Love is crazily dynamic - ever evolving. Valentine's Day is usually about picture-perfect lovers and #relationshipgoals posts, but how about those among us who are in the “heartache” stage, and in need of some self-love?
This #LIVEUNFILTERED Drop is an extra-special, unfiltered peek at an often under-discussed part of the love cycle - the breakup.
Cue Amy Chan, Chief Heart Hacker and founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp, a woman who used her own devastating heartache to catalyze her creative potential and engineer a business empire based on blossoming after breakups.
We were lucky enough to garner a few scientific, raw, unfiltered bits of advice from the guru herself. We hope you’re feeling the love today - whichever stage you are in - and you enjoy Amy's three Happy Heart tips for moving forward through relationship transitions.
1. Wean off the ex!
After a separation, the same flood of chemicals that caused you to be blissfully in lust during the beginning stages of love are the exact same chemicals that cause you to painfully suffer when the relationship ends. A brain imaging study showed that the recently heartbroken showed activity in the same areas of the brain as cocaine addicts fiending for their next fix. Your brain is in withdrawal.
During the withdrawal stage of separation, your brain is primed for obsessive behavior and your motivation system is seeking dopamine. Think of your ex as the drug dealer, and each time you stalk his social media, hook up, or reread old messages from him, you’re getting your dopamine fix, which keeps you addicted.
It’s time to digitally detox from your ex. Delete old messages, photos, unfollow his accounts and even better, take a break from social media all together. Block his number if you have to, so you don’t obsess about him not contacting you. When you want to interact with your ex, replace the urge with another behavior that forces you to be present. This may be calling a friend, engaging in sports or some physical activity, or writing a letter of gratitude to someone you love. The first few times you divert your behavior it will feel contrived and extremely challenging, but the good news is, the more you practice replacing the self-sabotaging urge with a healthy practice, the more the latter route becomes easier and more natural.
2. Label your feelings
After a breakup, there's a lot of emotions to work through. One way of processing emotions in a healthy way is to label your feelings. A study conducted by UCLA professor of psychology, Matthew D. Lieberman revealed that putting feelings into words makes sadness, anger and pain less intense. Anger shows an increased activity in amygdala, the part of the brain that monitors fear and sets off a series of biological alarms and responses to protect the body from danger. When the angry feeling is labeled, Lieberman and his team of researchers noted a decreased response in the amygdala and an increased activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain that processes emotions and inhibits behavior.
3. Combat depression with gratitude
Feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place.
Research shows that in a 2 minute span of time done for 28 days in a row, you can actually rewire your brain. At the end of that period, your brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world for the positive and not the negative. Seeing things in a frame of positivity and gratitude is a muscle, and like any muscle you can strengthen it through practice. Take pen to paper, and write down three things you’re grateful for, and why and do this everyday for 28 days.
Amy Chan is the Founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp, a retreat that takes a scientific and spiritual approach to healing the heart. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of JustMyType.ca - an online magazine that focuses on the psychology behind love, lust and desire. Marie Claire calls her "A relationship expert whose work is like that of a scientific Carrie Bradshaw" and her company was recently featured on the front page of the New York Times. Her book, Breakthrough Your Breakup - A Scientific and Spiritual System to a Love That Lasts, published by Harper Collins, will be released Spring 2020.