How To Actually Be Happy Being Single, According To Psychologists
One could make the argument there are two kinds of people: those who enjoy being single—and those who really don't. If you fall into the second category, single life may sting, particularly when it seems everyone in your life is coupled up. But being single can be a blessing, if you let it.
While being in a healthy relationship has its perks, rarely do we think about all the good that can arise from being single. Here are just a handful of benefits, according to psychoanalyst and relationship expert Babita Spinelli, L.P., and psychotherapist Megan Bruneau, M.A., plus how to be happy single when it doesn't come naturally.
The benefits of being single:
Strengthening your relationship to yourself.
Often when we're in a relationship, our partner helps build us up and reminds us of our worth, Bruneau notes. "Cliché as it sounds, being single gives us an opportunity to work on our relationship with ourselves," she says. "We can learn to look inside for encouragement and support...[focusing] on our relationship to self and changing our critical inner voice to a more compassionate one." It's a great time to learn how to love yourself.
Figuring out what you truly want.
"Being single makes room for a person to learn more about themselves," Spinelli explains. "There is more clarity around who you are and leaning into enjoying your own company." It can be easy to lose sight of what you really want, and who you truly are, when bouncing from relationship to relationship. Being single gives you the space to really know your desires.
Learning how to hold yourself accountable.
When you do figure out what you really want, and how you want to live your life, it's on you to hold yourself accountable. "When you are single, you are empowered to make your own choices and hold yourself accountable for those choices," Spinelli notes, adding, "You learn to forge your own way, and that elevates inner confidence and resilience."
Cultivating and deepening nonromantic relationships.
While romantic relationships are often prioritized, strong friendships are incredibly important. When we have the time and space to care for them, they can enrich our lives in similar and even superior ways to romantic ones. "When we're single, we really do tend to have more time to focus on ourselves and other important relationships," Bruneau says, which brings us to our next point.
Having more time for yourself.
Whether it's a side hustle you've always wanted to do or a hobby you want to pick up, you'll have more time for it than someone who's balancing their time with a partner. "While most people would say their relationship is worth the trade-off, it's not unusual to feel like you have a lot less time when in a relationship," Bruneau says.
You get to call all the shots.
Every relationship comes with a certain amount of compromise, but when you're single, you get to call the shots. "Want to book a spontaneous trip overseas for a few weeks? No problem," Bruneau notes. "Feel like moving to a new city? Go ahead. Decide you don't want to see any family over the holidays? It's your world!"
It's a catalyst for growth.
And lastly, being single is a part of life that can serve as a huge catalyst for inner growth. "Being single often encourages a person to look inward and take better care of themselves mentally and physically," Spinelli explains, "since they're not navigating between their own needs and those of their partner."
Bruneau adds, "Being single is an opportunity to become more comfortable with life's inevitable discomfort. We generally have no choice but to open ourselves up to emotional discomfort and learn how to navigate rejection, disappointment, and uncertainty."
And if all your friends are in relationships?
If single friends are dropping like flies and more and more couples are appearing in your life, it can make being single feel particularly uncomfortable. There's a great deal of shame and anxiety around "failing" to find a partner, Bruneau notes. "If we're the 'odd one out,' she says, "it's natural to internalize being single as a result of us being undesirable or unlovable. This, of course, is not true."
Being single and even "unsuccessfully" dating can stir up a lot of emotions that are similar to grief, Spinelli adds. "For many, there is a picture of the kind of partner they would want, and when they are surrounded by friends who are in a relationship, it elevates the loss."
Understanding that you can't compare two people's journeys is key here. Nevertheless, having friends in relationships in some ways forces you to confront this discomfort and learn to be OK with it, as you learn how to be happy single. And as Bruneau notes, it never hurts to find some more single friends.
How to be happy single.
If you need some inspiration on how to be truly content and find joy in being single, here are some tips:
When single, you might have to be a bit more proactive about connecting with the people in your life, Bruneau says, but it's worth it. "Social connection is clearly correlated with mental health1, and isolation/disconnection almost inevitably leads to experiencing anxiety and depression."
Consider this a time when you get to date yourself, be your own partner, and give yourself all the love you would expect from an S.O. (and that you would give to them). Buy yourself flowers, take yourself out, and focus on you. "Take the time to figure out what you really want in life," Spinelli says. "It's a wonderful opportunity to 'date' and get to know yourself." (Here are some ways to practice self-love, for inspo.)
Join groups, take classes, or start a side hustle.
"Take advantage of having free evenings and weekends and not having to work around someone else's schedule," Bruneau suggests. Whether that's a painting course, a recreational sports league, or diving into that side hustle, you have the opportunity to focus on whatever you want. "It's an opportunity to explore new hobbies and things that bring you joy," Spinelli adds.
Make and spend time with single friends.
Bruneau adds that making new, single friends can boost your support system with people who can relate to your current circumstances. "It's really important to have some friends who can relate to what you're going through," she says.
Focus on your own self-care.
When you're single, Spinelli says, "You can focus on your own self-care without concern about balancing it with your partner." Whatever self-care looks like to you, from working out to getting out into nature, really prioritize it.
Learn about yourself.
"Practice self-inquiry and self-compassion," Bruneau says. When you take the time to learn about yourself, you can get clear on what you want from yourself and your life. Learn about your attachment style, your emotions, and your inner voice, she says, and perhaps even work with a therapist or coach "to understand how you might be holding yourself back from creating the life you want and deserve."
Being single does come with a great amount of freedom. As such, "enjoy being more spontaneous with your activities and travel," Spinelli says. "You can truly just choose where you want to go or what you want to do as an individual. There is a lot of freedom when you are single to design the kind of life you want to create."
Set goals and focus on your growth.
Being single gives us a chance to truly hold ourselves accountable, support ourselves, and make our own decisions and goals. Use this time to get clear on what you want to achieve, whether it's personal, financial, etc. Reflect on how far you've come every time you reach a new goal. "There is a strength that is cultivated when one is alone," Spinelli adds.
Bruneau notes it's important to keep the perspective when single, to avoid getting down on yourself for what can be a wonderful period of your life. She suggests reminding yourself:
I'm on my own healing journey, and my future partner is on theirs as well. They're doing the work to be the person I need them to be in a relationship, and I'm doing the same. When the time is right, we'll come together to continue our journeys.
Remember you won't be single forever if you don't want to be.
If you want to get into a relationship someday, then it's likely going to come around eventually. "Statistically speaking, you're likely to get into a relationship at some point," Bruneau says. "And while relationships can be wonderful, we don't talk often enough about the sacrifices they involve. So enjoy the freedom of piloting your life solo while it lasts!"
The bottom line.
Whether single or not, we all deserve our own self-love and partnership. When you can appreciate being single and use the time to strengthen your sense of self, your worth, and get clear on what you really want, the benefits will ripple in all areas of your life. Relationships are wonderful, but nothing beats taking yourself out for the perfect date, enjoying your own company, and loving exactly who you are, single or not.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.