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9 guide to getting over that ex you just can’t shake off

Breaking up is hard to do-yeah, yeah, you’ve heard that before. But have you ever considered exactly why?

Well, part of it might be that your former partner is likely a big part of your identity, explains Gary Lewandowski, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Monmouth University who delivered the TED Talk, “Breakups Don’t Have to Leave You Broken.”

Moving on post-breakup is also notoriously tough because reminders of your past relationship seem to be everywhere, says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a professor at Oakland University in Michigan and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. “If you were living together or you worked out at the same gym-all of those things remind you of the past,” she says.

On top of all that, there are very real physical effects of heartbreak–research shows, for example, that simply looking at a photo of an ex who recently dumped you is enough to activate areas of the brain associated with physical pain. And other reports have shown that “broken heart syndrome” is a quite real physical phenomenon that feels a lot like a heart attack.

Fortunately, there is good news: You can and will move on, especially if you make the following moves.

1. Rediscover old interests.

What did you love doing as a teenager? What passions got pushed aside when you made room for your former mate? Reigniting those interests-or what Lewandowski calls “rediscovery of the self”-is a powerful way to move on since it allows you to reestablish your own identity outside of the one that’s caught up in your partner.

In fact, his research has shown that pursuing dormant interests is a more effective coping mechanism than trying new things, since there’s no guarantee you’ll actually enjoy those new activities or incorporate them into your identity.

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