How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Move on After a Breakup
By Cady Drell
Breakups are an inevitable part of dating. Sometimes the hardest part of ending things can be trying to get back to what you consider “normal” afterward, without thoughts of the person intruding every so often and making you sad all over again.
While no two breakups are alike, and how long it takes to recover differs for every person, is there anything you can do to stop thinking about your ex when you really want to move on? We asked the experts for some tools and techniques to feel better in the moment and move on in a healthy way in the long-term. Here’s what they said:
Take It Slow
It’s natural after a breakup to want to stop thinking about your ex immediately, but the experts recommend giving yourself some time to go over your experience. How much time this takes is going to differ for everybody. “I think it’s important to just give yourself permission and space to have them float in and out of your thoughts throughout the day and be okay with that,” says therapist Julia Taub.
It can even be an opportunity to learn. According to relationship therapist Rachel Sussman, “There’s information in breakups that shouldn’t be ignored, and that’s really part of what you have to do in the beginning—that deep dive.” Taking stock of what happened in the past is an important step in moving forward and seeing what you might want to do differently in future relationships. Breakups aren’t easy for anyone, but allowing yourself the space to process them can put you on the path of feeling better. Then, you can really focus on blocking out thoughts of your ex.
Try Zero Contact, at Least at First
When you’re ready to get your ex out of your head, Amy Chan, author of Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart, advises setting a time frame in which you won’t talk to them at all. “I’d recommend a complete detox from the ex,” she says. “If you constantly text your ex, whether it’s because you miss them or even to yell at them, you’re still getting an emotional charge,” she explains. “If you’re vilifying your ex, psychoanalyzing your ex, blaming your ex—you’re still in a relationship with your ex.” And when you stay emotionally connected to them, it’s harder to move on and to stop thinking about your ex.
Chan suggests setting a 60-day period in which you don’t text or call them, which helps make cutting off contact seem less overwhelming and more achievable. Also helpful? Blocking their number outright, so you’re not worrying about whether or not you’ve missed their call or text.
Consider a Social Media Break
After a breakup, logging onto Instagram can feel like walking through a minefield of potentially upsetting moments. “You need to be really mindful of social media, not only to avoid triggers around seeing your ex, but also around seeing other people who are in these seemingly-perfect relationships,” says Taub. Any reminders of your recent breakup, even if it’s through friends’ relationships, might make your thoughts turn back to your ex. To avoid this altogether, think about deleting social media apps off your phone when you’re in a period of heartbreak—it’s not for forever, but just until you feel like you can handle scrolling again.
Stick to a Routine
Most breakups include a little bit of wallowing, and that’s fine! But if thinking about your ex has become disruptive to your day-to-day routine, making a schedule you can follow helps get your thoughts back on track. “I would set small goals for yourself at first,” says Taub, who recommends checking off things as simple as ‘eating healthy’ or ‘calling a friend’ off the list. “You want to make sure that your goals are realistic, that they’re achievable, so that you’re not putting huge things in front of yourself that you can’t accomplish.”
Chan adds that including self-care in your routine is a must when it comes to how to stop thinking about your ex. She has clients stick to a 30-day calendar that includes items like writing down three things they’re grateful for, and putting in time to meditate every day. “I think the structure is very helpful,” she says. “It’s even better when you have an actual physical calendar, because you can cross it off and that actually gives you motivation to finish all 30 days.”
There’s no one right way to get over an ex, but making these small changes can help you move on and eventually make another meaningful connection.