Valentine’s Day and loneliness can unfortunately go hand in hand. For many people, the day represents the chance to show their partners just how much they mean to them; to make rapturous proclamations of their love and devotion through cards, gifts and chocolate. It’s a day in which many people give their partners and themselves the chance to feel a bit more special.
Admittedly, however, there’s another side to this holiday that makes single and unpartnered people feel like they’re missing out. There’s often a perception that Valentine’s Day, and all of the sentiments that come with it, is for people who have found love or, at the very least consistent companionship, in their lives.
This perception puts people into two camps: single and partnered. Unfortunately, people tend to internalize these identities, and for those who haven’t found themselves in a relationship, the feeling of being “single” can transcend the bittersweet, pint-of-ice-cream-on-a-Friday-night rom-com aesthetic and lead to actual mental health issues commonly associated with addiction…and relapse. This year, if you find yourself unable to celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone else, take the day as an opportunity to spend some time with yourself and getting reacquainted with what an amazing person you are.
Possible Long-Term Effects of Internalized Loneliness
The American Psychological Association (APA) has linked loneliness to a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and even dementia. These risks have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic as social isolation has been the dominant way of life for the past year. Whether or not you’ve battled (or are battling) addiction or substance abuse, these mental health issues can have serious implications on overall health and quality of life.
For those in recovery, the depression that often comes with loneliness can be especially dangerous and destabilizing. On one hand, it’s important not to rush into a relationship until you’re ready; on the other, the unmet need for companionship and connection can make things more difficult when you’re trying to heal–sometimes we just want to be with someone.
Ways to Fight Loneliness during Valentine’s Day
Although the in-your-face romance of Valentine’s Day can bring loneliness to the forefront, these feelings can affect your life every other day of the year, as well. With that being said, here are some ways to fight loneliness on Valentine’s Day and all year round:
Get to Know Yourself Better
There’s a difference between being “by” yourself and being “with” yourself. Spending more time “with” ourselves gives us an opportunity to learn our strengths, vulnerabilities and emotional thresholds. Try keeping a daily journal to document what you’re feeling and what situations triggered certain feelings in the moment. You can record a video journal if you don’t feel like writing.
Start A New Hobby
There’s a reason we gravitate toward certain activities, and it’s often because we enjoy the culture and community involved with them (art, music, sports, gaming, etc.). Getting to know yourself better gives you the opportunity to identify new interests you’d like to explore, giving you the chance to meet more people. Although COVID has put a momentary damper on the ability to explore many of these interests in person, start looking around for communities online, whether it’ a book club, an online recipe exchange, a virtual band or performance troupe, an online class or anything else. There’s something out there for everyone!
There are more ways than ever to connect with people with the click of a button. Schedule regular video conference calls with friends and family, reach out to loved ones when you feel like you need some contact. if you feel you’re ready, join a dating app to start seeing what’s out there in a safe and controlled way. “Zoom dates” have become a great way of meeting people during the pandemic, but they can also be good for getting to know other people in general.
Get Out There…Sort Of
Walking interactively can not only increase the chance of establishing real one-to-one connections and friendships; it can also chemically release hormones that make you feel like you’re connected to a community and part of something. Smile at people, say hi, stop and observe architecture and other engaging parts of your community’s common spaces. If you don’t have any walkable areas in your community, take public transportation or drive to a common space.
Go to More Concerts
As the Smiths once wrote: “Take me out tonight…where there’s music and there’s people who are young and alive.” There is perhaps no better place to feel a sense of instant connection than a concert. It gives you a special opportunity to share a primal, emotional experience with people who share your tastes in music. Recovery Unplugged leverages the emotional power of live musical performance to help our clients heal more readily embrace substance abuse treatment.
You May Be Lonely, But You’re Not Alone
The irony of American loneliness is that more and more people are “alone together”. Data from Cigna indicates that 46 percent of all Americans feel lonely either always or sometimes. Translation: you’re not alone in your loneliness. There are ways to combat loneliness without actually being around others. This Valentine’s Day, make or buy yourself a special meal or buy yourself a present. Any gesture of self-care you can manage this weekend will help to compensate for any perceived lack of companionship.
Finally, it’s important to remember that being single or partnered doesn’t determine your value, your worth or the quality of your character. If you’re truly having a difficult time with being alone, schedule a telehealth appointment with a therapist or just talk to a friend about what you’re feeling. If you’re loneliness is causing you to want to turn to drugs or alcohol, Recovery Unplugged is ready to help you get the treatment you need. There’s no shame in asking for help, or even just looking for someone to talk to. Don’t let your relationships with others affect your relationship with yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day from Recovery Unplugged. We love you!