"I am a 29-year-old single man, living in Utah with no family and I am often lonely. I adopted a dog three years ago and she has helped me tremendously, but still at times I get down. What advice can you give to those that are looking to be able to enjoy life to the fullest without yearning to be in a relationship? What could I do to live a more mentally healthy life and turn off the empty feeling that without a relationship, my life isn’t good enough? I see your advice tends to be more towards couples, but I hope to hear your take on this."
The idea your life isn’t complete without a relationship is just belief. Even if your religion emphasizes marriage, the truth is that many people, besides you, don’t have families and are undertaking a solo journey.
There is no universal law that states "Happiness can only happen in a relationship and being by yourself is lonely or sad." That is not truth — it’s just a belief.
How you feel about every situation in your life is dependent on your beliefs and perspectives about it. You can tell yourself that being single is sad and be depressed every day, or you can tell yourself another story. You can choose a story that focuses on the upsides to the solo journey — and there are many.
There are pros and cons to being in a relationship, and there are pros and cons to being single. One is not necessarily better, easier or worse than the other.
You could choose a story about how wonderful it is to have freedom and time to take care of yourself and do things you like to do. You can always choose to focus on the positives. You could also choose to believe you have the exact same value as every other human being on the planet, in a relationship or out.
One life outlook can make you miserable and one can make you feel better. How do you want to live?
Here are 10 other ways to increase your happiness as a single person:
1. Stay away from media that depicts happy couples, families, romance and relationships and shows they all as blissful. It’s not reality. Being in a relationship is just as hard (or harder) than being alone. It just has a different set of challenges. Be realistic about how challenging relationships can be and appreciate the good parts of having some freedom and alone time.
2. Remember you aren’t really ever alone. There are people all around you. You may not have a romantic partner, but you have friends, co-workers, family and other humans you could put effort into spending time with. Make more friends and build your circle of support.
3. Start a bucket list. But don’t stop with 10 things. Write a list of at least 150 things you would like to do, see, learn, eat or experience before you die. With a list that long you will have to get started today making your life full, interesting and fulfilling.
4. Plan trips and travel alone or invite friends to join you. Getting out and seeing the world enriches your life in ways a stable relationship never could. One isn’t better or worse they are just different.
5. Join meet up groups and take classes. Learn new things, make new friends and take on passion projects or service opportunities.
6. Get more exercise. I often ask clients to imagine their family disappeared and they were all alone in the world, what would they be doing with their time. On the top of everyone’s list is more exercise. Those are the things you need to be doing now. Spend all the time you would be putting into a relationship, taking care of yourself.
7. Eat better, be healthy and make self-care a priority. Did you know singles are more likely to be fit and healthy than people in relationships? They eat better and get more exercise. One study showed singles gained an average of 14 or more pounds when they started a relationship and singles get more sleep too.
8. Focus on what you do have. Practice gratitude daily. See the magic and beauty in the small things of life.
9. Work on your home space and make it your own. Decorate and create a space where you love to be.
10. Remember that nothing lasts forever. Every chapter of your life changes eventually. When life is dark you can count on it — the next light chapter is coming because nothing lasts.
Claim your power to choose your attitude moment by moment each day. Choose joy, choose to focus on the good in your life and count the small blessings. Even if it means choosing joy for just five minutes at a time.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the human behavior experts behind www.12.shapes.com. They host a weekly Relationship Radio show
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.