Every February 14th, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. It seems the holiday is all about romance and love and the happiness of being part of a couple, but then you look around and go, “Wait, nearly half of the population is single!”
It’s true. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 110.6 million unmarried people in America in 2016, which translates to 45.2 percent—nearly half. Granted, some of these people may be partnered up but not married, but a lot of resources agree: the number of single people has been rising for decades, and today, they make up a huge chunk of the population.
So if Valentine’s Day is all about romance and couples, what are single people to do? Are they just supposed to ignore the holiday? Many try, but Valentine’s Day has become so pervasive in our lives that it’s difficult not to be reminded of it pretty much everywhere you turn.
We have a better idea. This year, if you’re single, try embracing the holiday—you may find yourself really enjoying it.
1. Spread the love.
We think of Valentine’s as being all about romantic love, and there are many historical reasons for that, but there are also historical precedents for celebrating the holiday as simply a time to express your love for anyone you care about. According to History, by the middle of the 18th century, “it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection…” on Valentine’s Day.
In other words, if you’re single, you can still spread the Valentine’s cheer by sending cards, notes, or small gifts to others you care about. These could include your family members, friends, work colleagues, or anyone you think would enjoy receiving a little cheer from you. Giving is fun, and studies have shown that it reduces stress and makes us feel good, so in the end, you may be the one that benefits most.
2. Get together with other singles.
Why not make Valentine’s Day a day to celebrate being single? There are a lot of benefits, after all. You have more freedom, you can fashion your life exactly as you want it, and you can work unhindered toward your goals. Getting together with others who are in the same place can be a lot of fun.
Invite your single friends over to your place, or set up a meeting at a restaurant or somewhere fun, and make a party of it. Go with a theme if you like, and exchange gifts too, if everyone is up for that. Let your imagination go. You may have so much fun that you’ll want to repeat the experience next year.
3. Be good to yourself.
Want to really look forward to Valentine’s Day? Use it as an excuse to treat yourself. Why not? You probably work hard most of your life, and maybe you don’t get much of a chance to relax and do something just for you. Use the holiday as your chance to do just that.
Get a nice massage, go for a makeover, spend the weekend away, get yourself some fresh flowers, or treat yourself to that special purchase you’ve had your eye on. Go see a fun movie, and if you feel awkward, remember that everyone else is probably too focused on their own lives to notice. You can get what you like for treats, sit where you like, and immerse yourself in the fantasy without interruptions.
There are a number of options. You just have to be willing to ask yourself, “What would make me really happy right now?” Then go do it!
4. Go on a vacation.
You may think that summer is vacation time, but think about it: February is at the tail end of winter. You’ve had months of cold weather and short days. February can be a great time to get away somewhere warm, even if it’s only for a little while.
Planning an end-of-winter vacation can also give you something to look forward to during those weeks when you’re shoveling snow and sliding on icy roads. You can envision the sunshine and warm temperatures, and it will help you get through. Associating Valentine’s Day with a vacation can make it much more pleasant than associating it with something that makes you feel left out.
5. Make it a day to unplug.
If all those happy couples, advertisements for flowers and candy, and social media tweets about romance are making you feel nauseated, why not unplug? You’ve likely heard that social media can stress us out. Maybe you’re feeling it yourself, and could use a day off.
Set up an automatic responder on your email, and shut the phone off. Do the same with the Internet on your computer, and even your television. Use the day to get quiet, read some books, or spend time doing another activity that you haven’t done in a long time because you’re always online. If you feel restless doing this, realize that you may be more addicted to your phone than you thought!
6. Reconnect with someone you miss.
If Valentine’s Day is all about spreading the love, think about who you miss in your life. It could be an old friend you haven’t seen in years, or even a sibling you just haven’t talked to in a long time. Look the person up, find the contact information, and reach out, either electronically or on the phone. The interaction could leave you feeling great for days afterwards.
