With all the messages on tv and the media around Valentine’s Day it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that having a healthy, loving partnership with someone is the absolute key to happiness. We get the message over and over again that having that special someone will improve our life and permanently elevate our mood in countless ways. But this actually isn’t true! Research on happiness shows that we all have a baseline level of happiness that moves up and down throughout our life. Happiness is a result of the complex interactions of our genetics, circumstances, activities, and choices. We tend to have a stable, individualized set point for contentment and happiness throughout life that we return to in between the ups and downs. Romantic partnerships are just one aspect of our lives that moves happiness up or down from that baseline level, but it is not the only one! When it feels like romance is alluding you and dragging down your mood, here are some steps you can take to feel better:
Empower your Focus
When we are empowered to focus on important aspects of our lives and our accomplishments, outside of romantic relationships, our happiness grows. Determining your values and moving towards a life that follows them, building in activities that bring joy and provide a sense of mastery, we are choosing an empowered focus on life. Your values help point you in the direction of what actions to take in your life so that it feels authentic and meaningful, and often result in relationship building. However, be empowered to develop a wide variety of fulfilling relationships; there are many important relationships in life outside of romantic ones! Use the time when you are single to build connections with family, friends, or members of your community that are important to you.
Focus on areas of your life that make you happy or give a sense of mastery. This means engaging in activities that help you feel confident, capable and in control. It could include small everyday chores and tasks or bigger commitments like reengaging in or starting new hobbies, traveling more, or getting active within your community by volunteering. Take the time to build in activities that bring enjoyment and leave you feeling energized and happy. Being single is a great time to reflect on what’s important to you and build the important practice of good self-care.
It’s also a good time to reflect on all that you have accomplished. Accomplishments are often not recognized and celebrated the same for those who are not in a relationship. So be sure to take the time and find ways to feel rewarded and proud of your accomplishments, big and small. Surround yourself with people who can celebrate them with you.
Navigating Through Regret or Grief
Most of us have regrets from past romantic relationships or opportunities for romantic experiences that have passed. Navigating through regret or the grief of ended relationships is an important piece of being single and thriving. We have a window of opportunity in these challenging feelings; we process them, learn what these emotions are teaching us, and let them go. Or, do you find that these regrets take on a life of their own, grow, and become amplified over time? Do they they become obsessive thoughts or worries? Thinking about the situation in a productive way is helpful, but when we obsessively dwell on certain thoughts or feelings it can make our thinking less rational and make us feel worse. Constantly running on the thought hamster wheel points your attention away from what is good in your life and zaps your energy. It’s important to “stay in the ick” long enough to understand where it’s coming from, learn from our regret and grief, but allow ourselves to move forward.
Rather than staying stuck in the bad feeling, ask yourself “What aspects of the situation are in my control?” For the parts you have control of ask “What productive action can I take to resolve the feelings of guilt or regret?” Additionally ask “What would you say to help a friend in this situation?” and “How can I show myself compassion in this situation?” Learning from the situation and finding areas of growth or ways to accept and love parts of yourself can be healing.
When you feel stuck, train yourself to recognize the thoughts that keep recurring. The next time the thought comes up, engage in activities that require your full attention, help you stay in the present moment, or act in the opposite of the feelings it brings up. Things like watching a favorite tv show or movie, going to trivia night, exercising, remembering happy times, singing, or dancing to your favorite song and keep you in the present moment, stop the negative thoughts, and help you continue on with the things you need or want to get done.
Love Thy Self!
Remember, being single isn’t a bad thing! There isn’t a rule anywhere that says you have to be in a romantic relationship. In fact, we are always in an ever-evolving relationship with ourselves. We are given a gift, an opportunity to truly learn who we are and nurture our soul with our interests, hobbies, friends, and family. Lean into the good things and embrace what life has to offer, regardless of relationship status. Feel how empowering it can be to be single and thriving.