A Clinical Psychologist’s Tips For How To Stop Feeling Bad About Being Single

As a clinical psychologist who works with 20-30 somethings, clients have been sharing how awful this moment in time feels. Sexism and women’s mistreatment is all over the news, yet guys on apps haven’t totally changed their ways. And now, Valentine’s Day candy is sitting on your co-worker’s desk. It can feel like problems in the world (dating disappointments) are colliding to make you feel worse about your love life. Here are some of the ways to feel freer from my new book , since you’re awesome and it’s too risky to wait for the world to change.

1. Know That A Partner Is Not The Path To Happiness

Even if shows like or stories about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement seem to suggest otherwise, social scientists who devote their careers to studying happiness explain that happiness has more to do with your activities and your headspace than your circumstances. In a study of more than 24,000 people, marriage increased happiness, on average, by 1%! I’m all for coupling, it’s just practical to remember that you can be joyful regardless of your relationship status, since having the mindset that you need a plus one to feel whole will depress you. Plus, happiness is attractive and charismatic. You don’t deserve to wait for another person to live best!

2. If You’re Worried About Ending Up Alone, Your Thinking Is Off

Imagine someone tells you that based on certain facts, you’ll probably end up alone, then asks you to complete math problems. How do you think you’ll perform? One of my favorite psychologists actually did this and found basically what you’d expect. As he describes: “Anticipating aloneness reduces intelligent thought.”  No one can predict his or her future, and the moment you decide you’ll be by yourself forever, you are simply not being rational. The smartest thing to do when you begin to imagine isolation is to remind yourself, compassionately, that you aren’t thinking clearly. After all, ruminating and obsessing negatively creates suffering. 

3. Don’t Wait For Cupid To Say OK 

Take a moment and make a list of how your life will be different when you meet someone you cherish. Now take that list, and start taking action! I know this is easier said than done, but you don’t need to feel like you’re spending your life in an airport waiting for a flight to your dream destination, especially if you’ve been waiting a long time. Creating a schedule of activities that give you pleasure and a sense of accomplishment increases your well-being. It can be tempting to imagine how these plans may be more fun with someone, but when you notice that trap, observe it and come back to participating in whatever it is your doing. If you haven’t been lucky (and yes, a lot of coupling has to do with luck), you still deserve to savor opportunities. And when you meet someone, you don’t want to regret missing moments of your life. People joke about FOMO, but you miss out IRL if you’re watching and waiting rather than committing to experiencing.

4. Appreciate That A Lover Doesn’t Solve Loneliness 

Amazingly, and in the most respectful way, experts on the topic of loneliness have found that feeling uncomfortably alone has a lot to do with you. Telling yourself you’ll never make close friends, judging yourself as separate, or others as not worth your time can close you off from meaningful connections. By thinking less judgmentally (and considering that someone may have forgotten to text you back, rather than writing him off as a flake) and avoiding the conclusion that you’re a loser, you’ll feel more motivated to get close to people. Of course, it’s hard to meet people and not everyone is going to become your dream tribe. That said, being kind and acting easygoing can make you feel friendlier. I see many people in fulfilling relationships who feel lonely. I also see people who are uncoupled who feel fulfilled in their lives. Researchers clarify that a single person can’t remedy loneliness—most people need roughly five close friends to experience a sense of fulfilling intimacy. It’s not too late to connect, especially since satisfying relationships extend your life and make your life worth extending.

5. Think About Ways You Can Give Love

Habitually, we often focus on our goals, or what we hope to achieve (think a perfect person, job, and body) rather than on our values, or how we show up in our lives (think being a good friend, working hard, and making healthy choices). When people think about coupling, they often imagine all the ways they hope to receive love. But interestingly enough, to feel the emotion of love we also need to offer love. And there are so many ways to give love. Amazingly, self-compassion and contributing to others can create loving feelings and remind you that you can experience real love. I’m willing to bet that kindness meditation, practicing gratitude, and volunteering (all of which I expand on in more detail in my book) will improve your life more than a hot Valentine.

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