Movies and TV shows often push the narrative that a person is not “complete” until they find a romantic partner. It’s an idea that many of us grow up believing thanks to fairy tales we read in childhood. Meanwhile, being single is portrayed as a state of loneliness that must be endured until a person meets “The One”. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are extremely damaging – not to mention completely untrue. There are lots of benefits of being single, and studies have shown that single people report levels of well-being that are similar to those in relationships. But what about those of us who need some help feeling better about our single status? First, it may help to know you’re not alone. Although you might feel like you’re surrounded by happy couples everywhere you look, the U.S. Census Bureau reports there were roughly 40 million never-married women in the U.S. in 2020 – a sharp rise over the 27 million recorded in 2000.
How to Be Single and Happy
More and more people are embracing the benefits of being single, and it turns out there are a lot of upsides to being solo. Here’s how to feel better about being single, whether you are looking for a relationship or not.
Use your solo time to learn more about yourself
People who are in relationships often focus on their partner while neglecting to work on themselves. Being single is a great time to really get to know who you are, give yourself all the attention you deserve, and learn to love yourself. This can be a tremendous opportunity for self-care and personal growth as you work toward your own life goals without the distraction of supporting someone else’s dreams.
Learn to enjoy your own company
Society often acts as though going to a restaurant or movie theater alone is somehow undesirable. However, nothing could be further from the truth, and learning to enjoy your own company is a valuable life skill that can bring you immense satisfaction even if you eventually find a partner. Not only is it perfectly acceptable to spend a Saturday evening alone on your sofa watching a movie and enjoying your favorite snacks, but it can be downright enjoyable to have full control over how you spend your free time!
Listen to science, not self-doubt
A study published in Current Psychology found that people who viewed themselves as being single voluntarily had a lower likelihood of feeling romantic loneliness. If you feel that you are single because of external circumstances, reframing those thoughts and looking at being single as being a conscious choice you are making can go a long way toward making you feel better.
Here’s what some other studies have found about the benefits of being single:
- In a presentation for the American Psychological Association in 2016, Dr. Bella DePaulo presented evidence showing single people have stronger feelings of self-determination and are more likely than married people to experience psychological growth and development.
- Research suggests that single people tend to be healthier than married people, with a 2017 study in the Journal of Women’s Health showing single women had lower BMIs and risks associated with alcohol and smoking than married women.
- Single people are more self-sufficient, and research shows that the more self-sufficient single people are, the lower likelihood they have of experiencing negative emotions in life. The reverse is true for married people.
Fill your time with things that bring you joy
When you are in a relationship, you will probably spend some time doing things that your partner enjoys or visiting their family and friends. When you are single, you are in the driver’s seat, so use this time to keep busy with whatever makes you happy. If you enjoy reading, consider joining a book club. If you like heading to happy hour with your coworkers, there is nothing stopping you from showing up there every Friday after work. If you’re an avid runner, sign up for a marathon or join a running group. This might also be the perfect time to learn a new language or take a course to advance your career. The possibilities are endless, and the more you keep busy, the less time you will have to focus on the perceived negatives of being single.
Think about what you have, not what you’re lacking
People who obsess over being single are essentially focusing on something they feel they are lacking: a partner. Fixating on the negative can be very damaging to your emotional health, and this negativity can often be detected by others who interact with you. Instead of dwelling on what you do not have, focus on all of the good things you do have in your life right now, such as great friends, a rewarding job, good health, a nice place to live, or whatever you have accomplished in your life that you are proud of. When you embrace positivity, not only will you be happier, but other people will pick up on it and want to bask in your light.
Avoid comparing yourself to others
If you are unhappy about your single status, seeing friends and family in happy relationships might make you feel worse. However, it is important to avoid comparing yourself to others, particularly in the age of social media when we are surrounded by images of what appear to be happy couples spending time together. Keep in mind that you can never truly know all the details of other people’s lives and relationships. People tend to only show the best parts of their lives to others, and what you see in their social media posts or when you spend time with seemingly happy couples might be a lot different than the reality in their daily lives when it’s just the two of them. And even if their relationship truly is as good as it seems, that does not mean that you cannot also be happy in your own life without a partner. Everyone can find happiness, whether they are on their own or with someone else.
Consider talking to a professional
If you’re at a point where you’re truly struggling to find the upsides of being single, you might benefit from some professional help. Periods of unhappiness, anxiety, self-doubt, and insecurity are part of the human experience, and therapists can equip you with the right tools to cope with these emotions and accept yourself for who you are. It is easy to get caught up in negative thought cycles, like “I’ll never find love” or “No one wants to be with me”, but these beliefs are not based on facts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to break free from these unhelpful thoughts and view your life in a healthier way. Many people find that online therapy at Calmerry is a convenient way to get non-judgmental help learning how to be okay with being single.
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that life is not a competition, and there is no set age or time frame for meeting certain milestones in life. Many people have satisfying and joyful lives without a romantic partner, and being single doesn’t mean you are incapable of loving or being loved. A partner doesn’t “complete” you, no matter what the movies say – it’s all within you. You need to be a happy and whole person on your own to be truly content, whether you end up sharing your life with a partner or not.