A break-up of any kind can be a difficult situation to heal from especially if we did not initiate it. A severed relationship is a loss and we need to allow ourselves to grieve for that person who’s no longer in our lives. Although our ex mate is still physically in this world, the relationship or what that person represented is gone or transformed into something we do not necessarily want.
Often we feel empty, sadness and a longing for what was. We are typically consumed by thoughts of our ex, reliving past events, which often generates a lot of regret and guilt. We may put ourselves down for how we behaved in the relationship and wishing we could have done and acted differently.
Physically, we may feel an ache in our heart or somewhere else in the body, that doesn’t seem to go away. This ache then intensifies when thoughts of our ex are swirling in our head. We cannot sleep because we cannot shut our minds down.
The sadness can be overwhelming. It’s hard for us to concentrate on the day to day, and sometimes we may find it difficult to get out of bed.
I am in the midst of a post break-up as I write this article. It hasn’t been easy, but each day brings me a step closer to healing.
Don’t Deny Emotions
When the break-up is fresh, we will feel a lot of emotions that gets intensified by our thoughts around the lost relationship. This is not the time to bury these emotions and pretend we’re stronger than we actually feel.
These emotions need to be expressed so give yourself permission for this to happen. Cry if it feels right, because not only do we feel better after crying, but research shows that this exocrine process provides other benefits such as releasing toxins, relieving stress, improving vision and killing bacteria.
Heal Through Mindfulness
Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, is the awareness that emerges from “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” In other words, being mindful is intentionally being aware of what is happening now without judgment.
How Can We Use Mindfulness to Heal a Broken Heart?
Through mindfulness, we can create space around our thoughts and emotions generated by a stressful event, like the end of a relationship or a divorce. When we create this distance through purposeful awareness we tend not to get identified with or get caught up in our thoughts.
Our thoughts often get us in trouble, often we wish for things to be different and/or we are burdened by guilt, regret, shame, anger, etc. Whenever we’re engaged in our thoughts, we’re no longer in the present moment. In fact, we’re resisting it. But when we’re paying attention on purpose, if these toxic thoughts do surface we can simply notice them without judgment. A good analogy would be watching a storm from afar rather than being in the eye of a storm.
Mindfulness Technique for a Broken Heart
When the wound is new and deep, it can be challenging to do anything productive, let alone healing, but trust that if we make an effort, the hurt lessens. Here’s an example of a mindfulness technique that I’ve been using:
- Find a quiet space, and sit in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes or have a downward gaze.
- See if you can pay attention to your breathing – inhale then exhale.
- If it helps, place one hand over your heart, and another on your belly. Keep focusing on your breath.
- Now scan your body and see if you notice any discomfort, tension, or aches.
- If there is a discomfort in your body, try to focus your breathing on that part of your body. For example, for me sometimes I would feel an ache in my heart, so I would breathe through that ache, as if I can inhale and exhale through my heart.
- When thoughts come up, and they will, it’s ok to notice each thought as it surfaces, but try to bring your attention back to your breath. Sometimes I would mentally say hello to my thoughts and thank them for showing up, and then go back to my breathing. Note that we’re not trying to fight with our thoughts or resist them. And if we find that we’re getting engaged by our thoughts, when there is an opportunity, get back to the focused breathing.
Notice that there is an emphasis on paying attention to your breath. Breathing becomes an anchor for your mindfulness practice – something that helps to bring you back to the present moment. The body scan is another anchor that you can use.
Being Mindful Through Purposeful Activities
A breakup can often make us useless and unproductive. It’s so easy to just veg on the couch or in bed wallowing in our sadness. Although this can be a tempting activity, it’s one of the worst things we can do. This just exacerbates our negative feelings and it can get us further stuck in the mud.
Finding purposeful activities not only get our butts off the couch, but they also keep our minds off our ex.
Here’s another helpful article: How to Get Over a Breakup Using Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, and Gratitude