Studies show that having healthy social interactions helps reduce inflammation and blood pressure, and encourages your overall health and well-being. Reaching out and rebuilding old relationships expands your network of support, and helps you feel more safe and secure in the world.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, but it’s also good for you. The Corporation for National & Community Service reviewed the recent research on the issue, and found that those who volunteered had lower mortality rates and lower rates of depression later in life than those who didn’t.
If you’re feeling badly about Valentine’s Day—say you just recently lost an important relationship—volunteering can help you feel better. Studies show that when we give to others, we feel better ourselves. Seeing the expressions on others’ faces as you serve can help you step outside of yourself, and view the world more positively again.
8. Enjoy your four-legged friends.
Many singles care deeply about their pets. Whether they’re dogs, cats, horses, or even hedgehogs, we adore them, but outside of a quick walk or few minutes of petting, we may not get to spend much quality time with them.
Why not do that on Valentine’s Day? Take the pup to the groomer, get a special ribbon for her hair, and then take her for a fun walk in the park. Get some special treats, or if your animal has short hair, maybe a new sweater to help her brave the cold.
Whatever you do, simply spending time will be good for you. Research has shown that pet ownership benefits our mental health, and when we spend time with a pet, we experience reduced stress and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that when we focus on our beloved animal friends, levels of the “feel good” hormone oxytocin are released in our bodies.
So make an afternoon or even a day of it, and give back some of that love your pet has been giving you.
9. Give thanks for being single.
You may feel sort of left out on Valentine’s Day because you seem to see happy couples all around you. But let’s get real. Not every couple is happy, and it’s not always bliss to be in a relationship. You can probably recall a lot of things that were very difficult about it, actually.
How about this Valentine’s Day, instead of feeling badly about being single, you actually celebrate it? You’re in good company—more and more people identify as single today. You don’t have to be alone. In fact, you can turn this whole thing on its head and celebrate the joys of being single.
There are a number of ways you can do that. You may simply want to list out all the things that being single allows you to do that you couldn’t do as easily if you were part of a couple. Maybe you can go do something that your ex never enjoyed doing. Or maybe you can clean out unhealthy reminders of your past relationships—photos, text messages, emails, etc.
Some other ideas: do something impulsive and spur-of-the-moment, such as going somewhere on a whim or taking a road trip. Sleep in the middle of the bed and stretch out however you like. Stay out all night and enjoy the freedom of not having to check in with someone. Hire a photographer and go for a photo shoot. You may not always be in this situation—love could be somewhere in your future—so you should celebrate being single while you can!
10. Reinvent yourself.
Maybe you’ve had a hard year. Maybe you recently went through a divorce, or you haven’t been in a relationship in a while and you’d like to be. Whatever your situation, if you’re feeling like you’re in a bit of a rut, use Valentine’s Day to reinvent yourself.
Go through your closet and donate anything you haven’t worn in a year. Then have a friend help you seriously consider what’s left: Do these things flatter you? If not, donate them, and then go shopping to find an outfit that really fits the new you.
You may want to do the same with your makeup and hairstyle. And what about your lifestyle? Maybe you could sign up for a yoga or martial arts class, or find some other way to be more active. Or it could be that it’s time to rethink how you stock your refrigerator—could you use some more fruits and vegetables?
How about taking up a new hobby so you can meet new people? Finding new friends can help lift you up, even if they aren’t romantic friends. Have fun with it. Create that person you know you can be, but just haven’t had the time to focus on for a while. Now is the time, and this is your year. Ignore any fears you may have, and step out of your comfort zone. If you take even some small actions in a new direction, you’re likely to notice positive changes in your life.
If you are looking for recipes that are filled with delicious, decadent and health-conscious dishes that are guaranteed to bring you BIG LOVE this Valentine’s Day, then check out the Sinfully Delicious & Healthy Valentine’s Recipes.
“Single Life,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2017, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/single-americans-week.html.
“History of Valentine’s Day,” History, http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day.
“The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” Corporation for National & Community Service, 2007, https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf.
“The health benefits and risks of pet ownership,” Harvard Health Letter, February 2016, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-and-risks-of-pet-ownership.