How to Have a Mentally Healthy Valentine’s Day as a Single Person

Valentine's Day is a particularly tricky and potentially painful holiday for singles because it has become so focused on romantic love, celebrating the glory of being coupled with another. February comes bursting with red hearts, candies, cards, flowers, teddy bears, name it, it's out there for purchase in celebration of February 14. This can leave those without partners feeling left out in the February cold, emphasizing their single status.

Below, you’ll find a few tips to enjoy Valentine’s Day, no matter your relationship status:

  1. If you are single or alone and dreading Valentine's Day, remind yourself that a joyful and satisfying life requires much more than a romantic partner by your side. Accepting this does not mean you don't want to find true love or that you like being single, but while you are unattached, focusing on the good people and relationships in your life NOW is key. Try to focus on who you have as opposed to who is lacking in your life. Feeling connected through authentic relationships of all types is the key to combating loneliness. This is true on Valentine's Day and every other day of the year. 
  2. Remember, Valentine's Day can be a celebration of love and affection of all kinds, not only romantic love. Make a list of those you are grateful to have in your life and why they are important to you. Offer them a Valentine greeting or gesture so they know they are loved and cherished by you. Reaching out to supportive parents, siblings, and close friends can remind you that you are loved and connected. Valentine's Day can be rough for kids too, especially if they aren't the most popular among peers. Giving the young people in your life a reminder of your affection for them will make their day and can make yours better as well.
  3. Some find it helpful to enjoy their singleness with other unattached friends on Valentine's Day. For example, plan a day trip or even a simple gathering with friends over a meal or a favorite Netflix series. Planning events like this throughout the year helps combat feeling alone and isolated. So when the holidays hit, you are less affected if you don't have a partner or close family nearby. 
  4. Another idea to consider: write a love and acceptance letter to yourself. To some, this may seem silly or contrived. Still, many of us are terribly self-critical and mentally beat ourselves up with cruel self-talk that we would never direct to a friend or even a person we don't like! Writing a letter to yourself offering acceptance of self-perceived flaws, acknowledgement and appreciation of strengths, and comfort or forgiveness can be immensely healing.  
  5. Finally, think of your attached and paired up friends and know that in reality, their grass probably isn't greener. Try not to assume that all those with a partner are blissfully happy. Just because your friend, neighbor, or co-worker has a partner does not mean they feel connected or loved by that partner. One of the most painful feelings is to be in a relationship yet still feel alone, unappreciated, or forgotten. Receipt of an obligatory bouquet of flowers or box of candy is no substitute for true affection and feeling genuinely loved. For those in struggling relationships, Valentine's Day can be just as difficult as it is for single folks.    

How are you celebrating the loved ones in your life this Valentine’s Day? Comment below. 

Dr. Trish Carlson is a board certified adult psychiatrist and full-time staff psychiatrist at The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt. She also has specialized fellowship training in the field of eating disorders. Dr. Carlson has a strong interest in treating anxiety and mood disorders, including treatment resistant depression and panic disorder.