One of the hardest breakup I went through was followed by constant, obsessive and self-critical thoughts about my ex, the breakup, and the relationship.
“Why didn’t I pay her more attention?”
“Why did I take her for granted?”
“If I had done _____ when she was upset, maybe we would still be together.”
These thoughts were almost always accompanied by a vivid scene playing in my mind. For example, I would imagine a scene of us fighting, and then I would do something in my imagination that I didn’t do in reality. Something that could have possibly saved the relationship.
I would also often think about the highlights of our relationship. The first date. The first kiss. The first time we held hands. When I could feel her breath on my lips. Imagining those moments made me feel like I was living them again. That I was loved. That maybe we are still together and the breakup is just a phase. But when the reality hit, that we were broken up, it was again painful.
After a few weeks, the thoughts about the past became less intrusive. But they were quickly replaced by thoughts of what my ex was doing, who she was spending time with, how I can get her back, and how I can lose her forever if she finds someone else.
The thoughts were still obsessive but not so much self-critical. They were, what my therapist would call, fantasies about what could happen or what could be happening right now.
I would imagine my ex living her life, not caring about me at all. I would imagine her being happy, when I was in so much pain.
I would think about the things she could be doing right now. Spending time with her friends. Eating dinner at our favorite restaurant. Our favorite restaurant. Without even thinking about me for one second.
I would imagine the scenarios in which I would get her back. I would think about contacting her just at the right moment, and she would be happy to hear from me. These fantasies actually felt good and calmed me down.
But the thing that hurt the most was the thought of her moving on from me and finding someone else. It would make my blood boil. Even if it was happening just in my head.
I would imagine her flirting with the friend who she always said was “just a friend”. I would imagine the a**hat confessing his feelings to her, and then I would imagine her kissing him. I thought about that scenario way too much.
The thoughts weren’t very reasonable. Or logical. But at that time, they dictated how I felt. If I was thinking positive, I would feel good. If I was being self-critical or thinking about my ex moving on, they made me feel sad, depressed and hurt.
These thoughts would last for hours. I would force myself to go about my day, but the thought would still be there at the back of my mind. Sometimes, they would last the entire day.
The thoughts of her moving on from me were always more prevalent. I guess I kept repeating that scenario in my head because I was trying to accept it. Accept the fact that it’s over. And that she will soon be with someone else. I was inflicting pain upon myself intentionally because I felt I had to get used to the pain.
It didn’t work.
Not in the way I hoped.
I did eventually stop thinking about her. It did eventually stop hurting. I did eventually accept the breakup.
But it was mostly because I shifted the way I approached the breakup. I treated myself with kindness. I focused my time and energy on self-improvement and self-acceptance.
I healed because I learned that there are things that I can’t control and there are things I can control. And I am much better off thinking about things I can control.
I also implemented a lot of tactics and good advice from some wise people that helped me in the process. And I am going to share all of that in this article.
I Can’t Stop Thinking About My Ex – The Bottom Line
If you can’t stop thinking about your ex, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s very common after a breakup. It’s important to remind yourself that the breakup wasn’t completely your fault. And while the romanticizing the past may make you miss your ex, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to get your ex back.
Here are some important points to remember when you can’t stop thinking about your ex:
1. These thoughts appear because human beings are wired to not let go of an ex romantic partner easily. We are programmed by evolution to preserve all important social connections, especially someone we love.
2. Thinking about your ex is part of the breakup grief. Your mind keeps thinking about your ex because because it wants to relive the good memories, it wants to change the bad memories, and it wants to accept whatever may happen in the future.
3. Whenever the thoughts about your ex or the breakup surface, try to be mindful and ask yourself; “Is this something I can control?” or “Is there a lesson I can learn from this thought”. Doing so will give the thought a purpose. And that, in turn, will help you move forward.
4. If you find yourself reconsidering the breakup or thinking about getting back together, remind yourself of the reasons you both broke up in the first place. While some couples do get back together in a stronger relationship, it’s not always the case.
5. It’s very important to implement self-care and treat yourself with kindness. Remind yourself that it will take time to heal form the breakup. But you will eventually stop thinking about your ex all the time.
You are not alone in what you are going through right now. To give you some context, here’s what some of our readers have to say about the way they think about their ex. Notice how some of them think about their ex all day, while for some of them, the thoughts about their ex would come occasionally.
“I am constantly thinking about him with the new girl and it’s eating me alive. I texted him a few days ago, telling him that I still want us to work but he started blaming me for the break up and said he hates me”– Holly
“I know that I should spend more time to work on myself, which I have, but some part of the day my mind would always go back to thinking about her.”– Unknown
“We are on good terms and I am working on myself a lot. New clothes, gym etc it’s hard to stop thinking about her though!!”– James
“I finally feel that I’m getting to the point of not thinking about her all the time. I know I’m making progress, I just don’t want to lose this one. I really care about her.”– Chris
Before, I used think about her every second of the day. But since the last 3 days, I remember her maybe few times in an hour. I guess I’m healing.-Okey
(Source: Comment Section and Reader Emails)
Note: We have helped thousands of readers heal from the breakup, stop thinking about their ex all the time, and even get their ex back (if the relationship is right for them) with our free email series. To subscribe, you need to take this quiz that also tells you your chances of reconciliation.
