But an anonymous Quora user recently inspire me to (finally) write that blog post for all the people who are single... and not so happy about it.
Every year, when Valentine's Day approaches, the surroundings change and everywhere there is like too much 'advertisement' or 'celebration' of Valentine's Day, which makes me feel really sad as I am still single and had 3 failed relationships before. Is it normal? Please help me feel better.
First of all, it is TOTALLY normal to feel sad on Valentine's Day. Honestly, even people in relationships can feel sad around Valentine's Day. Which is why, as I wrote in How to Make Your Valentine's Day Suck Less, two of the most common times of the year for couples to break up are before and after Valentine's Day... and Christmas.
Here's what you can do to feel better.
1. Cognitive reframing.
In This Is One of The Most Powerful Psychology Hacks Ever Invented, And It Only Takes a Few Minutes, I wrote:
Cognitive reframing has long been used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help patients with identify -- and then dispute -- negative thoughts and thought patterns. Originally developed to combat depression, it quickly caught on among psychologists, and soon spread to more general uses. Read more >
Here's how I see this benefitting you:
Reframe the way you think about (and refer to) your past relationships. Do NOT call them "failed relationships." They didn't fail. YOU didn't fail. The relationship just didn't work out. Here are a few ways you can think about your past relationships, instead:
- "Love is a numbers game! I've only been in two long-term relationships. Statistically, it's extremely rare to find your life partner in so few tries."
- "If I'd married the first guy, I never would have met the other two guys -- and they were so special and important to me that I wouldn't trade those relationships for anything."
- "I was way too young back then. I didn't even know who I was! That relationship would not have worked in the long run, as my goals changed and my personality and values developed so much over the years!"
- Reframe (and resolve) your feelings about past relationships. Many people have some unresolved feelings about old flames -- or perhaps, that they never got the closure they needed to fully heal and move on. In my article on cognitive reframing, I made the following suggestion:
Sit down and write a letter to your lost love. Say everything you wish you could say. Get everything off your chest. But don't send the letter.
Then... write their reply to you. Accept the fact that the relationship is over. The point isn't that you have an imaginary reconciliation. The point is that you pretend, just for a moment, that you got some answers. You got some closure.
Let him admit that he was a coward. Let her admit she is sorry, and that she wishes you the best. As you write, visualize yourself saying these things to your ex. Visualize them reading their letter to you. Really see it -- visuals activate our emotional processing centers.
The reason this works is because, again, you're "hacking" your brain's inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Doing this exercise will help eliminate doubt and uncertainty. Uncertainty is one of the worst feelings -- in fact, according to Robert Leahy, author of The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You, most sick people would rather receive a bad diagnosis than no diagnosis. Read more >
- Finally, cognitive reframing could help you change your views about being single. Instead of thinking about all the things you don't have because you're single, thing about all the things you couldn't have if you weren't. Do the same exercise as above -- sit down and write all the things you love about your life. Write down what you LOVE about being single. And really force yourself to visualize each reason on your list.
2. Change the meaning of Valentine's Day.
Although I recently wrote a pretty damning piece about the Vagina Monologues being a disempowering, crass and poorly-written play, I do see the value in celebrating V-Day --a global movement to end violence against women that is often celebrated on and around Valentine's Day.
If Valentine's Day bums you out, get involved in V Day rallies, fundraisers and events. Volunteer. Spread the word. Do something you can feel proud of. Make a difference!
If there are no official V Day events happening near you, VOLUNTEER in some other way. Spend the week volunteering/fundraising in other ways. Support a cause that is close to your heart. Make a difference.
As a side bonus: getting involved in the community is a great way to meet new people -- including potential dating partners.
3. Make plans with your friends.
Just because you're single on Valentine's Day, doesn't mean you have to be alone on Valentine's Day. Invite your friends who are also single to join you on a special adventure, treasure hunt -- or even speed dating/singles event. Keep your minds busy, entertained, and engaged.
Check out some of the suggestions in How to Make Your Valentine's Day Suck Less. Any of these things could be done either with a partner, or a likeminded group of friends.
