Elise Plessis has intentionally avoided being in a committed relationship for 26 years. However, she still experiences fear of missing out when Valentine’s Day approaches.
“I am the only one in my family and friend group,” expressed Plessis, a 53-year-old resident of Manitoba, Canada. “Valentine’s Day fills me with despair, as if I am a failure who cannot find someone who wants me.”
However, she will not spend her time at home lamenting her circumstances, which she brought upon herself after becoming tired of the negative aspects of hookup culture. Instead, Plessis intends to follow the advice of loneliness researchers and psychologists by helping others, in order to shift her focus away from her own thoughts.
She will be assisting others in finding love. She obtained her certification as a matchmaker last year and has arranged a speed dating event prior to Valentine’s Day.
Plessis stated, “If I am unable to discover love, it is the least I can offer.”
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that haters call “forced,” commercialized and downright expensive to pull off if expectations are to be met. This year, the day of romance that has grown into a celebration of all-around love and friendship is the first since the U.S. surgeon general issued a public health advisory last spring declaring loneliness and isolation an “epidemic” with dire consequences.
The top public health official in the country, Dr. Vivek Murthy, cautioned that widespread loneliness can have health consequences as severe as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. He stated that this issue incurs billions of dollars in expenses for the healthcare industry annually.
According to him, approximately 50% of adults in the United States have faced feelings of isolation. This issue has been brewing for quite some time, even before the pandemic, and has only gotten worse in recent times.
“It’s comparable to the sensations of hunger or thirst. It’s a signal from our body indicating that something essential for our survival is lacking,” Murthy stated in an interview with The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, there are countless individuals in America who are facing challenges in silence, and that is unjust.”
Similar to how Valentine’s Day has become a commercialized holiday, the feeling of loneliness has also transformed into a profitable industry. This is evident through the plethora of self-help books and data-driven resources that have emerged. The time period is highly lucrative for dating apps and websites, as they cater to individuals seeking companionship to overcome feelings of isolation.
We offer gift guides for Valentine’s Day, as well as for those who don’t enjoy the holiday. We have recommended recipes for the occasion, advice on selecting flowers that are safe for pets, and plenty of Valentine’s cards available in stores. Additionally, the concept of Galentine’s Day (Feb. 13) for singles and friends has gained popularity thanks to its portrayal on “Parks and Recreation.”
David Sbarra, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, explores the effects of loneliness and social isolation. Along with other data analysts, he believes that the notion of loneliness as a fatal epidemic is slightly exaggerated. However, he is optimistic about the potential of Valentine’s Day to provide relief for those who struggle with chronic loneliness.
He stated that it can be argued that it worsens the psychological distress of individuals who are already lonely.
Sbarra explained that instead of focusing on the negative effects of social isolation, it would be beneficial for individuals to change their perspective and actively seek out ways to reconnect with others. This could include asking oneself questions such as, “Who can I spend time with?”, “What activities can I participate in?”, “How can I help others?”, and “Who can I reach out to through text or call?” These actions are crucial for maintaining positive social connections.
Tori Mattei, a 27-year-old living in New York, has learned these lessons during the past four years of being single. After two consecutive long-term relationships ended, she has been actively dating.
“Since I have been without a partner for some time, I have made it a personal goal to go on a specific number of dates in order to prove to myself that I am capable and to avoid feeling uncomfortable or anxious,” she explained. “I have been on numerous first dates in the last few years, but not many have progressed to a second date.”
Valentine’s Day held significant importance in her romantic partnerships. Occasionally, it was a comfortable evening at home. Typically, there were presents exchanged, such as flowers, perfume, or jewelry.
Mattei expressed feeling valued and recognized.
She resides by herself in Manhattan, unlike her friends who have roommates. Most of her friends are in romantic partnerships.
“I value moments of solitude and tranquility, but during occasions like Valentine’s Day or events like the Super Bowl, I must put in extra effort to avoid feeling lonely,” explained Mattei. “I make sure to schedule activities for myself. It only takes one day of feeling lonely to make it seem like a constant state.”
Mattei does not identify as someone who dislikes Valentine’s Day.
She expressed her aversion to the pressure of creating a romantic atmosphere, when in reality, a simple gesture like receiving a rose from a stranger could brighten her day.
Her top tip for getting through Valentine’s Day is as lovely as the candy conversation hearts that are popular during this season.
“Express affection towards someone by giving them a gift and brightening their day. And if you can’t think of anyone, show love to yourself. Treat yourself to something like candy or flowers, which I often do because I love their appearance. It doesn’t matter that I bought them for myself,” stated Mattei.
According to Dr. Jeremy Nobel, author of “Project UnLonely: Healing Our Crisis of Disconnection,” all of the points mentioned above are valid. Loneliness can take various forms, such as physical isolation or being excluded due to differences.
Nobel, a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, stated that scientific evidence shows a direct connection between loneliness and a higher chance of dying early. He also teaches a course for medical students to aid them in identifying loneliness in their patients.
Nobel has developed initiatives, such as Project UnLonely and Foundation for Art & Healing, which utilize artistic expression to bring attention to the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation on various populations, including youth.
The project is hosting a complimentary Zoom coloring session for those interested in participating on Valentine’s Day. You can choose to use crayons, markers, colored pencils, or oil pastels.
According to Nobel, loneliness is a personal experience. It is the difference between the desired and actual social connections one has. Valentine’s Day is typically a time for celebrating love and connection, but it can be difficult if one lacks those connections.
Kelli Miller, a psychotherapist based in Los Angeles, offers counseling services for both couples and individuals. She is also the author of “Love Hacks: Easy Solutions for Common Relationship Problems.” According to Miller, Valentine’s Day often brings up difficult emotions for her clients. In cases where one may feel unsatisfied with their love life, she advises them to look within themselves for sources of happiness.
“Go to the movies by yourself. Treat yourself to a nice meal. I understand that many people may not enjoy eating alone, but sometimes simply being around others can be beneficial.”