Let’s be real: Flying solo has a lot of perks. Without a steady partner, you’ve got plenty of time to try new workouts, you can catch up on your reading list in peace, and no one’s going to argue if you want to spend your vacation at a no-dudes-allowed surf camp.
But then Valentine’s Day rolls around, and suddenly you’re bombarded with evidence of other people’s happy coupledom, both in real life and on social media. If you’re single, it’s hard not to have a few pangs of romantic FOMO this time of year; in fact, says happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, we’re hard-wired to feel that way.
“Contemporary scientists agree that to feel happy, we have to feel deeply connected with other people,” explains the author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before. “For many people, having an intimate relationship is something they really want. They can have other strong relationships, but if [a romantic partnership] is missing, they feel the lack of it.”
But, good news: There are plenty of ways to hack February 14 so it becomes one of your favorite days of the year, even if you don’t have a date planned. I tapped Rubin—whose new podcast network, The Onward Project, is all about self-improvement—for some of her favorite tips on how to be happy no matter what your relationship status. (And, thankfully, none of them involve swiping right.)
Keep reading for Rubin’s advice on being a sublimely happy single gal—on Valentine’s Day, and beyond.
1. Take a temporary hiatus from social media
From date-night snaps to your engaged friends’ wedding boards on Pinterest, there’s nothing like social media to remind you that you’re not coupled up around Valentine’s Day. That’s why Rubin says this is a prime opportunity to take a digital detox.
“If you feel like social media is dragging you down around a sensitive time, you might [decide] to limit or stay off of it for a day or two,” she suggests. “Don’t let yourself wallow by spending hours refreshing and hopping from Instagram to Twitter to Facebook.” You could also take it to the next level and book a phone-free vacation—here’s how to make that happen.
2. Buy yourself something nice
Before you call in sick to avoid the onslaught of red rose deliveries at your office, Rubin suggests you spring for a treat of your own, whether it’s a long lunch date with an old friend, a 90-minute massage, or a new perfume (Rubin’s personal favorite).
But be sure it’s a healthy indulgence, she warns. “You don’t want to give yourself something that’s going to make you feel worse in the end—like splurging on something you can’t afford or eating a whole container of ice cream.” Sorry, but that goes for nice cream, too.
3. Give love to someone else
“One of the best ways to make ourselves happy is to make someone else happy,” says Rubin. “You will remind yourself of everything you have to give.”
She recommends making a list of 10 good deeds to do during the week of Valentine’s Day, like giving a pal a new job lead or calling family members you don’t often talk to. And make sure they come from the heart. “These are not random acts of kindness,” Rubin stresses. “These are deliberate acts of kindness.”
4. Set up a squad
If you’ve been meaning to host a women’s circle—they are trending, after all—the time around Valentine’s Day is the perfect time.
Why is there such strength in numbers when it comes to friendship? “It sounds kind of silly to say, but friendships take time and energy,” Rubin reasons. “Starting a group is a way of seeing a lot of people at once while strengthening existing relationships and making new friends.”
Volunteer groups, workout circles, dinner party clubs—all are great ways to combat loneliness, and they can have a bonus effect for your love life. “If you’re looking for a romantic relationship, you’re extending your network of people who can introduce you to other people,” she points out.
5. Don’t shy away from negative feelings
“Often when we think about happiness, we think it’s bad to have negative emotions. We don’t want to feel envy, anger, boredom, or resentment,” Rubin says. “But, actually, negative emotions are very powerful because they help us identify what we want.”
So if you’re jealous of your power-couple pals, don’t feel guilty or try to bury those feelings—instead, put those people on your vision board. “Negative emotions are useful even if they’re not pleasant,” Rubin insists. “And they’re certainly part of a happy life because they show us where we can be happier.”
6. Make a plan
One of The Onward Project’s newest podcasts, Side Hustle School, advises listeners to get really clear on what they want when it comes to big career goals. The same goes if you want to call in a lover.
“You’re going to hit a target much better if you’re aiming at it,” says Rubin. “Sometimes we feel like romance should be spontaneous, but the more you think about what you want and what steps could take you closer to it, the more successful you’ll be.”
That means mindfully scheduling in social opportunities that’ll bring you in contact with the types of people you want to meet—not just casually scrolling through Bumble when you’re bored and wondering why you’re not meeting quality candidates.
7. Focus on the areas of life you can control
And what if you’ve been following all the rules of the dating game but you’re still not getting anywhere? Sure, it’s easy to let that disappointment color your entire existence, but remember that there are a lot more avenues to happiness than just having a steady plus-one.
“When one part of your life isn’t what you want it to be, thinking about other parts of your life that are more within your direct control can bring you more energy and optimism,” Rubin suggests. “So you might say, ‘Right now there’s nobody in my life I’m interested in, but maybe this is a good time to start thinking about making a change in my career or relocating.’”
And when you’re fully stoked about every other area of your life, that’s when you’ll start attracting mates who are buzzing on that same level.
Even if you’re partnered up, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in some self-love on V-Day. Try this mind-body detox, pick up some home spa swag, or listen to this sound bath recording to raise your date-night vibes.