A Complete Guide On How To Be Happy After A Breakup - Max Jancar
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A Complete Guide On How To Be Happy After A Breakup

By Max Jancar | Published: February 16, 2024 | 16 Minute Read | Healing

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Everyone wants to be happy after their breakup. But many people approach the undertaking in a totally backward, retarded way.

They try to convince themselves that they’re feeling great when they actually cry themselves to sleep at night. They bullshit themselves that they’ll be happier if they just keep bugging their ex, even when their ex clearly communicated that they want space. They get lost in trying to achieve stratospheric work success just to avoid feeling like a failure. Some even try to medicate or fuck their breakup pain away.

Cue the heroin orgies!

Don’t be like these people. There is a more grounded and effective approach to being happy after a breakup. Dare I say, a better approach. And while I will outline it shortly, let’s start from the beginning.

What Is Happiness

While there is no universally accepted definition of happiness, researchers and scientists generally agree that it consists of three key components:

First, there’s subjective well-being. Which encompasses an evaluation of our emotional life and the balance of positive and negative emotions we experience on a day-to-day basis.

Second, there’s life satisfaction. This is a measurement of how content we feel so far in general. Are we behaving in alignment with our values and beliefs? Are we meeting our goals and aspirations? Is our life headed in a direction we’re glad about? Those kinds of things.

Third, there’s meaning and purpose. This usually comes from pursuing a vision that’s important to us and that we’re willing and okay with sacrificing a bit for — be that our time, effort, relationships, health, and so on.

This is all good — defining happiness is important. But I’m convinced it’s equally important to look at what happiness isn’t. So here’s my take on that.

What Happiness Is Not

First, happiness isn’t static nor simple to obtain and keep. Most people simplify it as this fixed state based on external experiences we catch or obtain and then maintain indefinitely. Bullshit. Happiness is a dynamic state we embody, based almost entirely on internal experiences, and that requires ongoing effort and commitment to sustain.

Second, happiness is not the same as positivity. So when we put on a fake grin and try to pump ourselves up in the morning in front of a mirror, that’s not actually happiness — it’s merely positivity. In this example, even toxic positivity. Because we’re suppressing our negative emotions through self-deceit. And that only leads to emotional trauma. Put differently, happiness isn’t about feeling good all the time but about learning to accept and manage the full spectrum of emotions we experience.

Third, happiness is not the same as pleasure. Sure, pleasure is correlated with happiness, but it does not produce it. More fast-food, luxury cars, hookers, and cocaine might make us feel good, but these things won’t make us happy. In fact, they tend to make us feel worse in the long run. This happens because whatever gives us mere pleasure is often meaningless or a cheap distraction from some type of pain or fear.

Last, happiness is not the same as success. It’s not something we achieve by ticking off a list of accomplishments. Indeed, success begets temporary satisfaction, but that’s not a sustainable form of long-term happiness. As I wrote earlier, a big part of happiness is finding meaning and purpose and passionately pursuing something that matters to us — which might not be the same thing as what most people deem successful.

With the theory out of the way, let’s talk practice. How can you actually be happy after a breakup — or just about any adversity life hurls at you?

Onwards we row.

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How To Feel Happy After A Breakup

Below are ten ways you can be happier right now. Be warned: most are emotionally challenging to follow, so be prepared to put some decent effort into them. Also, note that they are listed in no particular order. Enjoy.

1. Get The Basics In Order

These are very simple and boring, and you’ve probably heard your friends and family recommend them at some point. But they are essential. So bear with me.

If you want to dive deeper into the points above, read: A No Bullshit Guide To Self-Care After A Breakup.

2. Accept Your Breakup

There’s a saying in the western world that gets thrown around a lot: shit happens. It’s one of those silly remarks that feels really deep and profound on the surface but actually isn’t. Yet, it still holds acute accuracy.

In life, we fail at stuff. We lose our jobs, we lose our relationships, we lose ourselves. Shit, indeed, does happen. But that’s fine. Life is complicated, so it’s normal to fail sometimes… or even most of the time.

In fact, life will never conform to our desires, nor will it mold itself so that we can avoid dealing with what we fear, hate, or worry about. It will unfold itself without taking any interest whatsoever in our wishes, hopes, or aspirations.

Ironically, it’s the acceptance of this painful truth that will allow you to become more appreciative, content, and ultimately happy after a breakup.

The same can be said for accepting your imperfections.

3. Accept Your Imperfections

You and me, we’re not perfect. And we’ll never be perfect. Because perfection is a mirage — a dumb fairy tale we made up.

