The Challenge: Breakups are hard. How do you deal with the inevitable feelings of loneliness?
The Science: We can find ways to be happy AND alone – the key to surviving any breakup.
The Solution: Here are 5 ways to find daily happiness after a breakup.
So, I recently went through a breakup. Yes, it is hard. Yes, I still get sad. Yes, I miss him.
Yes, I promise this post takes a turn for the better if you keep reading.
I feel my breakup was particularly challenging because it was coupled with a move to a brand new city. Long distance wasn’t for us, and I knew it was coming. But I didn’t just lose my best friend. I lost all my friends. I was starting over in every way.
I recently had a friend who went through a breakup and a move as well. I was emailing him and describing some of the little things I missed about my relationship. I realized the email was sounding pretty depressing when in reality, I am all-around pretty cheerful these days.
I closed the email with “I’m painting a really horrible picture of my life here. It isn’t that bad. I’m rather pleasantly happy most days.”
His response: “ How do you stay pleasantly happy amid all this loneliness?”
And so, this post was born.
It doesn’t matter what the problem is; I am certain the answer is yoga. This is pretty apparent to anyone who spends five minutes in a room with me. Sometimes, I seem a little crazy passionate about it, but the benefits are real, and a lot of studies suggest so. Yoga helps to remind me that it isn’t about what I have but who I am. I’ve never felt more beautiful, capable, and individually powerful than after a yoga class – even though I look like a sweaty drowned rat and smell like foot.
2. Writing letters
Writing in general has been the topic of many psychological studies and has been the subject of many books. Laura King’s particular study concluded, “Writing about life goals was significantly less upsetting than writing about trauma and was associated with a significant increase in subjective well-being.”
I spend a lot of time writing about myself, writing about the trauma of the breakup, and about my personal goals as an individual. But I also recently started writing letters to friends and family. It is the mere act of thinking about someone else and what they need to hear that keeps me out of my brain and keeps me out of my problems. By helping others, I help myself. It is therapeutic for me to write to loved ones, but it also (hopefully) puts a smile on their face. Who doesn’t love getting physical mail where the return address isn’t US Bank or the DMV?
3. Coffee dates with myself
I’m not trying to preach chemical dependency or encourage solving feelings of loneliness with a stimulant. But the facts are the facts: coffee can help make us happy. But it isn’t about the chemical for me. It’s about being secure and comfortable enough to go to a coffee shop, order my favorite beverage (dirty chai tea latte), and sit and read the newspaper for an hour. It is a simple declaration of “me.” It’s a date I have with myself. To reset, recharge, and feel good. Usually, I Instagram an artsy photo or two. The lighting in coffee shops is hard to pass up…
4. Exploring nature
I am fortunate to live in the land of 10,000 lakes. When I find myself feeling lonely, I force myself to get outside in nature. It is no new secret that being outdoors improves our mental health. A multi-study analysis published by Jo Barton and Jules Pretty at the University of Essex stated “Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects.” And let me tell you, I believe it.
I spend time by the lake not only because it is beautiful, and the water has a way of making me forget any of my complaints, but it is a way to be surrounded by people. Humans are fascinating. I take the time to watch the people at the lake. I guess their lives. I guess their stories. I try to think about their past. They were probably lonely and unhappy once. And now they aren’t. And just knowing that brings me a sense of comfort. (The fish tacos at Lake Calhoun aren’t bad either for improving my mood…)
5. A gratitude journal
I write down one thing a day that I am grateful for. I keep my daily doses of gratitude in a Google Doc that I can access from my phone. So I am never without it. Just like I believe yoga is the cure-all for any problem, I also believe perspective and gratitude are key to finding moments of happiness amidst darker, challenging times. Thankfully, you don’t have to take my word for this. You can just read one of a million studies on gratitude and then try for yourself.
I know these methods don’t (or won’t) work for everyone. Everyone deals with loneliness in different ways. Overall, I just want the stigma of “being alone” not to be…well…so stigmatized. Because everyone is enough, just as they are in this present moment. You, alone, are perfect. Just as you are. And there are so many ways to find happiness and joy in every moment you spend with yourself.
Take these moments to get to know yourself and find love for yourself. You are capable of showing yourself all the love you need. Take pride and comfort in this, and know that you are okay just as you are.