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Singles Awareness Day: Managing Self-Isolation at Home

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Singles Awareness Day: Managing Self-Isolation at Home
13 min. read

Image: popcorner / Shutterstock.com

Being alone and feeling lonely are two very different things. But, the pandemic — with the social distancing and social isolation measures it has forced upon us — is starting to blur the line between the two. And, although working from home and avoiding social contact has been alienating and stressful for everyone, single people especially have experienced a different set of difficulties compared to couples and families.

No matter their age, people isolating on their own have been more prone to feelings of loneliness and sadness in the last year. Plus, with the winter holidays barely out of sight and Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it seems like the heart-shaped chocolate boxes will be just another reminder of how much single people are missing out on.

Singles Awareness Day was created to balance things out and help everyone rediscover the other vital relationships in our lives. It’s meant to expand our focus beyond romantic love and to include our friends and family among our central sources of happiness and fulfillment. It’s also a day that could normalize and celebrate what is otherwise a normal — if less-popular — lifestyle: the single lifestyle.

What is Singles Awareness Day?

Celebrated on February 15 — one day after Valentine’s Day — Singles Awareness Day is a humorous holiday in which people can send each other gifts and flowers and take an opportunity to express their gratitude for friends and family. It’s also a good reminder that paying attention to relationships other than romantic love is also important. After all, according to the Pew Research Center’s profile of single Americans, 51% of men aged 18 to 29, as well as 32% of women in the same age group are not in a relationship.

To that end, Singles Awareness Day attempts to remind us that all of our relationships are valuable and that each interaction can be a source of happiness. Despite its less than fortunate name (the abbreviation reads SAD), this day stands to remind people that self-love — as well as the love for and from family and friends — is just as important as the love we show our partner.

Singles & Physical Isolation

Granted, this year, we have to limit our interactions to Zoom calls and Facetime. But, unfortunately, sending virtual hugs doesn’t even begin to resemble the real thing. As a result, many single people who have been braving the pandemic alone will be reminded even more intensely just how important human interaction and human touch are.

With this in mind, we thought it might be a good idea to find out how friends, families, and even our local communities can help single people and people living alone to better deal with the negative effects of the pandemic.

And, because we have the best intentions, but not necessarily the right skillset, we reached out to psychology experts to weigh in on the following questions:

What are some tips for single people to mitigate negative feelings while being physically away from others?

How can friends and families of people who live alone show their support?

Can local communities help improve the lives of single people while they’re self-isolating? If so, how?

 

Pamela Regan
Professor of Psychology
California State University, Los Angeles

What are some tips for single people to mitigate negative feelings while being physically away from others?

First, cut yourself some slack! We are social creatures, and isolation is very hard on us. It’s okay to feel lonely and it’s okay to admit that you feel lonely.

Second, reach out — to friends, to family, to associates. Now, I absolutely recognize that it is sometimes very hard to admit when we feel sad or depressed or lonely, and that it requires real courage to reach out and ask for support. This is especially true for those of us who have chosen to live alone – we often feel as if we have to continually justify and even celebrate our lifestyle choice in the face of constant social pressure to be partnered. And this can make us fear asking for support and admitting we feel lonely, because we don’t want to have to deal with our partnered friends or family responding with, “Well, if you had gotten married…” or “If you were still with so-and-so…” My advice is to do it anyway. Be courageous, and reach out if you are feeling really low. Because the reality is that EVERYONE feels lonely at times, and EVERYONE needs support and connection. You can love your single life and still feel lonely, and you can be married with kids and still feel lonely. No shame in either experience, and no shame at all in asking for support and connection.

Third, get outside. Turn off your devices and step away from the TV shows and the social media posts with their aggressively cheerful “look at how happy I am/we are” imagery. Mask up and drive or walk to a place that is in nature — whether that’s a local park, or a trail, or the ocean or a lake. Move your body or sit and take it all in. Breathe deeply. Concentrate on your senses. What sounds do you hear? Birds, waves, rustling leaves, the crunch of sand or dirt or gravel under your shoes? Achieving some connection with nature (and with others in nature — those who are also enjoying the outdoors) can make us feel less alone.

Fourth, do an act of kindness. There is solid social psychological research that doing good things for others makes us feel good. Essentially, we get a boost of positive affect when we do kind acts. So, if you’re at the grocery store, pay a compliment to someone you run across in the aisles (from a safe distance and while wearing your mask, of course). Offer to return someone’s shopping cart to the store if you’re out in the parking lot. My own personal kind act is to pick up one piece of trash in my neighborhood every day. It requires very little of me and I always feel good about contributing to a cleaner environment. If you have the time, consider volunteering or helping to raise money for a good cause. This past year, a friend and I were socially distancing at the park and we found some abandoned baby ducklings. After dropping them off at a wildlife rehab center, we decided to join their “Virtual 5K” fundraiser. We formed a “group,” solicited on social media, walked individually to complete the 5K (they gave us two months, so we were able to do it bit by bit, thank goodness), and raised a few hundred dollars.

Fifth, spend some time contemplating all the pluses of being single or of not having to share space with others. Two of my own personal pet peeves are bed hogging (I am a poor sleeper and much prefer to have the bed to myself) and chewing noises. Being physically distant from others means that I do not have to share my space and I don’t have to listen to gum smacking or noisy eating!

