If you’ve ever loved and lost you know that a breakup can be crushing, but new research shows there’s one thing you can do to get over someone that actually works. No, it’s not eating your weight in cookie batter ice cream or throwing yourself into another hasty relationship. According to a recent study, the single best way to move on is to spend some time ruminating on your ex’s less desirable qualities, from annoying habits to bigger picture shortcomings.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, tested several popular strategies for lessening the blow of a bad breakup. They gathered 24 test subjects between the ages of 20 to 37, all of whom had recently concluded a significant relationship. Regardless of whether they had initiated their split or were on the receiving end of the breakup, all of the participants expressed strong, lingering feelings for their ex-partners.
In one prompt, the study subjects were urged to simply accept their feelings, by embracing affirmative mantras such as, “It’s ok to love someone I’m no longer with.” The second strategy was distraction. Subjects were coached to think of other, more positive things, like their favorite foods or activities. A third group was encouraged to consider their ex’s negative traits. This group reappraised their former partner, focusing on annoying habits and undesirable qualities. Finally, an additional control group received no coaching of any kind.
While all but the control group demonstrated a lowered emotional response when shown a picture of their ex, the group that spent time considering their ex’s shortcomings had significantly reduced feelings of love and longing by the close of the experiment. An electroencephalogram (EEG) test, which measures a person’s brain activity in response to stimuli, confirmed that these individuals were also measurably less captivated by their partner’s portrait. (This could come in particularly handy the next time you see an ex’s face while scrolling through social media.)
So, whether it’s their their chainsaw snoring, their defensiveness in a fight, or their inability to plan a halfway decent date night, it’s worth meditating on your ex’s least desirable qualities. It’s not an excuse to bash your ex—especially not among mutual friends—but revisiting those memories with the rose colored glasses off could be exactly what you need to finally move on. And for more on braving a tough breakup, check out The Reason Breakups Hurt So Much, According to Science.