Sometimes we wish we could erase Valentine's Day from the calendar. When we're single and feeling lonely or devalued, going through a break up or grieving the loss of a relationship, there's nothing that feels more like a black hole on the calendar than this Hallmark holiday. It can be hard to avoid the candy hearts, paper cupids and explosion of all-things pink and red. But remember, all of that is the consumerist and pop culture version of love, and for many, it feels more like low-fat love than the real-deal. So, avoid the love diet by skipping the traditions and going for something that is actually designed to make you feel good. Whether you decide to spend time with friends, with strangers in the hopes of helping others or on your own, there are ways to turn this potential downer into a positive. Here are my top five tips for turning Valentine's Day on its head and seeking the fulfillment you crave:
1. Have a get-together at your place: While some single women opt for a girlfriend party (which can be great fun), consider inviting a mixed group of friends -- gay, straight, married, single -- that way you de-stigmatize being single and focus on the love and friendship that's in your life. If you do a night in with a group, some fun options are a finger food party, a potluck dinner or an old movie marathon.
2. Get involved in V-Day or One Billion Rising: V-Day is a campaign devoted to ending violence against women and One Billion Rising is perhaps the largest dance party in the world, aimed at saying no to violence. Despite what movies imply, when people feel lonely, what they really want is connection and engagement. There is nothing that makes us feel more connected than working with others around issues we care about. If you crave connection and love this Valentine's Day, get yourself out, working for human rights. Visit http://www.vday.org/home for info on how you can get involved and where the dance event nearest you is.
3. Volunteer in a local food pantry, food bank or make a floral donation to a hospital or senior center: Instead of worrying about who is or isn't bringing you chocolates or flowers, bring them to someone who really needs them. As corny as it sounds, it will make you feel so much better than a package at your door wrapped in ribbon.
4. Learn or try something new: If you want to stay home alone or for practical reasons you simply have to, make the most of it. Skip the cheesy movies and do something enriching. When we evolve and engage in activities that expand who we are, we feel better about ourselves, and that's about love too. If you have a stack of books you've been meaning to get to for ages, pick one up and read. Or if you always wanted to write, paint or do something else creative, make this the day you begin. If you aspire to exercise, practice yoga or meditate but you never find the time or discipline, this may be the perfect time.
5. Reach out: If you're alone and feeling blue, reach out to the people you care about. Frankly, this is a good thing to do even if you're not feeling down -- simply as a way of staying connected and engaged. Call friends, send a text or even chat on Facebook or other social media.
Follow Patricia Leavy, PhD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PatriciaLeavy