Why can’t some people stop thinking about an ex?
If you are missing your ex or are going through breakup grief, it just means that you and your ex shared a special bond. And that bond meant a lot to you.
Different people cope with a breakup differently. For some people thinking about their ex, the good memories, the bad memories, how the breakup happened, and the mistakes they made is a coping mechanism. But sometimes, these thoughts overstay their welcome and become intrusive.
The reason why you can’t stop thinking about your ex depends on your attachment style/personality, your relationship with your ex, the way the breakup happened, the way your ex acted after the breakup, and your current situation with your ex.
1. Your Attachment Style, self-esteem, and personality traits.
If you have an anxious attachment style, low self-esteem, or if you possess certain character traits (such as perfectionism or neuroticism); you are likely to think about your ex constantly trying to figure out what went wrong and what you can do to fix it.
Research conducted at University of Basel by Farah Kuster showed that low self-esteem is a predictor of rumination. The research also warned that rumination can often lead to depression.
Having these personality traits or low self-esteem usually means you are either scared of losing your ex forever, or you are afraid of not finding love again.
According to Healthline, constantly thinking about the past is common in people who always put the needs and wants of others before them. If you were the type of person who would always give priority to your ex’s feelings over yours, or if you would often make sacrifices for your ex, or if you had trouble setting boundaries; you are very likely to have constant thoughts about your ex.
It’s also worth noting that introverts have a higher tendency to overthink things generally, and as a result, they may think about their ex too much.
2. Your relationship with your ex meant a lot to you.
Some people really feel that the relationship with their ex was special. They often say that their ex was their soulmate or that they were perfect for each other. As I mentioned above, people often feel like they have won a great prize when they find such a relationship, and losing it can feel like a great loss. If your ex feels the same way about you, then there is a chance both of you will eventually get back together.
But for some people, the past relationship just feels like something special because their self-esteem and identity was tied to the relationship. They kind of lose themselves in the relationship and when the breakup happens, they just feel completely lost. They constantly think about getting back together because they want to feel like themselves again and are afraid of the unknown.
Another way to see such relationships is by thinking of them as co-dependent relationships. In such relationships, you feel like you are dependent on your ex to feel like yourself and you are lost without them. You have a dysfunctional reliance on your ex to feel good about your life. Your ex may also feel this way or the co-dependency may be just one-sided.
Note that unhealthy attachment to your ex or your previous relationship is usually based on fear and scarcity. The fear of losing yourself or your ex.
There is, no doubt, that some relationships truly are special because both partners feel a type of connection that they have never felt before. And these types of relationships form an attachment based on love, understanding, and respect.
3. The breakup may have been a shock to you.
The breakup may have been sudden or the way your ex acted during or after the breakup may have been unexpected. Maybe you never expected the breakup and you were completely blindsided. Maybe you expected the breakup but the way the breakup happened was completely unexpected. In such scenarios, the shock from the breakup can last for a long time and as a result, you may think about your ex a lot to process what happened.
In some situations, your ex may start dating someone else quickly and that may feel like a shock to you as well.
4. You may be thinking of ways to get them back.
Your thoughts about your ex may or may not revolve around the idea of getting your ex back. It’s normal to wonder if you can get back together and how to make that happen. But such thought patterns are often coming from a place of fear rather than from a place of understanding and fixing the issues.
Again, these thoughts are related to low self-esteem, anxious attachment style, or co-dependency in the previous relationship. These thoughts include things like,
– Fear of your ex moving on from you or dating someone else.
– Fear that your ex will stop loving you.
– And the worst of them all, fear that your ex never loved you or cared about you. Even after everything you did for them and the relationship.
The thoughts about getting them back are an attempt to stop your ex from moving on and to prevent these fears from becoming a reality.
Yes, there are healthy ways to get back with an ex and a lot of couples reconcile into a relationship that is stronger and healthier than before. But when you approach getting your ex back because of fear, you are likely to end up pushing them away or getting back into an unhealthy relationship that ends again soon.
When Does Thinking About an Ex Becomes a Problem?
Thinking about an ex is normal after a breakup. In most cases, the thinking decreases with time, and you eventually move on. But for some people, it becomes an issue because of the following reasons.
1. If the frequency and duration of the thoughts about your ex do not decrease with time, it can get really frustrating and you may start feeling like you have no control over your thoughts.
2. The emotional impact of the thoughts is extreme: Thinking about your ex can make you sad, or regretful, and maybe even wonder how things could be different. But if it causes you extreme distress, it becomes an issue.
3. Thinking about your ex impacts your current relationships, decisions, and overall well-being. It can hinder you from moving forward, creating new relationships, or fully engaging in your present life.
4. If you feel you are helpless and have no control over your thoughts regarding your ex, then you need to have a strategy to help you stop these intrusive thoughts.
5. If you feel you are unable to move on from your ex or that you have not made any progress since the breakup, then these thoughts are probably one of the reasons for that.
