‘Put your face into the wind and scream’
Take up Muay Thai – it’s a great way to get really sweaty on a weekly basis. If the heartbreak is really bad, travel solo, going as far and as for as long as you can, preferably somewhere with a lot of open space – I ended up in Newfoundland and Mongolia after separate heartbreaks. Put your face into the wind and scream, or cry, or whatever it is you need to do to let it go. Remind yourself to keep looking forward when you find yourself ruminating. Then, like all things, give it time.
Meg, cartographer, Sydney, Australia
‘I stopped going to the pub and started going for walks’
After my breakup, I kept myself busy any way I could as the boredom and quietness was a killer. After a few months, I stopped going to the pub as much and started going for short walks every day instead, and longer walks at weekends. I got really into podcasts, which channelled my brain into thinking about things other than the old relationship or work. Within a few weeks, I started to feel noticeably happier, as well as physically and mentally healthier. Watching the Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe also helped a lot.
Owen, software engineer, London
‘Visit places you went together and rewrite those memories’
At first, I did furious amounts of research – magazines, online articles, forums, podcasts, Ted Talks – to try to answer all the questions I had. But, ultimately, it’s your friends who will help you remember your own worth and distract you with fun, and talk of new hopes and dreams. You have to try and like yourself. Go to the places you went together and rewrite those memories.
Laura, journalist, London
‘Dog-sitting gave me a sense of purpose and routine’
After a particularly painful split from an ex, I threw myself into dog-sitting. It was the dead of winter and I was unemployed – both perfect for plunging into a black hole of wallowing introspection. In dire need of a distraction, I joined a dog-sitting site and was matching with Hattie, a three-year-old weimaraner. Her owners needed someone to look after her, and their flat, asap. Those two weeks proved to be utterly invaluable. The responsibility of looking after another living being – feeding, cleaning and walking it regularly – took me out of my own head and gave me a sense of purpose and routine. The physical and mental energy it took to keep up with this particularly boisterous dog also helped to alleviate the anxiety I had been experiencing for weeks.
Nicola, content producer, London
‘Go for an entertaining revenge’
My husband was having an affair so I went to see the other woman and we decided he was messing us both around. She turned out to be an interesting and talented woman so she and her children came to live with me for the next two years, to my husband’s huge irritation. She and I both went on to marry other men but we have remained friends for the past 50 years. My advice is to go for an entertaining revenge and then live a fulfilling life.
Anonymous, New Zealand
‘I reread one of my favourite series of books’
A long time ago, my boyfriend and I had a very acrimonious break-up. It was agonisingly painful, and to distract myself from thoughts of betrayal and revenge, I began to reread one of my favourite collections of books: the Aubrey–Maturin series of nautical novels by Patrick O’Brian. After about 10 books and two weeks spent sailing on the high seas, totally immersed in the adventures of Jack and Stephen, I stepped once more on to dry land – and found that I was cured.
Pam Thomas, library assistant, Wiltshire
‘I got two rescue rabbits’
When my husband left I was in pieces and, after a year or so, I decided I’d had enough of coming home to an empty house. I ended up rehoming two rabbits from a rescue – they lived in my living room. Having a reason to get up in the morning, looking forward to seeing a pair of little expectant faces waiting for me when I got home, and enjoying their warm fluffy company in the evenings made all the difference to my mood and helped me focus on something other than my own sadness. I would advise doing your research, though – rabbits’ needs are often massively underestimated – and don’t get expensive furniture!
Anna, charity fundraiser, Birmingham
‘Allow yourself time to mourn’
When my last relationship ended, many friends encouraged me to go out, to meet someone new, in the hope that it would make me feel better. It didn’t. The reasons for the heartbreak don’t matter: you are not a robot who can magically switch off your feelings. You need time to breathe, to understand what is going on, and to fully embrace sadness for as long as it is needed. Allow yourself time to mourn.
‘Try not to pore over photos, texts and social media’
I found it helped to avoid romantic films, songs about love, or nostalgic places. Stick to comedies, pop and places of no significance. Try not to pore over photos, texts and social media, or fantasise about “what if?”. Your heart has been injured and needs time to recover; avoid putting it through the emotional wringer while it’s healing. Slowly you will start to feel better, and you’ll know that there will be happier times ahead.
Joanna Dale, Lewes
‘Country music provides a satisfying soundtrack to grief’
Listen to country music. It will get you through the wallowing stage when you feel like doing nothing, and you’ll find hundreds of songs to cover each of the five stages of grief. I wouldn’t classify myself as a huge country fan but at emotionally turbulent times in my life, I find it really covers the whole gamut of human emotion and experience. From bad breakups to single-life empowerment, it’s got you sorted – and provides a satisfying soundtrack while you grieve and pick up the pieces. Plus it’s cheaper than therapy.
‘I learned how to race in a velodrome’
When someone I cared for deeply ended things, I learned how to race in a velodrome. I’m not sure why I did it – the class was terrifying. We rode fixed-gear bicycles with no brakes and, as track-racing is a bit of a chess match, you had to be riding inches off the wheel of the person in front of you. Those two-hour sessions of terror at the track got me through the worst of that breakup. You can’t afford to feel sorry for yourself – or think about much at all – when you are flying around the track. This respite from grief three times a week sped up the process of healing quite a bit – but it was a miracle I didn’t crash, because in the rest of my life I am a total klutz.
Laura Pierce, Washington
‘I went on a big, solo adventure’
After receiving a pretty hefty tax return, I booked a trip to the Annapurna ranges in the Himalayas. I wanted to get both physical and emotional distance from the person who broke my heart – and it worked! As a solo traveller, it was a lot easier to meet new people and make new friends and it completely removed me from how I was feeling. Also, the physical challenge of doing a trek made me focus on the bare necessities of my day: walking, eating and resting. It was one foot in front of the other on the road to healing the heartbreak.
‘I isolated myself in an old farm in France’
My advice is to get really busy with something you have never done before. I left London for France and isolated myself in an old farm in Mayenne. I had very little money, no car and I didn’t know anybody. It was winter, snowing and I had to walk 12km to buy food and find wood to heat the space. It was very hard, physically, but I was so busy doing things that I got over the worst of the heartbreak in six, long, cold months. I also got really fit which felt great when spring arrived. I started to date again but I never came back to London.
Aline du Rocher, arts manager, France