By: Shaila Anjum
It is the month of love but not all of us have that special someone to call our own. While some are content in their happy single lives, others are trying to find the one or just a companion for the 14th of February. The social construct of Valentine’s day leaves us drowning in romance movies on TV, and flowers and heart shaped goodies in stores. But Valentine’s day doesn’t have to be so depressing.
Be aware of your lonely thoughts.
Our minds and thought processes are incredibly powerful. Changing how we think about a certain situation can change how we feel moving forward about similar situations. Researcher, Christopher Masi conducted numerous studies surrounding loneliness (Taitz, 2018). Masi’s team revealed four interventions in a qualitative study to reduce feelings of loneliness: “improving social skills, enhancing social support, increasing opportunities for social contact, addressing maladaptive social cognition” (Masi et al., 2017). Addressing maladaptive social cognition requires one to recognize and pinpoint negative situations and thought processes enabling their feelings of loneliness and reassess where thinking patterns can be changed to elevate mood. For example, you know that task you’ve been procrastinating on for several days or maybe even weeks? You even tried planning your day around it but when it comes time to follow it through, you say "I don’t feel like it." Sometimes your eyes may feel a little heavy and you may even begin to feel tired. But when you replace that task with something you enjoy, you may find that you’re no longer tired. It’s a similar effect as when you’re waiting for a class or an appointment to end and you catch yourself in a snooze, then times up and all of a sudden you’re wide awake! When you associate a task with boredom or difficult, we respond to it likewise. But if we start associating that task with reduced stress levels by thinking "If I get this done, I don’t have to look at it anymore and I can move on to the next step" or "realistically if I focus, this task will only take me 15 minutes to complete so I should push to get it done, I will feel more accomplished at the end of the day!" This simple reformation of thoughts can help push us thorough our daily activities. Why is combating loneliness important? A study found multiple negative effects on health of those that were lonely versus nonlonely (Cacioppo et al., 2002). This study found dysfunctional sleep patterns and low “cardiac contractility, heart rate, and cardiac output” in lonely individuals (Cacioppo et al., 2002).
How do you view being ‘single’?
As human beings, most of us crave a sense of intimacy with another, otherwise we feel incomplete. Thinking this way is not only depressing but completely untrue. A famous anthropologist and psychologist Robin Dunbar, poses the importance of having close relationships and that most individuals require on average five close relationships to subside the feelings of loneliness (Taitz, 2018). Viewing being single as a lack in your personal life can later lead to codependency when you are in a relationship. Codependency is when you depend on someone else to feel complete, you lose a sense of independence by losing yourself in someone else. This can be done by making sacrifices in your own schedule or prioritizing another person above yourself and sometimes even deeming someone else’s problems and tasks as more important than your own. You also don’t want to rush into a relationship that you are not ready for, both you and your partner may suffer. Instead, focus on the important tasks in your life and make yourself your number one priority and best friend.
Relationships often leave a dent in your bank account. Instead, spend half the cash and treat yourself. Making yourself a priority is most important. See what the singles are out doing. Go to that bar or go try archery and make new friends. Remember that sweater you’ve been wanting to buy for a very long time, buy it! If you want that cute valentine teddy bear, get it for yourself. If you want those heart shaped chocolates, get them! You don’t need someone else to determine your worth, you determine your own worth!
Cacioppo, John T., Hawkley, Louise C., Crawford, L. Elizabeth, Ernst, John M., Burleson,
Mary H., Kowalewski, Ray B., Malarkey, William B., Van Cauter, Eve, Berntson, Gary G. (2002). Loneliness and Health: Potential Mechanisms. Psychosomatic Medicine, 64(3), 407-417.
Masi, C. M., Chen, H., Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). A Meta-Analysis of Interventions to Reduce Loneliness. Personality and Social Psychology Review,15(3), 219-266. doi:10.1177/1088868310377394.
Taitz, J. (2018). 4 ways to feel less lonely on valentine’s day. Retrieved from http://time.com/5155350/fight-loneliness-valentines-day/