6. Constantly focusing on negativity can lead to more serious mental health issues.
Constant rumination has been linked to depression according to the American Psychological Association. If you can’t stop thinking about the breakup negatively and you feel depressed or extremely stressed because of it, you should speak to a mental health professional as soon as possible. A therapist can diagnose you properly and guide you on the best way to treat your condition.
How To Stop Thinking About Your Ex All the Time
You are not going to stop thinking about your ex in a day. The following tips act more as a strategy that you need to practice every day. If you do so, it will help you reduce the amount of time you spend thinking about your ex slowly.
The effects may not be immediate. You will have to be patient. For some people, it may take several weeks before they make any progress. But rest assured, things will improve if you stick to implementing these tips in your life.
1. Understand the thought patterns that contribute to constant thinking
Your thoughts may follow the same patterns over and over again if you are obsessing over your ex. These patterns are sometimes predictable and sometimes random. Here are the type of thoughts that usually just keep repeating in your head over and over again.
How People Think When They Can’t Stop Thinking About Their Ex?
When you can’t stop thinking about your ex, you are reminiscing about the past and romanticizing it, you are either going to ruminate over the past events that happened or you are going to obsess over the future and what your ex may be doing or thinking right now, or a combination of the three.
Romanticizing the Past:
Sometimes, your thoughts will be about the good times you and your ex shared together. The connection that you felt only with them. The quirky things you used to do with each other. Their subtle mannerism that only you could understand. The many firsts you both experienced together.
These thoughts, in general, can be enjoyable. But they often lead to the fact that you are broken up and you can no longer have those precious moments again.
When you romanticize the past, you are likely to see the relationship through rose-tinted glasses. That means you will probably only remember the good parts while ignoring the bad parts. These type of thoughts often lead to doubts about the breakup and a desire to get back together.
If that happens, it’s important to remind yourself of the reasons for the breakup. Don’t be tempted to get back together unless you are sure it’s the right decision for you.
Ruminating over what happened with an ex:
This is the act of thinking about what went wrong in the past with you and your ex. You may start thinking about the breakup, about the events before the breakup, about what your ex said during the breakup and what your ex may have said or done after the breakup.
When you are ruminating, you are probably thinking about the events that have already happened in a continuous loop. You dwell over the past. You do so even if the thoughts and the experiences are painful.
People ruminate because they hope to gain some insight into what happened.
Ruminating over an ex also involves a lot of “What ifs”.
What if I just paid more attention to her? She would probably still love me and we would be going to the Bahamas just as we planned.
What if I didn’t get angry and just let him be? He would still be with me.
What if I told him how much I love him before he broke up with me?
What if I left my ego aside and just agreed to my mistake?
These what ifs can be never ending. And these thoughts can feel addicting because you are creating an alternate reality in your mind with each of these what ifs.
According to therapist and author of “TRUST YOURSELF: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work” Melody Wilding, LMSW, we ruminate because our brains are wired to focus on negative events to better detect threats. It was essential to our survival.
To your mind, the breakup was like a threat to your survival simply because it was so painful to go through.
When you think about the past and the what ifs, you may find yourself aimlessly going around in circles until you are exhausted if you can’t come up with some meaningful insight or a solution to the breakup pain you are feeling.
While your mind may be trying to find a solution or accept the breakup, constantly thinking about your ex without any direction doesn’t help much.
Intrusive or Obsessive thoughts about the present and the future. And a compulsion to want to control the future:
After a breakup, most people tend to think about what their ex is doing and what might happen with your ex in the future. They wonder what’s going on in their ex’s lives. These are intrusive or unwanted thoughts because such thoughts often come with pain or stress. For most people, these thoughts are only temporary and they reduce as time passes by.
But for some people, such thoughts are persistent and overwhelming.
These thoughts include things like ways to get your ex back, ways to understand what your ex is thinking, whether or not they love you, whether they will come back, and what you can do to shift the tide in your favor.
More often than not, your thoughts will involve wanting to control whether or not your ex will move on from you. And as a result, this obsession will turn into an intense desire to do something to stop your ex from moving on, from getting over you, or from forgetting about you (they will not).
The obsession could be about something your ex posted on their social media. Or it could be about what they said to your mutual friend.
The mind can take anything your ex does and turn into a series of thoughts trying to interpret the hidden meaning behind their actions.
The obsession could lead to an intense desire to do something such as wanting to text them, or calling them and telling them how much you miss them, or sending a message apologizing for your mistakes in hopes that they will come back.
This compulsion to do something is often anxiety-inducing. It’s like your mind trying to give you a dose of your ex just to convince you that there is still hope and that this breakup is temporary. You would often feel like you want to reach out to them badly.
Unfortunately, doing things like texting your ex out of desperation or apologizing repeatedly for your mistakes only pushes your ex away.
The more you push, the more they pull away.
And their pulling away leads to more anxiety, more rumination, more obsession, and a more intense desire to try to stop your ex from moving on.
Note: This is why almost all breakup experts on the planet recommend you to do no contact. It stops the cycle of obsessing over your ex by stopping you from doing something that pushes your ex away.
