• Woman cuddles up to white llama.

    Breakup retreats – yoga, meditation and sport as a remedy for heart...

    All over the world, professional retreats are being set up for women who want to use mindfulness practice to help come to terms with the end of a relationship.

    Text: Claudio Rimmele

Breakups – situations of psychological trauma.

The pain of separation and heartache represent situations of genuine psychological trauma, which can also have severe consequences for our physical health. Depression, sleeping disorders and impaired immune systems are just a few of the potential health implications of a breakup. For some people, the heart not only breaks in a figurative sense. In the case of broken heart syndrome, stress hormones produced by the pain of separation put excessive strain on the heart muscle. The resulting symptoms are similar to those of a mild heart attack.

Open suitcase.
Woman is sitting on bed and packet suitcase.

Heartache – what helps?

Despite this, there has been very little medical research on the subject of heartache and therapeutic approaches also tend to be rather vague. People suffering after a breakup are generally advised by doctors and behavioural therapists to spend a lot of time with friends and family, find distractions in their work and take up new hobbies. Those who find such suggestions too vague or would prefer to treat themselves to an active break from everyday life may find relief in a breakup retreat or on a “heartache journey”.

  • Woman with suitcase runs by parked car in the forest.

Breakup retreat – luxury break with alpacas.

Not far from New York in the Hudson Valley, relationship columnist Amy Chan has created something very special at her Renew camp. The aim of this boot camp, which involves several days of group meetings, healthy food, yoga and mindfulness training, is to help people who are healing from a breakup and provide them with the necessary psychological support. The philosophy of the camp's founder boils down to this: in times of heartache, many people fall into unhealthy behavioural patters. She aims to break up these behavioural patterns systematically with her therapy. The method is designed to halt the 'spiral of sorrow' through healthy food, yoga and above all a group of like-minded people who give you the feeling of not being alone in your own suffering.

And if all that doesn't work for you, you might find the feel-good hormones you need by cuddling up to the alpacas who live in the garden of the wellness centre. Renew is just one of many possibilities. The variety of offers for people suffering after a breakup ranges from surf camps in Nicaragua to hiking tours in Nepal or heartache wellness trips in Germany. At present, all of these offers are aimed specifically at women. Perhaps that's because women are generally more willing to spend money on their emotional well-being. After all, most of these offers are not cheap.

A placebo could also do the trick!

The price may not even need to play a role. In a study about heartache, it was found that the placebo effect also seems to work in the case of separation trauma. Participants in the trial who were told that a nasal spray they had been given would help relieve their heartache symptoms actually found the sight of their ex-partner on photos to be less distressing than the control group did. The main author of the study, Leonie Koban, summarised her results as follows: ”Our own expectations have a very strong influence on how we perceive things and how we feel as a consequence.“

Woman cuddles up to white llama.
Frau spielt mit zwei Lamas.

The result is more important than the means!

Consequently: it doesn't matter whether you want to try out a breakup retreat, see a therapist, cuddle alpacas or simply sign up for a cooking class. If you firmly believe in the method of choice, it is sure to help you cope with your heartache. It pays to try things out and persevere with them. After all, once the heartache has eventually been overcome, most of those affected will feel better than ever before. In a study by the Journal of Positive Psychology, for example, 71% of those questioned said that they had grown emotionally by overcoming the breakup. And that after just three months. So no matter how much the breakup may hurt, in the long run many are able to benefit in some way from the experience.