And finally, take time to celebrate YOU. It’s so important that we enjoy our own company. Think of the things that you like to do and that often are best experienced alone. Do you like reading? Cooking? Taking long baths? Playing computer games? Indulge yourself. Celebrate yourself!

How can friends and families of people who live alone show their support?

Check in! Reach out and let your single loved one know that you are there for her/him. Many singles are quite comfortable in their space — being alone is most definitely not the same thing as being lonely — but this doesn’t mean that a check in won’t be appreciated. We all, regardless of our partnership status, need to know that our social network is alive and well and there for us.

Make plans to get together virtually. Consider starting a book club, or setting up a weekly or monthly game night, cocktail hour, or coffee and chat time. This is a great way to connect and support each other. During the pandemic, I was invited by some old college friends to join them on their bi-weekly Zoom chats. These were people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and I felt a little awkward at first, but over time it has become a really welcoming and positive social activity.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to establish a weekly or monthly activity, consider something less regular. For example, find a virtual activity that you can attend together. There are increasing numbers of virtual events that are available, and each one represents a valuable opportunity for connection. I am coming across more and more virtual walks, 5K runs, concerts, and tours (of museums, cities, and so on) that folks can attend together, not physically but virtually. At Christmas, for example, I attended a concert with a good friend — remotely. We live apart but watched the concert together on our separate devices and texted each other our feelings and reactions as we watched. When the concert ended, we called each other and chatted over cups of cocoa. While it wasn’t the same as attending together physically, it did provide an opportunity to create time just for the two of us, celebrating the season and our friendship. Next month, I plan to join my sisters (one in New Zealand, one in the UK) on a virtual bicycling tour of Amsterdam!

Say “I love you.” I don’t care if it makes someone uncomfortable — say it often.

Can local communities help improve the lives of single people while they’re self-isolating? If so, how?

Absolutely! These are things that everyone can use during these weird and isolating times.

Offer tours of local attractions, establish book clubs through the library (and keep those libraries open or as open as can safely be achieved), and offer fun and educational activities from local experts, parks and rec, librarians, public safety, teachers, and so on. My city is offering virtual “setting up a butterfly garden” and “tour the waterfront” tours, for example, and I can’t wait to attend!

 

Naomi Brower
Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences
Utah State University, Extension

What are some tips for single people to mitigate negative feelings while being physically away from others?

One of the best things you can do to be happily single, especially during self-isolation, is to focus on what you do have and not on what you don’t. Make a list of things you are thankful for, big and small. Keep a gratitude journal, either on paper or using a gratitude app, where you list two or three things you are thankful every day. This can help you rewire your brain towards positivity. Make an effort to spread positive messages on social media or to those you do have contact with.

Another way to boost happiness is through performing random acts of kindness. For example, send a letter with lots of stickers and colors to a child in your life, send a kind message/text to a co-worker or someone you haven’t connected with for a while, or support a local small business by giving a shout out on social media. If you are able to get out of the house, consider holding the door open for a stranger, parking far away to leave the closest space for someone else, or purchasing a couple of extra items at the grocery store for the local food pantry.

While research suggests that time together is an important component of strengthening and maintaining healthy relationships, it is possible to stay connected even when not in person. For example, make time to connect individually with loved ones. Be intentional about using phone calls, texts, Facetime, and any other type of communication to have meaningful connection with those you love. There are also many virtual games you can play together over Zoom.

If you are longing to be in a romantic relationship, happy smiling pictures of those in relationships on social media may trigger painful or negative feelings. So, do yourself a favor and take a break from social media (especially on holidays such as Valentine’s Day). If you do look at social media, just remember that all relationships have problems. They just aren’t usually posted.

Finally, take time to become the best person that you can be. Practice self-care through exercising, eating healthy foods, learning a new hobby or skill, etc., and look for ways to connect with others who are doing similar things. When you are happy and fulfilled you attract other happy and healthy people. As a bonus, if you are looking for a relationship, becoming your best self will also help you to attract a healthy partner and relationship.

 

Don Forsyth
Professor of Leadership Studies
Social and Personality Psychologist
University of Richmond

What are some tips for single people to mitigate negative feelings while being physically away from others?

Many experts have offered up quite reasonable recommendations for creating a sense of psychological connection with others, even when physically separated from them: emailing, chatting on Reddit, Facebook, or some other social network, going to work on that project you have been putting off, holding Zoom happy hours, watching movies or sports events with friends located elsewhere, taking part in socially distant community events — all are great suggestions.

But, rather than labor to create an attachment to others, why not nurture your attachment to your place? Our homes and apartments are our place of refuge and safety, but also contentment. They are, as the comedian George Carlin noted, the “place where we keep our stuff,” but they are much more. Why, when the stresses and strains of having to deal with everyday life become too great — too much time on a computer screen, too much noise outside, too many work demands — it is our homeplace that restores us. Even when we are isolated and lonely, we still feel rejuvenated and energized when we spend time in places that are interesting, set apart from distractions, and filled with the things that are ours and suit our own personal purposes. Yes, our attachment to people is a strong need, but our tendency to become attached to our places, can be just as strong — and satisfying that need can be just as fulfilling. Being alone, when one wants to be with others, can be lonely, but being alone in a place with all the “comforts of home” can be more of a bonus than a sacrifice.

 

Therefore, on this Singles Awareness Day, take some time to take care of yourself and to be a bit kinder to yourself. Show your friends and family how much you appreciate them and try at least one of the tips our experts so generously shared with us.

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