Fantasies and an All or Nothing Mindset:
When we are faced with uncertainties, our mind often resorts to fantasies about the future. This is often accompanied by an all or nothing mindset. We fantasize about what may happen in the future. We fantasize about our ex moving on from us. And sometimes we fantasize about getting back with our exes.
With an all or nothing mindset, we often gravitate towards one or the other extreme of the future. In this case, it’s either getting your ex back or never getting back together. While this extreme mindset can be helpful to some extent; it can become a problem if you are trying to suppress a desire or an emotion.
For example, you may start thinking that you will get your ex back at all cost, but by doing that you are ignoring the part of you that is afraid to lose your ex. And as a result, you won’t fully accept the breakup and heal.
2. Remove the Fuel for Thoughts About Your Ex
As we discussed above, obsessive thoughts are often the result of you trying to figure out what your ex is feeling, what they are doing, and maybe some signs they are showing.
While it helps to analyze those things in some cases, if you can’t stop thinking about your ex; you should just remove any information that your mind may use to start thinking about them in a repeated loop.
This is essentially stopping all contact with your ex, also known as the no contact rule. If you stop providing new information about your ex to your mind, it won’t be able to generate more thoughts about your ex. This includes,
- Not contacting your ex via text.
- Not contacting your ex via phone calls.
- Not watching your ex’s social media posts
- Avoiding areas where you know they might visit.
- Avoiding any talks about ex with mutual friends.
- Setting clear boundaries with mutual friends and asking them to not share any information about your ex
Now a lot of people are scared of the idea of cutting your ex to such an extent. But it’s important to do if you want to heal from the breakup and stop thinking about your ex. For those who still hope to reconcile the relationship with their ex, no contact also helps in getting your ex back. I explain more in my detailed article on the no contact rule.
3. Process the thoughts in a strategic way
Rumination is a result of your mind trying to find some insight to help you achieve what you want. And a good way to reach that insight is by first understanding what exactly your mind wants to achieve.
Try to boil down the reason for your thoughts to exactly what you wish to know or understand. Keep going deeper until the thought is just about you.
If you have been playing the breakup scene over and over again in your head, think about what you hope to gain from this. Try to summarize it in one sentence. You will most likely come to a statement like
“I want to know why he broke up with me.”
Go deeper. Ask yourself why you want to know that. And you may come to a thought like,
“I don’t want to make the same mistakes again.”
This is something you can work with.
On the other hand, your thoughts may be focused on your ex moving on from you and the fear that comes with it. You may start thinking something like.
“I don’t want him/her to move on from me.”
It’s not Something you can control. Try to rephrase the sentence.
“I want him/her to realize how special we are for each other.”
Again, not something you can control. Focus on things you can do.
“I want to get him/her back at all costs.”
Not something you can control. Because he may move on.
“I want to try my best to get him/her back.”
Something you can control to an extent.
When you only focus on things you can control, you can get a list of actions you can take to work towards your goal.
4. Focus on Things You Can Control and Actions You Can Take
After you’ve understood exactly what you want to achieve, write down actionable steps that you can take to achieve that.
If you want to avoid getting hurt like this again in the future, make a plan to improve on the issues that lead to the breakup.
You can try to learn what mistakes you made in the relationship and improve if it’s healthy for you.
For example, if it was your low self-esteem that pushed your ex away, you can start working on raising your self-esteem by understanding yourself, accepting yourself, setting healthy boundaries, communicating better, etc.
Or if you were in a toxic or unhealthy relationship, you can avoid getting into another toxic relationship by writing down red flags to look out for, trying to understand why you attract unhealthy relationship and learn to set healthy boundaries from the starting of your next relationship.
If you are constantly thinking about getting your ex back, try to boil it down to things only you can control and actions you can take. Things such as,
- Stop pushing your ex away by acting desperate and needy
- Giving them space and giving yourself some space
- Becoming a better person
- Reaching out to them if needed and be honest about what you’ve learned and what you want.
5. Analyze your thought patterns by writing them down
A good way to understand how your brain works is to write down your thoughts in a notebook when you can’t stop thinking about your ex. Write down everything that comes to your mind. And when you are done, take a break for a few hours before you come back to what you have written. Notice what type of thought patterns you go through.
Are you romanticizing your past?
Are you ruminating over your mistakes?
Are you obsessing over what your ex is doing and what may happen in the future?
Take note of how you go from one thought pattern to another and try to find gaps in the thought patterns you can use to stop the momentum.
6. Stop the Momentum by Distraction.
Ruminating or obsessing over your ex can create a loop in your mind where it may become hard to stop. These thoughts rely on the momentum to continue. They usually keep going until you are exhausted or something interrupts the momentum.
A good way to stop these thoughts is by intentionally creating a distraction by doing something that will take 100% of your attention.
You can do things like lifting weights, a hobby that you enjoy, playing a game that you can fully immerse in, working on a project that you love, learning new skills, and focusing on the aspect of your career or job that you are passionate about.
Distraction is a great way to stop the momentum of the thoughts when they appear. But they may still appear out of nowhere if you don’t process these thoughts in a healthy way.
