Well, no. If that was true, the entire rom-com industry would tank. However, according to a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience, a placebo might do the trick, sort of. In this study, 40 people–all of whom had been recently dumped against their will–were brain-scanned while looking at photos of their exes and photos of same-gender friends, as well as undergoing a heated stimulus on their left forearms.
Each participant was also given a break and given nasal spray, half of whom were told it was a “powerful analgesic effective in reducing emotional pain,” while the other half was just told it was saline spray. Surprise! The former group displayed a decrease in their post-breakup woes.
“Breaking up with a partner is one of the most emotionally negative experiences a person can have,” said Leonie Koban, lead author on the study, in a statement. “In our study, we found a placebo can have quite strong effects on reducing the intensity of social pain.”
Obviously, this study is quite small, so it’s not exactly the revelation of the century. You’re not going to be able to sniff glue, tell yourself it’s magic juice, and instantly get over that fiancée who dumped you the night before your wedding to run off with her hot yoga instructor. However, according to Koban, “expectations and predictions have a very strong influence on basic experiences, on how we feel, and on what we perceive,” so it’s not the worst place to start.
“Doing anything that you believe will help you feel better,” she says, “will probably help you feel better.”
It is no doubt easier for your brain to be tricked into believing it’s receiving a mystical feel-better potion when someone else is doing the tricking, but still, maybe you should try telling yourself that water is an anti-depressant elixir so you will be hydrated in your misery (and possibly feel slightly better emotionally)! Or tell yourself that a certain exercise will turn your ex into a toad. Or that eating your broccolini will turn all your ex’s friends against them! Really, anything that you should probably be doing regardless of your relationship status, do with the extra thought that it will magically take your angst and throw it into the Pacific Ocean. Will it help? Who knows but at least you’ll be fitter and healthier while you cry into your pillow and watch “The Notebook.”