Think about all of the advice you’ve heard millions of times about how to get over a breakup: eat a lot of Ben & Jerry’s. Watch funny movies. Hang out with your friends. Talk about/write down your feelings. Or, um, maybe forget about that last one, because it might actually be doing you more harm than good.
Research is now saying that journaling about your breakup might not help you get over it like they always thought it would. In other words? Crying over your journal while you rant about your ex who broke your heart could be making it even harder for you to move on. That sounds a little weird, right? After all, we’ve always been told that talking about our feelings is super important. And now we’re being told that it might be making our heartbreak worse? That’s confusing.
Here’s the deal: researchers at the University of Arizona did a little study on 90 recently divorced men and women. They told them to journal for 20 minutes every day over three days – one part of the group had to explore their deepest emotions, one part had to write about their failed relationship and one part only had to write about what they did during the day. Eight months later, the groups that wrote about their feelings and relationship were the people that had made the least amount of progress in getting over their ex.
This actually makes a lot of sense to me. While I do think that talking about your feelings can be helpful (keeping everything inside just isn’t healthy), I think that talking about them too much turns into a sort of obsession. I know this because I’ve totally been there. I’ve been keeping a diary since I was a little kid – and OMG those old entries are hilarious – and I used to use it as a place to say things about guys I couldn’t say to my friends. You know, because they would think I was out of my mind crazy.
After a particularly painful breakup of mine, I started journaling constantly, like, three or four times a day. I wrote about every little detail of everything and I was like, “Oh, look at me, I’m so advanced being able to face all of my feelings like this”, and I genuinely thought this was going to help me move on. But after a little while, I realized I was more obsessed with this guy than I had been when we were dating. I decided to take a break from my journal writing and guess what? I almost instantly felt better.
So how did I get over my breakup – and how can you get over yours? I stopped being obsessed with my journal and my feelings and started hanging out with my friends more. I think the lead scientist of this research explains this pretty spot-on. He says, “If you’re someone who tends to be totally in your head and go over and over what happened and why it happened, you need to get out of your head and just start thinking about how you’re going to put your life back together and organize your time. Some people might naively call this avoidance, but it’s not avoidance.”
But at the same time, writing a little bit about your feelings is totally okay in my book. Maybe it’s because I was a psych minor, but I think it’s sort of important. Here are a few do’s and don’ts if you’re going to try it to get over your ex:
Do: Have a private journal. It’s okay to not share everything with everyone.
Don’t: Put it on your public blog. Sharing intimate breakup details and feelings is a little uncomfortable and can also backfire if your ex sees them.
Do: Write if you’re feeling extra sad and lonely. Having an outlet for your feelings can lift a weight off your shoulders.
Don’t: Write three times a day, like me. Don’t start analyzing every thought you have or everything your ex says or does. It’s going to make you obsessed and that’s not going to help you move on.
Do: Write and forget. After you get your anger out in your journal, take a deep breath and try to relax. You said what you needed to say, now it’s time to forget about it.
Don’t: Reread what you wrote. Rereading your personal saga of your breakup is going to take you down memory lane in the worst way. It’s just going to bring up bad memories and bad feelings.
So what do you think? Have you ever kept a journal? Would you write about a breakup? Have you ever, and do you think it made it harder for you to move on? Tell me in the comments!