7. Allow Yourself To Think About Your Ex and process these thoughts in a Healthy Way
It’s a good idea to give yourself some time every day to think about your ex and process what happened. I usually recommend my clients to give themselves about half an hour every day to think about their ex. It’s better to do so in the morning when you have a clear mind and have more mental energy to process these thoughts.
When you do this, use this time to practice thinking about your ex in a strategic and productive way. Use the tactics I mentioned above about boiling it down to what you want and what you can do to achieve it. You can also use this time to write down what you think and what you want to achieve.
If, while doing so, you find something important that you need to analyse or think about more, give yourself some more time to do so. But be strategic about it.
Train your mind to think about your ex in a way that’s beneficial for you rather than a way that hurts you or makes you sad.
One such exercise that helps with getting some insights is to write a list of things about your ex you liked and write a list of things about your ex you disliked. And then write a list of things about yourself that you liked while you were in the relationship and a list of things you disliked about yourself while you were in the relationship.
While you are doing this, take note of the most important insights you gain from this. And keep a reminder of those insights.
Whenever persistent or unwanted thoughts about your ex appear, remind yourself of these insights.
These insights could include things like your ex never supporting you, your ex not respecting your boundaries, your ex criticizing you excessively, your ex not being honest with you, your ex not communicating with you properly, your relationship with your ex being toxic/unhealthy or your ex never agreeing to go to couple’s therapy.
These insights could also be about the mistakes you made such as being insecure in the relationship, not believing you are worth loving, being afraid of commitment, or that you were subconsciously pushing your partner away.
Or you could just realize that you and your ex didn’t have compatible values. That even though you both loved each other, you both don’t work as a couple and you are better off without each other.
We offer a comprehensive way to process your emotions in our Advanced Course. Check it out here.
Here are some of the insights my clients gained after processing their thoughts and the emotions they have for their ex.
“I learned that my ex isn’t right for me and that what I actually want (instead of my ex back) is a healthy relationship.” – Sarah
“I realised that I was the reason for the demise of the relationship. My fears, my insecurities, my inability to know my worth, all the traits I’ve read to drive a man away, I have exhibited all of them. It makes me angry at myself. Angry because I took a man who said “I am willing to wait for you as long as it takes if you think I am worthy.” to “I’m not sure whether I want a relationship with you”. But I know I gotta let go of this anger. And all I can do is work on these reasons and remind myself that I am worth it. That I deserve a loving relationship. So when the right guy comes, I am open to accept him in my life.” – Jude
“He’d go out on Friday nights but would never admit it outright. Every time I questioned if he was alone, I was met with a silent response. It doesn’t take long to realize these patterns. When I confronted him about it, he’d label me the dramatic one. He would end things under the pretense that he had warned me about my ‘drama’. The more I think about all the way he treated me, the more angry I get that I let him treat me this way. He never respected me. But it’s okay cause I am learning to respect myself. I’ve managed to lift myself up from the depths and now, I’m set on the path of recovery.” – Renee
“I realized that my ex was controlling me in so many ways when we went long distance.. He will get angry if I talked to my friends who were boys. He asked me to deactivate my Facebook. Whenever we have an argument, he would always try to prove me wrong. He will always make me apologize even when he was wrong. He never trusted me and when I asked him why he would say it’s because he was afraid to lose me. Not because I had given him a reason to not trust me. Because he was afraid to lose me. Does that make sense? He just had a huge ego and a lot of trust issues.” – Geneva
“I woke up this morning and cleared up my mind and started thinking what I have done wrong to my girlfriend, and realized that everything came from being needy while she needs more space than I do. I come from a broken family and have hardly any friends. The only family I have is my Mom who lives on the other side of the globe. And the only thing I can do to reduce my insecurity is build up a social circle and friends who can make me feel like I belong. It’s a scary thought, but I went to a meetup for board games today and spoke to a few people. I also booked an appointment with a therapist to help me accept myself and start believing that I am worth loving.” – Cheng
“I am not sure if I want my ex back anymore, we had fun together but she never really valued me and it was a very one sided relationship.” – Cameron
“Processing My Thoughts along with some therapy Helped me realize that my ex is a big time Narcissist. And I need to run as far away as I can.” – Ben
8. Speak To Your Friends and Family To Gain Insight
A great way to get some insights into your previous relationship and what you can learn from it is to ask your friends and family about it. Ask them questions about what they thought of your relationship with your ex? How were you when you were with your ex? Did they think you were happier? What did they think of your ex as a person?
Questions like this can often help you see things from different perspective. And help you understand why the breakup happened and what you can learn from this painful experience.
9. Allow Yourself To Feel All The Emotions
As you are processing the thoughts you are likely to feel a lot of emotions. You may feel sad, angry, happy, resentful or even regretful.
It’s okay to feel these emotions. Don’t try to suppress them even if they are painful. According to Psychology Today and National Library of Medicine, suppressing emotions have been linked to more complex psychological issues and physical ailments.
