Have you been dreading Valentine’s Day this year? If so, you’re not alone. This holiday that celebrates romantic love can feel like a thorn in the side of those who have loved and lost, or those who feel sad and stressed about being single.
Scientific researchers have documented the reality of emotional struggle around the holidays, with the Mayo Clinic noting that holidays often exacerbate stress and depression. Many people simply struggle to receive the meaningful social interaction they crave, and the resulting loneliness can be especially intense around holidays.
You don’t have to suffer in silence, though. There are many tools available to help you shift out of sadness or loneliness this Valentine’s Day, and mindfulness is a particularly valuable and effective one. Here are seven mindfulness tips anyone who feels sad or lonely this Valentine’s Day can try:
Be Your Own BFF: Be your own BFF so you can always count on YOU. Start by treating yourself like you would a dear friend. Say Loving Kindness phrases to yourself like, “You are loved. You are whole and complete just as you are. You are always enough.” Make a joy list and pick something from it to do on Valentine’s Day.
Write Yourself a Love Letter: Once you’ve put yourself in the mindset of being your own BFF in step one, take this a step further and write yourself a love letter. Let yourself know just how wonderful you are. Tell yourself all the things that you most need to hear right now. What words or phrases would help you feel most supported and loved? What sentiments would most lift your spirits if expressed to you? You can write this love letter in a journal or on any piece of paper… or you can really treat yourself and go all out! Pick up some beautiful stationery or the perfect card and select writing instruments that feel wonderful in your hand. And don’t hold back! Shower yourself in the words of love that mean the most to you.
Comfort Yourself with Soothing Touch: Put a hand over your heart. Wrap your arms around yourself. Give yourself a gentle touch on your cheek, shoulder, or belly. Wherever touch feels most soothing and comforting to you, give that to yourself. This gentle touch activates your body’s mammalian caregiver response and releases oxytocin and opiates in your brain to counteract cortisol, the stress hormone. Try different spots out on yourself and see what works for you. If you’re in public and feel the need for comfort yet want to be discreet, pick a soothing touch that isn’t as obvious to others, such as softly holding your arms or placing one hand in the other.
Change the Channel: Focus mindfully on a positive mental state from a memory — one that really fills you up with peace, calm, and joy. The more deeply you can feel those positive feelings and breathe into them, the more you will begin to turn that positive state into a neural trait. Rewire your brain for more happiness and resilience.
Boost Your Self-Care by Volunteering: Add volunteering to your self-care regimen. Helping others has been shown to support our own mental health and happiness, so poke around online or ask your neighbors to see what local volunteer opportunities are available. From feeding the homeless to walking local shelter dogs, giving your mindful attention to an altruistic activity will stop you from ruminating and feeling stuck in a loop of unhelpful, painful thoughts.
Spend Time with a Pet: For those of you who don’t have a pet, it doesn’t even have to be your pet! As illustrated by the work and research of groups like animal-welfare initiative Mutual Rescue, animals can have a life-changing positive impact on people. Practice being mindfully present with a pet. Let some of their unconditional love touch your life and see for yourself.
Stay Connected: We humans are wired for connection, and effective self-care should always take that into account. Even those of us who highly value our alone time can find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely if we neglect our need for connection. So, take the time to reach out to a friend or loved one. This can be anything from a nice phone conversation to a coffee or lunch date. And, looking back to tip number five above, volunteering is also a great way to connect with others while being of service. The main idea here is to commit to regular opportunities to invite moments of connection with others humans. We all need that from time to time. Connection — whether with an old friend or a new acquaintance — can be a great balm for the Valentine’s Day blues.
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