You’ll never rid your mind of all emotional issues, flaws, and insecurities, and neither will I. And if by some divine miracle that does happen, sooner or later, new emotional issues, flaws, and insecurities will sprout up, and we’ll be condemned to start our brain-scrubbing process all over again.

So what can you do? Simple. Stop trying to perfect yourself all the damn time.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Do chase progress; just don’t get caught up in the assumption that there’s some mountaintop you’ll reach one day where you’ll be able to strip away all your bad qualities and habits.

There is no such peak. It’s believing there is one is just a shortcut to being one miserable motherfucker.

4. Take Responsibility For Your Breakup

Probably the worst thing you can do for your happiness is not take responsibility for your breakup and play the victim.

Here’s the bitter truth: you may not be responsible for the downfall of your relationship, but you’re always responsible for how you respond to the downfall.

You can bitch and moan about how life’s not fair and how bad you have it. Good luck finding people who will put up with your bullshit, by the way. Or you can start asking yourself, “What can I learn from this,” or “What can I do about this.” Pick the second approach. Or risk ending up a pretty unhappy person.

Remember: you can’t change what has happened, but you always have full control over how you will respond to what has happened.

5. Stop Blaming Your Ex

Tying in with my last point, blaming your ex is just another way to take less responsibility and play the victim. It sucks, and it’s annoying. So don’t do it.

Besides, most people who blame their ex usually just try to dodge the painful truth of why their relationship didn’t work out.

You can blame your ex all you want, but in doing so, even if it feels nice in the short term, you are only limiting your ability to be truly happy in the long.

6. Practice Gratitude

Take a deep breath — in through your nose and out through your mouth. Relax your face muscles, let your eyelids hang halfway, and let go of any tension you feel. Think about nothing, and judge yourself for nothing. It’s only you and the endless void.

When you reach the end of this sentence, stop reading, put down your phone, turn off your computer, and just be grateful for something — for anything — the chair you sit on, the roof over your head, friends helping you out with your breakup, that heroin orgy you participated in.

Aaaaaand…. Go!

(Waiting…)

How was it? Probably not easy. That’s fine. It’s never smooth the first time, but you get better with practice.

Many people squirm when they hear about becoming grateful for something because they often associate it with those hippie idiots you see making crystal shrines in their bedrooms.

However, this association is dead wrong. There are umpteen studies about the benefits of being grateful. In brief, it’s proven to improve your relationships, mental health, self-esteempsychological resilience, and, of course, your baseline happiness.

7. Cultivate Mindfulness

Mindfulnes means being aware of our current internal world (thoughts, feelings, urges) and the external world right in front of us (what’s happening right this moment). The aim of being mindful is to stay aware of these two worlds.

Like gratefulness, mindfulness also promotes happiness. However, it doesn’t stop there. It’s also said to reduce anxiety, reactivity, and stress; and enhance compassion, empathy, positive emotions, and emotional self-control. So maybe give it a shot.

In practice, mindfulness looks like sitting down somewhere you won’t be disturbed, closing your eyes, and paying attention to the sensations in your body and the thoughts and feelings circulating in your mind.

But here’s the catch: pay attention WITHOUT trying to stop, avoid, or judge yourself for the sensations you feel or the feelings, urges, and thoughts you experience. The point is to build a friendly and open attitude to these things, even when they’re uncomfortable, painful, or scary.

So the next time you sit down to practice this stuff and feel your heart burning, painful thoughts of your ex coming up, or hear a nagging voice inside your head telling you you’re an unworthy sack of shit — don’t withdraw or run away from the sensations and experiences. Welcome them. For those are the sensations and experiences you need to get in touch with in the first place.

8. Rely On External Validation As Little As Possible

External validation refers to seeking approval, recognition, or validation outside of yourself. So from other people, institutions, objects, or even society at large. At its core, external validation is about performance — how others will perceive and think of you and how you appear to them.

Some examples of external validation include:

On the other hand, internal validation — rooted mainly in self-acceptance, personal values, and beliefs — refers to deriving a sense of worth, satisfaction, and validation from within oneself. So independent of external factors or the opinions of others.

Unlike external validation, internal is an infinite resource you always have control over. It also doesn’t just give you a meaningless high or an ego boost that fades away in a second, opening the floodgates to feeling like a turd again — as does external validation. Instead, it stabilizes your baseline happiness and (usually) keeps it intact indefinitely.