Give yourself some time to feel these emotions but also don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by them. Don’t dwell on the negative emotions. Feel them, take a few deep breaths and let them go as you breathe out. Remind yourself of the insights you have gained and the actions you can take to live a healthier life with healthy relationships.
10. Practice Gratitude Religiously and Get in Touch With Nature
Yeah, I am going to ask you go touch grass.
On a serious note, gratitude is probably my number 1 tool when it comes to calming down my mind and refocusing myself on the present. The great thing about practicing gratitude is that it gives immediate results and if you practice it regularly, it also gives you long-lasting results.
I recommend most of my readers and clients to practice gratitude and most of them who do it get immediate results in terms of getting their mind to calm down and feel better.
Here’s how to practice gratitude.
Find a place where you can get fresh air or a place that makes you feel good. If you can find a place that has sunlight, it’s even better. If you can’t think of such a place, go to a park nearby and sit on a bench.
Take a few deep breaths. Try to breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth.
Close your eyes and focus on the things and people that you are thankful for in your life. Try to keep your ex out of the picture. Focus on the people that are still in your life. Those who still care for you. For example, your close friends, your parents, your siblings, or your pet. Focus on activities that you are thankful for such as going for a walk with your dog, swimming, bicycling, yoga, etc.
Keep trying to think of things you are thankful for. If you can’t find things, force yourself to search for something to be thankful for. Be thankful for the fresh air you are breathing right now, for the park you are sitting in, the beauty of nature, or just the bird who is chirping in the background.
Be thankful and be grateful.
As you think about the things you are grateful for, you will start feeling joy and peace in your heart. Focus on that feeling and continue taking deep breaths.
After about a minute or two of this activity, open your eyes and look around you to find more things to be thankful for.
This technique works immediately to help relieve the mind of ruminating thoughts, anxiety, and fear of losing your ex. And if you practice it daily, you are going to train your brain to be more grateful and get better at living in the present.
When I couldn’t stop thinking about my ex, I would often sit in a quiet place in my home with my cat and just focus on the love I felt for her (my cat, not my ex). I felt grateful to have that animal and that would immediately calm me down and pull me back to the present. As I started practicing gratitude more, I found it incredibly calming to focus on nature and animals.
11. Focus Your Energy on Positive Self-Care and Self-Improvement
A lot of my clients and readers find it extremely helpful to focus on self-improvement and self-care to stop thinking about their ex.
Exercise has been linked to better mental health in many studies. When you do physical activity, you release endorphins that instantly make you feel better. It’s one of the best ways to start feeling better after a breakup.
- Lifting Weights
Mental and Spiritual Self-Improvement
Self-Improvement should be a big part of your plan to heal from the breakup. It gives your mind something to look forward to when it can’t stop thinking about your ex. For example, if your breakup happened because of your low self-esteem, you could focus on improving your self-esteem by understanding and accepting yourself. Whenever you start thinking about your ex, you can remind yourself that you will have high self-esteem in the future and your next relationship will be better.
These include things like –
- Working on your self-esteem
- Working on Your Communication Skills
- Understanding yourself Better.
- Doing Meditation
- Getting Therapy/Coaching
- Making Sure You Get Enough Sleep
Self-Care and Social Support
When you spend time with people who care about you and love you, you are reminding yourself that you are not alone in this world. You are reminding your mind that you have people who are there for you. And that you don’t need your ex to survive in this world. Whenever you feel lonely, you should try to spend time with your friends and family.
It’s also helpful to spend your alone time doing things that bring you joy. Things like taking a hot bath, sipping hot chocolate, watching a Netflix show, clearing the clutter in your house or going to the beach. Don’t feel guilty about doing things to make yourself feel better. You deserve it.
Avoid addictive or self-destructive behavior
A big part of self-care is to avoid destructive or unhealthy behavior while you are still constantly thinking about your ex. These behaviors include things like getting drunk, indulging in drugs, eating junk foods, being extremely lethargic and not moving around, letting your house become a mess etc.
Choose activities that have a social aspect to them.
If you choose physical activities that have a social aspect to them, you can combine all the important aspects of self-care and self-improvement in one activity. For example, if you choose to go on a group hike instead of running alone, you get to do physical activity, socialize with new people, make new friends, and be grateful for nature. In addition, you also improve your prospects of meeting people who have the potential to be your next lover.
12. Get Help If/When You Feel Lost
All the above tips should help you stop thinking about your ex all the time and reduce the pain you feel when you think about them. But if you feel you are not making progress, then you should get help from a professional mental health care worker such as a therapist.
A therapist can help you to
- Process your thoughts in a healthy way.
- Figure out if there is anything from your past that is holding you back from moving on.
- Help you build up your self-esteem
- Help you understand what’s important to you in a relationship
- Help you understand how to set boundaries in your relationships
You can also try getting a breakup coach to help you process your thoughts and figure out what you should do no next. For example, the breakup coaches from Ex Back Permanently helps our clients to
- Figure out the root cause of the breakup.
- Figure out if there is a chance to get back together in a healthy relationship.
- Figure out what you need to do to stop thinking about your ex all the time.
- Move forward and make a plan of action to heal and become more confident.
