your feelings for someone and looking ahead towards your next relationship, and many people notice the benefits within a few weeks.

Takeaway

There's no "right" way to get over someone, and dealing with romantic rejection, such as asking yourself "how do I get over her," will almost always be emotionally challenging, especially if you’re experiencing constant reminders of them. Still, research suggests that methods like the ones listed here, including spending time with other friends and managing your social media interactions, can help alleviate feelings of loss over time and support you on your journey toward healing. CBT and similar therapeutic practices may also be worth exploring.
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