Moral of the story? Minimize reliance on external validation, and you’ll be happier post-breakup. And the reason I say minimize as opposed to, for instance, eliminate, is because biologically, you can’t eliminate reliance on external validation.

9. Strive Toward Your Ideal Self

Want to remodel your apartment? Start that side business? Travel the fucking world? Maybe you should do it. Sure, your remodeled apartment may turn out ugly. Your new startup may fail. Your luggage may get stolen while you’re in a third-world country. These are all real risks.

But here’s the kicker: the risks are the point. There’s a good chance you’ll waste a ton of money and time on these endeavors. Yet, despite this, some will result in the most meaningful time spent in your life. And that can very well make you happier — much happier.

Why is that? Because through pursuing these types of endeavors, we get an opportunity to step into our ideal self — a chance to chase after meaningful goals we’ve set for ourselves. And it’s this process that fundamentally generates real happiness.

So how can you start striving toward your ideal self? First, decide what you want to achieve — what you’re willing to suffer and sacrifice for. Then, start working on whatever that is. And please, don’t overthink it. Just start somewhere. Just do something.

The fact that you’re moving in some direction of your ideal self will, by itself, spark happiness. And this goes for whether you achieve your goals or not. The fact that you’ve tried and gone all the way on some dream or aspiration is usually all you need to be truly happy.

10. Be Mindful Of Death

I know, I know… This ain’t a cheerful way to end an article. But stay with me here.

Consider the notion that death imbues life with meaning. Therefore, when confronted with the inevitable transience of existence — realizing that all we cherish and hold dear will ultimately wither away and die — we’re compelled to discern what truly matters and what doesn’t.

Put another way, being mindful of your eventual decay forces you to figure out what you should and shouldn’t care about — it compels you to make deliberate choices about your priorities.

Because in the shadow of your own death, all of life’s frivolities fade away. Your material possessions, your social status, your external success and accomplishments, even adversities like your breakup.

None of these things really hold the same weight anymore when confronted with the fact that we’re nothing but a flicker between two bays of never-ending blackness.

So maybe focus on the simple things, the things that actually matter. Spending time with those you care about who haven’t kicked you to the curve yet. Helping others going through a similar adversity than you. Or simply reveling in the fact that you actually had a relationship. Lots of people never get to feel what’s that like in the first place.

Becoming Happy After A Breakup Is Virtually Guaranteed

It’s astonishing how little a breakup actually influences your happiness in the long term. Sure, you may feel like shit right now, but you won’t feel that way forever. You’re far more resilient than you think.

Dan Gilbert, a brilliant scientist and author of Stumbling On Happiness, proved that when bad and painful things happen to people, they weep and whine for a while, and then they pick themselves up and get on with their lives.

Take Pete Best, the original drummer for The Beatles. That is, until they “fired him” for not being like them and brought in Ringo Star to take his place. Naturally, Pete was devastated by his band’s betrayal. I mean, it was 1962, a year before the Beatles got big. However, years later, he publicly states that he’s happier than he’d ever been with the Beatles.

If I were a betman, I’d bet you’d experience the same narrative. For the next few weeks, months, years, or however long it may take, you’re going to feel like the all-enchanting glow of your once fruitful life fell into the void.

However, after we expand your life’s timeline far enough, you’ll realize that life hasn’t lost its glow. You’ll realize that this is not the end, but merely a new beginning. And when that moment comes, you’ll be happy again.

In other words, sometimes simply waiting and doing nothing is enough to taste happiness again. Besides, the more you try to force yourself to be happy, the less happy you’ll feel.

Therefore…

Maybe Stop Trying To Be Happy Altogether

The problem with trying to be happier after a breakup is similar to the problem of trying to eliminate sadness and anger or remove the fear that you’re not going to meet anyone better than your ex.

The harder you try, the less likely you are to succeed.

This pretty much aligns with Mark Manson’s Backwards Law concept, which I talk about extensively on this blog. The theory goes that the more we pursue something, the more we achieve the opposite of what we truly want and the more disappointed and dissatisfied we feel afterward.

This is because wanting and pursuing a positive experience is itself a negative experience, while accepting a negative experience is itself a positive experience.

In terms of happiness, desperately clawing for it just highlights how unhappy you are. In contrast, accepting your unhappiness allows you to accept the fact that life is full of it. Oh, and you’ll also appreciate the happy moments that come your way so much more.

So maybe stop trying for once. Stop trying to change your internal state. Stop trying to be happy. And perhaps it changes everything.

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