We also offer a free email course that has also helped a lot of people after a breakup to regain composure and become confident again. To subscribe to this course, take this quiz.
What Keeps You Thinking About Your Ex and Stops You From Healing?
If you don’t pay attention to your healing journey and let your thoughts consume you, you are probably going to keep thinking about your ex for a long time. This is especially true if you have an anxious attachment style, low self-esteem, or if your identity was tied up to your previous relationship.
Here are the mistakes you should avoid if you want to stop thinking about your ex.
1. Continuously keeping in contact with your ex: If you keep feeding your brain new information about your ex, it’s going to keep using that information to think about your ex. Keeping in touch with your ex via phone calls or texts, stalking them on social media, keeping tabs on them via mutual friends or family is a mistake that keeps you thinking about your ex longer than you need to.
2. Suppressing your thoughts or continuously trying to distract yourself: Distracting yourself is a good way to stop thinking about your ex but you still need to process the breakup and what happened. If you try to suppress your thoughts, they are eventually going to take a toll on your mental health. It’s like trying to hide an infected wound on your neck by covering it up with a turtle neck sweater. You can pretend that it’s not there, but it’s eventually going to rot and become very painful.
Use distraction strategically but also give yourself time to process your thoughts as I described in the method above.
3. Suppressing Your Emotions: Like I said earlier, suppressing your emotions or running away from them is linked to negative long term psychological and physical issues. I know you may not want to feel these emotions because they are painful but using the above strategies should help you process them in a healthy way. And if it’s still too painful, seek help from a mental health professional.
3. Constantly Giving yourself false hope about reconciliation: Hope about getting back together can be helpful in the initial stages of grief. But if you keep feeding your mind the image of you and your ex in a happily-ever-after setting, then you are just training your mind to use your ex to feel good.
Instead of giving yourself hope about reconciliation, keep reminding yourself that you are going to be fine without your ex. Every time you think about getting back together or you see signs of your ex coming back, remind yourself that you are going to find love even if your ex doesn’t come back.
4. Isolating yourself: Friends and family play an important part in helping people heal from a breakup, get over their ex and move on. If you don’t have a good support system or if you don’t utilize it, then you may find yourself thinking about your ex longer than usual.
5. Escapism: Indulging in addictive, unhealthy or self-destructive behavior to try to escape from the breakup pain is not going to help in healing from the breakup or getting over your ex. Just don’t do it. I know it’s tempting but your future self is going to thank you if you try your best to live a healthy and balanced life at this point of time. You are going to become stronger and healthier if you do so.
On a side note, the song Escapism is a piece of art. It portrays how it feels to try to escape from the breakup pain. But ultimately, escapism is unhealthy and it makes it harder to stop thinking about your ex.
Why do people want to stop thinking about their ex?
Thinking about an ex is painful because it brings up past memories. A breakup can be one of the most stressful events in your life. And thinking about it sometimes feels like you are reliving those painful moments. A study, conducted at University of Colorado, has shown that imagining a scenario and experiencing it evokes a similar response in the brain.
Even when you are romanticizing the past and thinking about the good memories with your ex, it can lead to the thought that you are no longer with them and that thought can be painful.
Helen Fisher, an anthropologist, explains that finding love is like winning “life’s greatest prize”. And when you think about the good memories together, it’s a reminder that not only you have lost the great prize, but you may never win that prize ever again.
Most of the time, people who wish they can stop thinking about their ex are, in a way, hoping that they stop caring about their ex and what happened. The same way they feel their ex stopped caring.
They are hoping that when they think about their ex, they don’t feel the pain, the emptiness, the anxiety, and the stress that comes along with it.
“It would be nice to think about my ex and not feel like someone is driving a dagger through my heart. It’s just so painful.”, writes Ashley, one of our readers who thought her ex was her soulmate. But when he stopped responding to her messages, she felt like he never cared for her.
When you want to stop thinking about your ex, you don’t really want to erase the nice memories that you and your ex shared. You want to remove the pain that comes with those memories.
Eventually, you would want to reach a point where you can think about your ex and just reminisce about the times you shared together. Just smile back, maybe feel a little bit sad about the way things ended, and then move on to doing the things that are important to you.
You would want to reach a point where you can imagine yourself in the future with someone else, creating new memories, new connections and again feeling like you’ve found your soulmate. And this article is going to help you achieve that.
Recommended Reading: I Miss My Ex – The Fear, The Pain and How To Stop Missing Your Ex
How Long Does It Take After a Breakup to Stop Thinking About Your Ex?
While you may never completely forget your ex, you can expect the thoughts about your ex to reduce significantly after three months of the breakup. We conducted a study to find out how long it takes to move on from a breakup and most people moved on within 3-12 months range.
For some people, it took longer than a year and a few of the participants could not move on from their ex.
We also found that the longer the relationship, the longer you may take to get over your ex and stop thinking about them. According to our study, if your relationship lasted less than two years, you will probably move on from them within 9 months. If your relationship lasted more than two years, you will probably take more than 9 months to get over your ex. And if your relationship lasted more than 5 years, it may take you more than a year to fully get over your ex.
