When you've just gone through a painful breakup, it's natural if your first reaction is to want to hole up in your bedroom — lights off, under the covers, ice cream pint in hand. But while wallowing immediately after a breakup is totally normal and healthy, there is such a thing as too much wallowing. So how can you tell when it's time to turn off the TV, take a shower, and start looking for productive things to do after a breakup that can help you *really* start the healing process?
"You have to allow time to feel and heal, [but] where things get a bit dicey is when the wallowing is affecting your job, health and general well being," Lisa Concepcion, dating/relationship expert, founder of LoveQuest Coaching and creator of the 90 Day Post Break Up Detox, tells Bustle. "When you're waking up in the night in a panic, unable to sleep, eat, focus — and coworkers, friends or family notice — then you've entered a wallowing danger zone which can lead to depression if you're not careful to take some action."
Simply put, too much wallowing and reflecting on the past is unhealthy, and if you constantly give in to those feelings of sadness without looking for ways to fill your time with healthy, positive experiences after a breakup, it can prevent you from moving forward and growing as a person. That's why it's so important to find fun, fulfilling, and productive activities that will bring you some much-needed joy after a breakup.
"Being productive and structured gives you a sense of consistency and safety after having the upheaval of the breakup," Concepcion says. "Think about it, people break up and after feeling blah for a few weeks, something kicks in where they want to be productive. They want to take care of themselves. They start to look at their day and realize they have all this time and want to get stuff done!"
If you're looking for ways to fill your time after a bad breakup, here are seven productive things you can do that can set you on the fast track to healing, according to experts.
1Spend Time Volunteering
When your personal life has you feeling down, one of the best things you can do is project your energy outward, and find ways to help others — which will wind up helping you feel better, too.
"Volunteering your time to help others at a homeless shelter, Habitat For Humanity, or some charity that needs some extra hands is always a way to take your mind off things," Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and dating coach, tells Bustle. "You can also meet new people and feel energized by them and your good deeds."
2Incorporate Exercise Into Your Routine
If you're feeling a lot of pent-up stress or anger after a breakup, exercising can be a great way to channel that negativity while becoming healthier and more zen in the process. Even if you're not super into fitness, something as simple as taking a walk in the park can help clear your head.
"Taking care of yourself now by going to the gym, walking, or running is important and healthy," Trombetti says. "Exercising gives you a rush of feel-good endorphins which is a must right now."
3Do Some Traveling
Instead of feeling like you're stuck in a city that has reminders of your ex everywhere, try traveling post-breakup. A change of scenery can be massively helpful after a breakup, particularly if you're visiting a place that truly excites you and makes you feel alive.
"Experience another culture by traveling by yourself to some country you always wanted to see — [it] can be very liberating," Trombetti says. "You never who you might meet. It doesn't even have to be a [romantic interest] but new friends are always a plus."
When you feel overwhelmed with negative or anxious thoughts and feelings, rather than giving in to the temptation to wallow, take the time to write down those thoughts in a journal instead. You're physically getting them out of your head, so they're less likely to come creeping back in when you least expect it.
"Getting worried about what's going to happen or why things are the way they are, will not help you," Varsha Mathur, dating & relationship coach and founder of KnowingLuxe Coaching, tells Bustle. "Instead, consider writing in a journal as a means for reflection and healing."
5Hang Out With Your Loved Ones
When you separate from someone who was a huge part of your day-to-day life, it's going to be a jarring experience — especially because your now-ex is probably someone you leaned on a lot for support. Surround yourself with friends and family to remind yourself that a romantic partner isn't the only person who's capable of providing you with love and support.
"Be with people who already love you unconditionally," Mathur says. "This can be helpful because it will give you a sense of love and belonging that oftentimes breakups leave you lacking."
6Take An Art Class
Another great outlet for expressing your post-breakup feelings in a healthy, productive way? Art! Even if you don't exactly consider yourself the next van Gogh, you can still have fun inviting your friends to a painting or ceramics class (and laughing at the results).
"Participating in an art class can be a good outlet to express your emotion, especially after a breakup," Holly Zink, writer and relationship expert for Grapevine, tells Bustle. "See if there are any art studios or Paint Nite events near you."
7Discover A New Hobby
Whether you want to pick up an old, long-forgotten hobby or throw yourself into something totally new, having a hobby to focus on after a breakup can be a great, productive distraction.
"Find hobbies you enjoy that keep you distracted, make you happy, and may leave you with a finished product such as crafts, gardening, building something, or cooking," Kailee Place, a licensed professional counselor who focuses on young women who struggle with anxiety, relationships, self-esteem, and more, tells Bustle. "Having a tangible finished product tends to add to the feeling of accomplishment."
Getting over a breakup isn't going to happen overnight, but if you're focused on you and doing things that bring you happiness — even if you sometimes still feel sad — you'll be able to learn and grow from the breakup and become a better, more independent version of yourself. Then, when you're eventually ready to start dating again, you can feel confident knowing that you're fine on your own — while still enjoying the process of finding a partner who's better suited to you.