5 Clever Ways To Enjoy Valentines Day Alone

valentines day

Don't be a Debbie Downer on the most romantic day of the year!

by Jessica Ashley, Sr. Editor, GalTime.com

Flip past any commercial, meander down an aisle in Target or breeze through every lady-magazine at this time of year and you'll be bombarded with so many hearts and kisses and diamond tennis bracelets and stuffed animals holding mylar balloons that you may feel less-than, lonely or even like you must relive the heartbreak that happened many months ago.

When Valentines Day approaches, what do you do if your heart feels like it has been cracked in half? How do you plan for a day that seems to be designed for every couple in America — which feels like everyone who is not you? What do you do with yourself if you just think the whole holiday sucks?

You start by being done with that kind of thinking. Take two minutes to feel the yuck and then shake it off. Literally. Stand up and tell it to leave your brain and body. And since you're already looking goofy doing that in the middle of the cubicles at your office, move on to these steps women say help them to love the day that, in truth, is made for all of us — no matter whether we're snuggling up to someone or luxuriating in the center of the bed alone on Valentines Eve.

1. Love on yourself. One simple question: What would feel really good to you right this moment? Don't ponder it for too long. Scribble down whatever it is that comes to mind. Is it the pair of boots you can't stop thinking about? A wedge of outrageously expensive, melt-in-your mouth cheese? A bath without small children pestering you to get out and play Legos? A massage?

Now find a way to do that thing for yourself. If you can't afford the boots right now, get old-timey and put five bucks in a jar to start a shoe fund. Swap babysitting hours with a friend so you can each have time alone without kids. Splurge on the expensive cheese. And here's the kicker: You have to write a card to yourself and attach it to your gift. 

Oh, you're cringing. Trust me, it's magical. A few years ago, what I wanted most on a particularly tough holiday was flowers. Maybe it was to make up for years with a neglectful ex, or maybe the orange-yellow roses were particularly brilliant in the photo. But I sent a huge bouquet to myself with a note that says, "Dear Jessica, Remember, your heart is fierce. Love, Jessica."

I swear that card made the flowers more radiant and made me bloom even bigger. The card is still tacked to the wall above my desk, a reminder that I deserve wonderful, beautiful moments. Sometimes, I just have to make them for myself. What's your note going to say?

2. Celebrate the love of your lady-friends. One year, as Valentines Day approached, a friend and I both broke up with the kind of guys you can't believe you just invested so much time and energy in, and for so long. We were irritated at ourselves and griping over beers when she admitted he'd never done anything nice for her on Valentines Day anyway. And then she suggested we be each other's Valentines that year.

I surprised her with flowers and a funny card filled with memories we'd shared, and she bought me a lovely necklace. I was so touched by what she put into picking that gift for me and so affirmed to wear it in honor of the friends who long outlasted many romantic relationships.

Find a lady-friend or four and shower each other with affections, memories and gifts. If you're not into organizing events, leave a little something — a box of favorite candies or bottle of wine or fancy tea — on your friend's desk, at her front door or in her mailbox. Or, get back to your craftiest self and make Valentine cards and send off little friend-love notes to the women in your tribe. It will feel really good to put that out into the world and I guarantee that they will be grateful you poured some love their way.

Read more: 10 Ways to Ditch Bad Dating Habits

3. Don't sweat it by sweating it. "Other people make the day annoying," says lobbyist Heather Barmore, who adds that since she's usually single on Valentines Day, it is enduring the crowds that is the worst part of the holiday. She will be treating the holiday as she does any other weekday evening — in a Bikram yoga class. 

Escaping to the gym can be both a way to sidestep the masses who celebrate Valentines Day, and it can also be a retreat to sweat out any stress, issues or heartache you are feeling. Exercise produces endorphins, which make you feel calmer and happier.

If you are up for giving yoga a go, find a class at your level. Twisting asanas and breath work will help you to release any feelings you've kept knotted up inside. Some studios offer candlelit classes on holidays to honor the love that abounds all around us, and to make space for even more of it.