Yeah, you gotta be patient. There is no other way around it.
If you implement the above strategies and process your thoughts in a healthy way, you will eventually stop thinking about your ex all the time and the thoughts won’t be so painful when they come.
Why Am I Thinking About My Ex Even After They Have Moved On?
It’s quite common to keep thinking about an ex even after they have moved on to a new relationship. This is especially true if you feel your ex was really special. But it’s also true for people with low self-esteem and people who tied their identity to their ex.
It’s still possible to get out of the “I Can’t Stop Thinking About My Ex” phase if you cut all contact with your ex, focus on self-improvement, and process your thoughts using the above strategies.
Why I am I Thinking About My Ex Even Though I Am Over Him?
It’s probably because a part of your mind is just used to thinking about him and having him in your life. When you start dating again, your mind will slowly replace these thoughts with your new boyfriend or new girlfriend.
This can also happen if you have not processed the breakup and these thoughts completely. You may subconsciously believe that there is something you can learn from the past and your mind is bringing up these thoughts because you need to process and learn from your past mistakes.
Why am I Suddenly Thinking About an Ex From Years Ago?
You may start thinking about an ex or missing an ex suddenly after months or years. These thoughts may appear randomly.
It’s normal and it’s probably nothing to worry about. Our minds sometimes just start thinking of the past for no reason. It only becomes a problem if the thoughts are persistent and uncontrollable.
Some people believe that it’s a sign that you should check up on your ex and maybe reconsider getting back together.
While there is nothing wrong with checking up on an ex after months or years, it’s important to know what it takes to get back together in a healthy relationship.
If you decide to reach out to your ex and talk about getting back together, make sure that you talk about what drove you both apart, how things will be different, and what both of you can do to create strong foundations of a healthy relationship.
If you feel that you suddenly thinking about your ex is a sign that you should try to get back together, read this article on getting an ex back after years.
Why do I still think about my ex regularly after so many years?
If you are still thinking about your ex regularly even after years of the breakup, then you may need to revisit what happened in the relationship and the breakup.
You are probably thinking about your ex because subconsciously your mind thinks you need to learn something from the past. In most cases, it’s because something happened during the relationship that is still affecting your life in some way.
For example, if your ex cheated on you and it was very painful, you may still have insecurities about your partner cheating on you. Or if you pushed your ex away because you were too insecure, you may still be scared of pushing your current partner away.
I am in a new relationship but I still think about my ex. What does it mean?
If your new relationship is going well and you still think about your ex sometimes, it’s probably not a good idea to share that with your new boyfriend or girlfriend. The fact is, it’s normal to think about your ex sometimes and sharing that information with your new partner may cause unnecessary turbulence in your new relationship.
If you are sure, you are not obsessing over your ex and you don’t want your ex back in your life, then you are not doing anything wrong by thinking about your ex occasionally and there is nothing to feel guilty about.
On the other hand, if you are obsessing over your ex, you still have strong feelings for your ex and you constantly think about getting them back, then you should be honest with your new boyfriend or girlfriend about your thoughts and consider ending the relationship.
Is it okay to think about your ex when having sex with your new partner or while masturbating?
If you are in a new relationship and you still think about your ex while having sex or while masturbating, then it’s a sign that you are not sexually satisfied in your new relationship, and you should probably talk about it with your partner. Consider getting therapy, speaking to a coach or getting couples counseling with your new partner.
I Wake Up Thinking About My Ex. Is That Normal?
Yes, it’s normal to wake up thinking about your ex even after months or years of the breakup. Especially if you are single. You were used to seeing your ex first thing in the morning for a long time so it’s just a pattern your mind is used to.
As long as the thoughts are not persistent, and you can carry on with your day-to-day activities without any issues; don’t worry about it.
It does help to have a morning ritual to look forward to such as meditation, exercise, reading a book, or a cold shower.
Will thinking about your ex stop you from moving on?
If you try to process your thoughts about your ex in a healthy way, it’s not going to stop you from moving on. In fact, it’s going to help you heal from the breakup and make your next relationship better than ever.
On the other hand, if you try to suppress your thoughts, it’s going to make it harder to truly move on even if you pretend to.
Don’t run away from your thoughts about your ex. Learn from them to become stronger, understand yourself more, and learn to be a better boyfriend or girlfriend.
Will Thinking About My Ex Help Me in Getting Them Back?
If you process the thoughts in a healthy way, ask yourself critical questions, and are honest with yourself; it can help you get back with your ex.
Getting back with your ex is mostly about self-improvement and communication. [Read: How To Get Your Ex Back – 5 Step Plan]
But obsessing over your ex and ruminating on the past aimlessly is not going to help you get your ex back.
Does Your Ex Also Think About You?
Yes, your ex also thinks about you, and they will probably continue doing so for a long time (especially if your relationship was a significant part of their life).
But it does not necessarily mean they still love you or that they will come back. There are other signs you can look into if you are wondering whether your ex loves you or that they want to get back together. These signs include
- Your ex being hot and cold
- Your ex reaching out to you more frequently as time goes by
- Your ex wanting to meet you
- Your ex trying to make you jealous