When you’re single, it seems as if happy couples are always in your face. They’re holding hands on the street, snuggling in a restaurant booth, or even making out on the bus. And it’s not just couples who remind you of your singleness. You may see some guy strutting down the sidewalk with a bunch of dewy roses in hand, and suddenly you’re fantasizing about flinging your door open to find him in your kitchen with dinner ready. But instead you come home, clutching a box of Thai takeout for one, and the daisies your mom sent for your birthday are molding.
It’s easy to experience envy and sadness, but consider this: “When you’re single, all you see are happy couples. When you’re committed, all you see are happy singles.” Both coupled- and single-lives have pros and cons. So how do you turn your focus away from the loneliness of being single? It starts with introducing new activities and thought patterns into your normal routine.
1. Improve your health and diet
Changing your diet or physical activity not only sets your attention on new goals but also yields positive long-term results. Improvements can start as small changes such as drinking less soda, eating more vegetables, or walking twice a week during your lunch break. For those looking for something more daring, consider joining a gym or moderately exercising with your doctor’s guidance, and enlist a buddy to join you and keep you motivated. If you’re already fit and active, explore new activities or classes. You’ll build a new routine with physical and mental benefits.
2. Foster a shelter animal
It’s not something people think of right away, but temporarily fostering an animal provides a great outlet for giving and receiving love. Many shelters need foster parents to care for young animals until they’re old enough for adoption. Some animals simply need some much-needed one-on-one attention and a break from the shelter environment. Either way, you have a win-win situation. If you rent your home, make sure your landlord approves of fostering before you bring an animal into your space. If she doesn’t allow dogs or cats, ask if she would approve of a caged animal such as a bird, hamster or rabbit. Some shelters accept a variety of animals, so open your heart to non-traditional foster pets. If your landlord gives you the thumbs up, contact your local shelter about its foster parent needs and what kind of animal fits your lifestyle. It’s very important to pair up with the right animal so both you and your buddy are happy.
3. Take a class for fun or to further your career
Community colleges and universities offer continuing education classes on a range of subjects including foreign languages, guitar lessons, self-defense, and occupational training courses. You can take some classes online as well. These non-credit classes can help you discover potential new careers or open the door to new interests. You can also further your current career by studying for certifications or deepening your skill set with job-related courses. Taking a few classes can also work as networking and socializing opportunities.
4. Shift your perspective
Negative thoughts are like bad habits—you can break them. The key starts with establishing routine positive thoughts on being single (Yes, they exist!) to replace the bad ones. It’s easy to forget the pros of single life, but you can sum them up in one overarching thought: You possess more freedom and control over your life than people in relationships. Yes, relationships come with great benefits, but, you have plenty to enjoy as a single person. You can go practically anywhere, anytime without restriction or checking in with someone else. You can also plan vacations and family visits to your heart’s desire and schedule. You can make purchase decisions according to exactly what you want without pushback from a significant other. If you want to change your lifestyle, it’s all up to you. Want to move? Go back to school? Travel for a year? Adopt a pet? You only have to run it by yourself. Coupled life and single life come with pros and cons. Don’t take your pros for granted.
5. Evaluate what you want in love
The single life provides valuable opportunities to get clear on your future love life. Whether you’re actively seeing different people or lying low, pay close attention to what makes you happy and what could be deal breakers. If you notice patterns in how you react to your dates’ mannerisms, behaviors or lifestyle choices, acknowledge those feelings to yourself. Don’t feel guilty for wanting, and not wanting, particular qualities in a mate.
If you’ve had long-term relationships, reflect on the lessons learned to help you find the right mate. Ask yourself the following questions:
What did you enjoy about your past partners’ personalities? What worked well between you and them?
Did you make compromises you didn’t want to? If so, what were they? Would you make them again?
Did you have needs or desires that weren’t met? What were they? How important are they to you?
How have you changed over time? Are your relationship needs the same as they were 10 years ago?
Given your current life direction, what kind of relationship do you want going forward and what kind of person fits that vision?
The goal of this exercise is to give you clarity on who you are, what you can accept, and what you won’t accept in order to carve a path toward the right relationship. If you use online dating, include your new insights on your profile. This will attract more compatible people and weed out those with incongruent goals.
So even though you order takeout for one, savor every bite. Your life blesses you with flexibility, options, and control. If you still find yourself lonely on occasion, dive into some new activities, educational opportunities, and constructive reflection to add long-term value to your life.