Ah, February…. the month of romance!  Roses, chocolates, and Valentine’s Day cards.  What?! You say you’re not feeling the love?  You’re not part of a romantic couple?  Or you’re burned out and cynical about the whole love thing?  Why not be your own Valentine?! 

Research on happiness in America suggests that the more you go looking for happiness, the less likely you are to find it.  That’s why holidays that emphasize “love” and “happiness” can actually make us feel worse.  In fact, one study states that “Americans desperately wanting to be happy is linked with lower psychological health.” In the U.S., happiness is often seen as an individual pursuit:  chasing fame, money or the perfect mate, buying stuff and expecting that to lead to happiness, etc. That sets us up for a lifetime of letdowns. Real life, it turns out, is rarely like a Hallmark card.  The good news is that there’s a science-backed method to help you feel happier, and you can do it all by yourself!

  1.  Schedule fun.  Intentionally schedule things in your day that are likely to bring about positive emotions—like gardening or seeing a friend.  You’ll have more happy feelings and fewer symptoms of depression.
  2. Shift your perspective.  Science reveals that when people prime themselves to regard their time as limited, they want to feel serene happiness more than excited happiness.  Try valuing calmness more, and you’ll naturally seek out relaxing activities…. which don’t require the presence of others.
  3. Stay present. Listen to music, pet an animal, walk on the beach.  Set all your expectations aside and just experience what shows up. 
  4. Lower your expectations.  Expecting big fun often leads to the opposite. It’s perfectly fine to pleasantly anticipate an occasion but stay focused on the intention of the event rather than the details.
  5. Savor great moments.  Appreciate and relive wonderful moments even after they’re over.  Absorbing yourself in a positive experience strongly predicts higher levels of happiness. 

Of course, all this boils down to loving yourself, first and foremost.  After all, it is only then that we can love others, or invite love into our lives.  Now, go buy yourself some flowers!