So have a great experience together for Valentine's Day. Rent a kayak and go crab fishing! Rent some wetsuits and go snorkeling or scuba diving! Buy a beautiful picnic basket and have a feast in the wilderness!
Or, if the great outdoors isn't so much your thing, check out a concert or comedy show. Take a dance class (seriously, everyone should take at least one dance class in adulthood -- it will be useful for the rest of your life!), go to the video arcade, or check out San Francisco's 7d Laser Shooting Shooting Experience!
Dress all in pink -- or all in black! -- and go skateboarding. Go for a hike! Do what the tourists do when they visit your town.
OR! Have an intellectual adventure! Have a couple's (or couples') game night-- I've heard What?!? Oh... The Game of Couples Banter is great. Set up a challenge for yourselves, such as a couple's hackathon. Create a radio program; write a song or one-act play; enter a photography contest together! Sign up for a painting class at a local bar or coffee shop. Visit a science museum. Or -- learn from the privacy of your own home! Check out some of the awesome online classes offered on Craftsy -- including Cake Decorating, Make Your Own Chinese Takeout, Woodworking, Wire Weaving, or variousGardening classes.
4. Take advantage of President's Day.
Don't limit yourself to friends who are local. If you've got a buddy who lives a few hours or a short plane ride away, this could be the best time for you to drive or fly out to visit them -- or even for you to both fly out from where you live and meet in the middle.
Valentine's Day is always the week before (or weekend of) President's Day. That means you will probably have a three-day weekend. Getting out of town for a few days is great for the soul -- especially when you've got something to look forward to that will distract you from negative thoughts about being single.
Was it chilly? Sort of. Were we cold? NO. Because we wore the appropriate clothing for the weather. There is no such thing as "too cold" -- there is only "not dressed right."
5. Do (or buy) something loving and thoughtful for someone else.
In Money Does Buy Happiness - If You Know How To Spend It, I wrote:
Spending as little as $5 on someone other than yourself increases your happiness.
Norton et al. (2008) discovered this by setting up experiments across the globe, in which participants were given some amount of money (ranging from $5-$20) and telling them to either spend it on themselves or spend it on someone else. Then, at the end of the day, they had participants complete a questionnaire that measured their mood and happiness -- as well as how they spent the money.
Norton and colleagues found that the amount of money given to participants (to spend on either themselves or on others) had little impact on mood or happiness. Instead, the relative percentage of the money that they spent on others predicted happiness.
The experiments have been replicated across the globe, from Canada to Uganda.Whether participants used their money to help a friend pay for a lifesaving malaria treatment or to buy a movie ticket or a coffee for a friend, they experienced similar boosts in their mood. Read more >
Need some inspiration to get you started? Let's say you're working with a $5-10 budget. Here are a few examples of gifts I've sent to friends that tooooooootally made my day (and brightened the day of the people I sent them to):
- Pickle Lip Balm. "I love you, even though you're a weirdo who's obsessed with pickles. Happy Valentine's Day."
- Egg and Pancake Heart Mold. "I miss making eggs with you. You know if you didn't move to Boston, you'd've woken up to SO many heart-shaped panckies. (Actually, you would have probably woken to the smoke alarm -- but it's the thought that counts!)"
- Cupcake Apron. "The only thing cuter than cupcakes... is YOU! LET'S BAKE CUPCAKES ASAP!!!!!"
- LuxTea Dried Rosebuds. "The female equivalent of tea bagging you. Happy Valentine's Day, BUD."
But here's the thing. You don't have to send/pick something out for a friend. Your grandparents probably miss you very much, and would be THRILLED to know you were thinking of them on Valentine's Day.
A card, a box of chocolates or even candies would make their MONTH. I really like this1940's Old Fashioned Sweets Decade Gift Box:
But, as I wrote in The Perfect Valentine's (or Birthday, or even Grandparent's) Day Gift for ANYONE! , when it comes to grandparents, you absolutely can't go wrong with photo gifts: mugs, framed photos, prints... or even this warm and cuddly Photo Blanket.
Try one or all of these suggestions to have a happy, exciting Valentine's Day. And if you have additional suggestions, share them in the comments!