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Science and Chocolate: How Science Can Help Coping with a Breakup

The Harris Law Firm

Breaking up sucks. No one enjoys losing someone they love, no matter how necessary it may be. Most people seek the comfort of familiar sad songs illustrating the pain in words we cannot come up with. Others turn to the comfort of ice cream and chocolate to null the ache with delicious sweets. For those truly adventurous, they watch romantic comedies and epic love stories, lamenting their own broken relationship. Though these temporarily offer relief, they do not target the deeper problems.

New research shows that heartache can have a scientific structure behind it. At Northwestern University, a team of social psychologist studied the effects a break up can have on a person physically and mentally. Led by Grace Larson, the team gathered 210 volunteers who recently went through a heartbreak, primarily due to a significant break up. The group was split in half. The first group was asked to regularly come into the lab and answer research questions about their pain. They did this for about nine weeks. The other group simply answered two surveys, one at the beginning of the study and the other at the end.

What Larson discovered was the first group fared better than the other group. Although people usually shy away from talking about recent break ups, the study found that answering the questions helped the volunteers’ process through the grief faster. It allowed them to come to terms with their new, post-relationship reality, thus leading to quicker healing. The other group still showed signs of significant loss and the need for healing.

Heartache, the Body, and the Mind

It appears that heartache does actually cause physical pain. In 2011, five psychologists conducted a study that examined how the brain responded to emotional pain. The test subjects were shown pictures of their exes while the researchers observed brain activity. What they found was the same portion of the brain lit up that processes physical pain.

This shows that heartache is not simply a mental challenge, but takes a toll on physical health as well. Other studies found that breakups could have a substantial effect on couples. When two people around each other for a long time, their biological rhythm tends to sync together, especially for married couples. Therefore, when the pair splits, it can take a toll on their health.

Breakups can affect:

  • Sleeping patterns
  • Appetite
  • Body temperature
  • Heart rates
  • Immune system

Other studies show that a lovesick brain resembles the same characteristics of a brain that is going through cocaine withdrawals. However, do not despair just yet. Another study at the University of Kentucky suggests that painkillers such as Tylenol can help relieve heartache.

These studies show that an individual must first heal their bodies before they can solely focus on their mind. However, once the heartbroken individual has regulated their body’s health, it is important to take care of their mentality. Like the volunteers in Larson’s study, an individual must take time to reflect and grieve of the loss of their relationship (though professionals warn against spending too much time wallowing). The research questions during Larson’s experiment helped the participants process through their breakup. By confirming the split, they were forced to reflect on who they were outside of being someone in a relationship.

By figuring out who you are as a person, outside of a couple, you can reclaim a sense of yourself that gets lost in a relationship. Studies show that revisiting old friendships, starting new hobbies, and not blaming yourself can all help with the recovery process.

At The Harris Law Firm, we understand how difficult it is to end a relationship. You may feel lost or confused about the situation. That is why we are here to help. If you and your ex are going through a divorce, our Colorado divorce attorneys can help. We are equipped to help you through this process to ensure you make it out of the ordeal strong and prepared. Call us today for a consultation and take the next step towards your new future.


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If you are in need of a compassionate, skilled, and experienced Colorado family law attorney, The Harris Law Firm can help. If you have a legal question about a domestic relations issue, including divorce and the allocation of parental rights, please complete our contact form below. A member of our legal team will be in touch with you soon to arrange a private consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Together we can find a resolution.
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