All of my friends and family know that on February 14 I celebrate Singles Awareness Day (also knows as S.A.D.)  Yes, Valentine’s Day is a great day to celebrate your love with someone that you love.  But if you’re single on Valentine’s Day it can be an icky reminder of how lonely you are. February can be one of the toughest times of the year for single folks, even for those who are normally comfortable being single. When you're single, it seems like everyone but you is busy buying roses and making dinner reservations.

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Instead of going out to a glitzy (and often expensive) restaurant and slow-dancing the night away, you may be staring down a TV dinner and X-Files re-run (you know, if you live in the 1990’s like I tend to).  Maybe you got industrious and have a plan to get together with your other single pals for a “Lonely Hearts Club” kind of thing.  However, I challenge you to blow up the holiday in favor of something more empowering.  Being single is a perfect opportunity to learn about yourself outside of a relationship. Skeptical?  How about this: it’s a great time to take an stock of yourself, do some soul searching and work on becoming the YOU you’ve always wanted to be. Being single doesn’t mean you have to grieve.  Get out there and have some fun.

1. Resist the Urge to Wallow in Self-Pity

Feeling lonely is OK so long as it doesn’t convert into self-pity. Allowing yourself to indulge in self-pity can be self-destructive. Don’t let feeling sorry for yourself lead to excessive negative thoughts such as, “I’ll never find anyone,” or “Everyone has somebody, but me.” Aaron Anderson, LMFT writes that “staying home lamenting about being single usually means you have some kind of baggage you’re working through. There’s nothing wrong with being single. It’s not like you’re branded with a scarlet letter or anything.” There’s no good reason to beat yourself up for being single?  “Get yourself out there and force yourself to confront whatever baggage is keeping you from enjoying a fulfilling relationship.”

Rather than dwell on all the reasons you might be unhappy, choose to be grateful for all the good things in your life. Being single ain’t that bad!  Compared with their married people, single folks are more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors, go to restaurants, attend art classes, and lectures. There’s a bunch of research suggesting that single people get out more — and not only the younger ones. Erin Cornwell, a sociologist at Cornell, analyzed results from the General Social Survey (which draws on a nationally representative sample of the United States population) and found that single people 35 and older were more likely than those who lived with a spouse or a romantic partner to spend a social evening with neighbors or friends.  So see, we single people got it going on!

Each time you’re tempted to indulge in self-pity, remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for this year – even if you don’t have a romantic partner. Think of this as s a great opportunity to get to know yourself and work towards personal achievements. Try out new hobbies. Meet new people. Advance your career. Discover things about yourself you never knew.  You may be surprised with what you learn. And soon enough, you’ll be in a relationship with someone important: YOU.  Have faith that your partner-in-crime will show up in good time. 

2. Avoid Romanticizing and Bad Decisions You’ll Regret Later

One of the major dangers of being alone in February is the tendency to dwell on past relationships. Daydreaming about the ‘one that got away,’ or romanticizing past relationships isn’t helpful – and rarely accurate.  When our emotions are raw our memories go a little wonky.  You forget about problems that overwhelmed a relationship and risk idealizing how wonderful things were when you were together.  Reflecting on past relationships and learning from them can be helpful. Focus on what you can do to be at your best, regardless of who you are with.  But be prepared: the anxiety of spending Valentine’s Day alone may tempt you to invite that bad-for-you ex out to dinner. Or you may begin a frantic search to find a date in a desperate attempt to relieve your fears of loneliness. There’s a long list of potentially bad decisions that could result from hasty attempts to avoid being alone on February 14th.  (Do I really need to list them for you? I didn’t think so).  Facing the holiday solo doesn’t necessarily have to lead to reckless behavior. Stay mentally strong and face Valentine’s Day with courage.

 3. Create a Valentine’s Plan

Create a plan for how you can spend Valentine’s Day a little more productively. So instead of going into hiding until Feb. 15 and then scarfing on half-price chocolate (no judgment!) get out there. Find some friends to go out with and do your thing.  If your friends are busy/coupled/hibernating then go out alone and enjoy yourself.  I regularly challenge my more codependent friends and clients to take themselves out on a date. You never know, it might be the best date you’ve had in a while. You could go visit Grandma or your nephews who adore you, have a puppy party at the local animal shelter. Getting out and doing something can serve as an awesome reminder that Valentine’s Day can be what you make of it, regardless of who you’re with.

For one thing, if you’re single, this is an excellent time to remind yourself of your worth. We settle on so often in life — on bad jobs, food we don’t love, people who treat us like crap... Be comfortable and confident in your independence.

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