February can be one of the loneliest times of the year, even for those who are normally comfortable being single. Commercials for chocolate and jewelry seem to market the special day for months, and entire sections of retail stores are decorated in pink and red. When you're single, it seems like everyone but you is busy buying roses and making dinner reservations.
If you’re not careful, heartache can turn to desperation. The dread of spending Valentine’s Day alone may tempt you to invite that not-so-good-for-you ex out to dinner. Or you may begin a frenzied campaign to find a date in a desperate attempt to alleviate your fears of loneliness. There’s a long list of potentially bad decisions that could result from hasty attempts to avoid being alone on February 14th.
Facing the holiday solo doesn’t necessarily have to lead to reckless behavior. Stay mentally strong and face Valentine’s Day with courage. Here are three ways to bolster your mental strength as the big day draws near:
1. Avoid Romanticizing Valentine’s Day Past
One of the major dangers of being alone in February is the tendency to dwell on past relationships. Whether you’re daydreaming about that ‘one that got away,’ or you’re recalling the fairy tale date you went on last Valentine’s Day, romanticizing the past isn’t helpful – nor accurate.
Conjuring up past memories during a time when your emotions are raw will cloud your recollections. You’ll likely forget about the problems that existed in the relationship and you’ll risk exaggerating how wonderful you felt when you were together. Idealizing the reality of past romances won’t do you any favors as you face Valentine’s Day alone.
While reflecting on past relationships and learning from them can be helpful, February isn’t the best time to try and gain insight. Make a conscious choice to avoid glamorizing your past Valentine’s Days. Decide that it’s a new year, and a new you. Focus on what you can do to be at your best, regardless of who you are – or aren’t – with.
2. Resist the Urge to Host a Pity Party
Feeling sad or lonely isn’t a bad thing. But those emotions increase the risk that you’ll cross the line into self-pity. Allowing yourself to indulge in self-pity can be downright self-destructive as it will only extend the Valentine’s Day misery.
Feeling sorry for yourself can easily lead to exaggeratedly negative thoughts such as, “I’ll never find anyone,” or “It’s not fair that I have to be alone while everyone else gets to be in a relationship.” It’ll become easy to convince yourself your problems are greater than they are and everyone else has a life better than yours.
Although facing Valentine’s Day alone may be a little rough, it isn’t the end of the world. Rather than complain about how unfair your circumstances are, or dwell on all the reasons why you deserve better, choose to be grateful for all the good things you have in life. Each time you’re tempted to indulge in self-pity, remind yourself of everything you have to be thankful for this year – even if you don’t have a romantic partner.
3. Create a Valentine’s Day Plan
Without a clear idea of how you’re going to spend your time, the days leading up to Valentine’s Day can be filled with even more dread than necessary. And reaching the big day without a game plan will likely make things worse.
While it may seem logical to eat a pint of ice cream on the couch while watching sappy Hallmark movies, doing so will only turn your fears about Valentine’s Day into a reality. Idly wasting the day will only reinforce to you that everyone else is having fun and you’re not.
Create a plan for how you can spend Valentine’s Day a little more productively. Call your single friends and create dinner plans. Or decide that you’re going to go visit Grandma or that elderly neighbor who spends not just Valentine’s Day alone – but every other day too. Getting out and doing something – especially a kind deed – can serve as a wonderful reminder that Valentine’s Day can be what you make of it, regardless of who you’re with.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.