Feeling like you need to stomp, punch or dance it out? Holidays are a great opportunity to jump into new classes that are often packed-full or that you've been shy to try. Let loose in Zumba, ballet burn, bootcamp, hip-hop or even Jazzercise.

If all else fails, flip through a celebrity gossip magazine while you are on the treadmill as  a reminder that many of us, even the Botoxed and award-winning and red carpet-walking A-listers, will be sweating solo on that evening. Scarlett Johansson? Heidi Klum? Zoe Saldana? Not bad company.

Read more: Forever Is Overrated

4. Add up the savings. A long list of women who are single, dating and married told me that they despise the Hallmark-nature of the holiday. Some rebel against it but many ignore it altogether. Even those with partners said they'd much rather spread the love out throughout the year and save the hassle — and expense — of a Valentines night out.

If numbers soothe your practical mind, consider the cost of a typical dinner out on Valentines Day. Zagat reports that couples who dine out on that evening should expect to pay about $100 more than a dinner any other day. Last year, couples in New York paid $147 on average for a V-Day meal.

The cost of a bouquet of red roses jumps twenty bucks to $80 and on average, couples spend a combined $50 - $100 on gifts.  The National Retail Federation tallies this to over $126 per person on Valentine's spending. Altogether, Americans ring up $17.6 billion in purchases to celebrate this day alone. 

Does that even count the cost of a new little red something to slip into, having nails done and brows waxed, the hours you spent debating in the card aisle? All that time and money counts for something.

Single mom Clare Yeakel embraces the low-cost, no-maintenance chance to curl up at home. "I stay in, ignore it, appreciate the fact I'm not at some packed restaurant," she says, "and sometimes buy myself something to celebrate the fact that my life is pretty freaking great even without a significant other." Also on your tally? Be sure to have a line item for the emotional cost of being in a relationship that is unfulfilling, unhappy or just not enough for fabulous you. That adds up, as does being miserable or feeling alone while on a date. Thank goodness that sad budget's been cut.

Read more: Stop Worrying So Much About Being Single

5. Make a list of the love you have. That empty feeling only gets deeper and wider if you tell yourself over and over that the love has left your life. Replacing that message with reminders of what is good and plentiful and happy will help — slowly, slowly — heal the wounds. Noticing and acknowledging the awesomeness in your life will only make you see more of it. It sounds life-coachy, but it works — like when you buy a white car and suddenly you realize how many white cars share the road with you.

First, adamantly choose to see the day as something other than a drag, a bad reminder, a time to drown sorrows. Here's how Maggie Litgen, a social worker, yogi and student, does it. "I love celebrating Valentines Day single," she affirms. "I focus on all sources of love in my life, which are very plentiful. It is very meaningful this way. It lacks cliches and expectations, as well as empty gestures."

Litgen has opted to attend V-Day events and pass our condoms to promote safer sex to honor the day. (For more info on V-Day events to help end violence against women, click here.) "So yeah, when it's just a day with a boy," she admits, "it just doesn't seem that great." Don't have the activist leanings that Litgen does? Go Oprah-style and make a gratitude list. You will have twenty in no time at all.

Next make a list of all the reasons you are awesome. I learned this tip from author Marina Sbrochi, who says we spend way too much time criticizing ourselves and need more opportunities to recognize our own beautiful ways. I agree. Put down the self-negativity and boast about how quickly you can hammer out a crossword, your kickass bolognese, the delicious curve of your own backside.

See? You have love enough. You are love enough. Feeling that is the best gift you can give yourself. On Valentines Day and every day that follows.

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Jessica Ashley is Senior Editor, Love, Parenting & Health at GalTime.com and single mama of a Lego-loving Star Wars-fanatic kid. She wears inappropriately high heels to the playground and is author of the blog Sassafrass, named one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs for 2011 and 2012.