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How to Truly Enjoy Valentine’s Day When You’re Single

These simple pleasures will fill you with love — and learning.

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gif of woman flipping tarrot cards, self love, single on valentines day
Cécile Dormeau
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Perhaps Valentine's Day was created in the Middle Ages because Feb. 14 was believed to be the date that birds picked their mates. Perhaps the holiday was named for a fourth-century priest named Valentine who defied an emperor's orders not to marry single men because the emperor believed unmarried males made better soldiers.

Theories abound, though this is what we know for sure: Hallmark, jewelers, florists and chocolate-makers have turned the day into a $23.9 billion industry. Maybe you’re a more secure person than I was before I got married, though back in my single days, I couldn’t help feeling left out if I didn’t have Valentine's-Day plans.

Here’s the scoop: Valentine’s Day is essentially about love — so why not make it about love of friends and family, neighbors and, above all, self. You don’t need a lover on this holiday of hearts to have a lovely time.

Make a date with a friend to do something fun

This was always my go-to. A movie, a dinner out, a concert, a comedy show. There are piles of data confirming that laughter is medicinal, and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than listening to a comedian dishing uproarious tales of ex-lovers? If the pandemic has you worried about going to a club, queue up Chelsea Handler’s new special, Revolution on Netflix, where she riffs on her choice to be alone (except for her pets). Or watch Amy Schumer’s YouTube shorts, “Who’s More Over Their Ex?” and “The Museum of Boyfriend Wardrobe Atrocities,” all of which are hilarious.

Do something you've never done before

How about a Tarot reading? A wine tasting or painting class — maybe both on the same day? From the comfort of your own home, Master Class opens many exciting ways to expand your world. Maybe Valentine’s week means learning from such masters as Annie Leibovitz teaching photography; Alice Waters, founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation, showing you “The Art of Home Cooking”; or a Zen session with Jon Kabat-Zinn, sharing his extensive knowledge of “Mindfulness and Meditation.”

If you are the type who croons in the shower and wants to take it up a notch, take a singing class with Christina Aguilera. Learning at every stage and age keeps us growing, cerebrally and emotionally. Lara Boyd, director of the Brain Behaviour Lab at the University of British Columbia, documents how learning and all our behaviors are brain changers in her TEDx talk called “After Watching This, Your Brain Will Not Be The Same."

As Boyd says: "Every time you learn a new fact or skill, you change your brain. It’s something we call neuroplasticity. And the ensuing research has shown us that all of our behaviors change our brain ... that these changes are not limited by age.”

Call someone who loves you

Whether it’s your mom, your best friend or your niece, having a meaningful connection with someone who really cares about you can soothe the soul and brighten the day — for you both. Well into her 90s, my beloved Aunt Marcia had Alzheimer’s but she never failed to recognize my voice on the phone or to revel in our joint memories of my childhood exploits. I treasured our talks, which always made both of us feel good. In these times of texts and emails, the sound of a real voice on the other end of a phone, or a real face on a video chat screen, makes for a true and deep connection. Hearing “I love you” is way better than getting that message on a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card.

Volunteer

Altruistic behavior releases endorphins and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help. So why not arrange to visit the children’s wing of a hospital, a soup kitchen or a Memory Care facility and share your time and talents?

My sister, an accomplished musician, often plays piano at nursing homes, where “residents enjoy singing along to oldies but goodies," she says. “It also distracts me from my own problems.”

You don’t have to be a concert pianist to help make someone’s day — go to a health facility for children, armed with doilies, glue sticks, markers and pink and red construction paper to make Valentines. Play those oldies on a portable speaker in a place where memory-impaired seniors can recapture some of the magic of their youth, singing along — and maybe even getting up to dance!

Gather your besties and host a Galentine's Day movie-watching party

Start with watching Sex and the City reruns and celebrate the power of girlfriendhood. The Season 6 episode in which Carrie’s wishy-washy boyfriend Berger breaks up with her on a Post-it note is enough to make you relieved you are not dating a Ms./Mr. Wrong on this holiday.

Or how about watching some of those 1950s classics that shaped our expectations? The Best of Everything (available to rent on Amazon) is the cautionary tale of young women trying to make it at a big city publishing firm whose editor-in-chief is a lecherous, Mad Men-esque jerk. Another favorite: Natalie Wood as the title character in Marjorie Morningstar, a good girl and wanna be actress hooked on a cad while dealing with the sexual limitations of the era’s “Why buy the cow, when you can have the milk for free” philosophy.

Pamper yourself

Nothing is more relaxing and luxurious than a long hot bath filled with essential oils or a bath bomb. Light a candle, and here are some choices to create healing waters: Saje's Stress Release Soothing Bath Salt Soak has soothing essential oils; Bathorium’s Aphrodite bath bomb is rich with vanilla, chocolate, wild Bulgarian rose and creamy coconut milk (try to resist drinking it); and Jo Malone’s Lime Basil & Mandarin bath oil looks as good on your shelf as it smells.

Apply a face mask that you can leave on overnight. Some super-hydrating potions in this category include Watermelon Glow AHA Night Treatment, Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask to Quench Skin’s Thirst and Noacier’s Overnight Hydrolyzed Collagen Facial Mask.

Surrounded by warmth, while you pamper mind, body and spirit, plug in your earbuds and listen to beautiful songs, be it Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Adele or Aretha Franklin — or a medley of all. Ahhh Happy Valentine’s Day!

Are you single? What do you do on Valentine's Day? Let us know in the comments below.

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