Breaking up is tough. But instead of drifting around the house in days-old sweatpants or burning photos of your ex, it’s much more productive (and fun) to channel all that raw emotion into something positive – like traveling. The change of scenery will take you away from all those reminders of your time together, and the new experiences will help you stay positive and motivated on the rocky road back to happiness.
Heading off somewhere also means that when people ask you how you’re doing, you can tell them about your time away instead of shrugging your shoulders and telling them you’re “keeping busy.” So whether you’re planning an Eat, Pray, Love-style quest of self-discovery or you just want to do vodka shots in Magaluf with your support squad, here’s how to get the most out of your post-breakup vacation.
1. Pick somewhere blue or green.
Nature makes us happy. Research shows that being in or near green spaces reduces stress — so plan your vacation around trees, a beach, or a lake to get the maximum mood-elevating benefits from your trip. This doesn’t mean you need to book a remote mountain hut. An apartment by a park should do the trick. Just make sure you visit it as much as possible — 20 minutes a day is the recommended minimum.
2. Distract yourself.
Distracting yourself is the best way to deal with that initial breakup sadness. It not only stops you dwelling on the past, but it also reminds you of all the good things in your life. In fact, far from you burying your head in the sand, distraction is actually a form of emotional regulation that is proven to help feel grounded and present, rather than getting tied up in your grief. Doing something you enjoy lifts your mood, which, in turn, motivates you to seek out more pleasant thoughts and activities – something that’s known as the cue-routine-reward pattern. By interrupting your normal schedule with a vacation, you’re kick-starting the cycle of positivity.
3. Clear your phone.
When it comes to breakups, the less knowledge you have, the better. You don’t need to know who they’ve slept with since you parted ways – and you really don’t want an image of your ex in the loving embrace of Mark from her work haunting your every thought. Hopefully, by now you’ve angrily unfollowed them on Instagram and deleted all their photos, messages and videos. If not, now’s the time. There’s no “when I’m ready” stage: everything must go. Oh, and if you’re going out for drinks, uninstall your social media apps just to make it extra difficult to send them a drunken DM.
4. Choose your team carefully.
Solo travel is great for healing your emotions at your own pace. It makes for a more introspective experience, so if your breakup is fresh and you need a distraction, pick a close friend or two to keep you company. You’ll want to choose people who are easygoing and flexible – this is your vacation, and you don’t want to feel like you’re being dragged around. You should also keep your group small: head away with a huge crowd and you risk feeling overwhelmed, while the constant attention could leave you feeling emptier when you get back home.
5. Consider a solo trip.
If you’re over the initial breakup sting but you’re still not feeling right, then now’s the time to get some alone time. Solitude can lead to self-discovery because it gives you space to think, free from distractions. Working through your emotions isn’t always easy, but it will help you better understand yourself and the lessons you’ve learned over the course of the relationship. Doing something like meditation, writing, or talking to friends or a therapist (over Skype if you’re on vacation) can all help you address, analyze, and process those thoughts.
6. Take care of yourself.
Breaking up – even if it was on good terms – takes its toll on our minds and bodies. And the two are interlinked: If you stop looking after yourself physically, your emotions – including self-esteem, focus, and motivation — also take a hit. Research shows that when we spend a significant amount of time with someone, we start to build a routine around them and become biologically linked. Sleep times and meals and can suddenly fly off-course when we break up, which is why it’s important to stick to your regular habits as much as possible.
7. Pack for a post-breakup cold.
Breaking up is emotionally painful, but researchers have discovered your immune system also suffers. This is because it’s linked to our hormones. When we produce excessive amounts of cortisol (the stress hormone) over a prolonged period of time, it can lead to inflammation and microbiome changes in your gut that lowers your body’s ability to fight illness-causing pathogens. If you do head off on vacation straight away, pack meds that will help you feel better – including painkillers, nasal spray, and a good book (in case you’re bed-ridden for a day or two). It might not happen, but if you do start feeling sick, it’s better to have everything you need to hand without the added stress of having to find a pharmacy.
8. Don’t sleep with the first person you meet.
When we break up – especially if we’re dumped – our self-esteem suffers. One way to get an instant boost is to bask in the attention of someone else: It reminds us that we’re still lovable and makes us feel vaguely flattered. But there’s a catch: Rebound sex often ends up magnifying our sense of loss because, well, it pretty much always sucks. Especially if the sex was alcohol-induced and you get with someone you wouldn’t go near had you been sober. Now there’s nothing wrong with a rebound fling per se — just remember it won’t fill in the emotional gap, and avoid doing it while drunk to keep regret to a minimum. And if you do feel bad after, don’t beat yourself up about it, but do take it as a sign you’re not ready and focus on looking after yourself instead.
9. Keep your ex at arm’s length.
Not speaking to your ex is a given. But what if they contact you? In an ideal world, you won’t communicate with your ex at all while you’re away, but if for some reason they call or message you, remember to take the high ground — even if they were a total jerk. Screaming, crying and sexting are Not Cool and unravel all the good work you’ve done so far in helping yourself move on. Yes, it’s incredibly cathartic to give in to your feelings, but try to exercise your self-restraint. You’ll feel proud of yourself later on.
10. Do something that scares you.
New experiences are proven to release dopamine, a happy hormone that makes us feel positive. But there’s a way to get even more out this: Do something that scares you. Doing a small-but-intimidating activity, like talking to a stranger, taking a dance class, or going rock climbing can lead to increased feelings of self-confidence. Once you realize you had nothing to be afraid of, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and a buzz that will make those nights on the sofa eating pasta and watching Netflix way less appealing. You’ll also feel like you can achieve anything you put your mind to — including getting over your ex.