Q: A recent breakup has left me struggling to move on. How do I get to a stronger place besides waiting it out?
Breakups are painful. In fact, a study by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Michigan showed that the regions of the brain activated by physical pain are the very same areas activated by the emotional pain of a failed relationship. The scientists concluded, “These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection hurts.”
While there is no quick fix for a broken heart, there are strategies that might help. In a series of experiments, Harvard Business School researchers Michael Norton and Francesca Gino revealed that people who engage in rituals—for example, burning photos—recover more quickly and report feeling better than those who don’t.
Whatever ritual you choose, make it deliberate, intentional, and actionable. The key is to engage in a behavior and take control, which mitigates sadness and increases well-being. Just believing that you are doing something to help yourself feel better will, in fact, help you feel better. You (and your brain) will be in less pain.
This article originally appeared in Marie Claire.