Footloose and fancy free...why we're in love with the single life
On your own? Then how about embracing the chance to give your well-being a boost instead, says Abi Jackson
Sometimes when you're single, it can seem the whole world wants to remind you what you're missing out on. That's why Valentine's Day was invented, right - to rub salt in the sorry wounds of pathetic, unlovable singles?
There might not be a soppy card and heart-shaped chocs waiting for you this February 14 - but there could be a big bouquet of joy, and VIP tickets to fabulousness up for grabs (sorry - but when else can I be cheesy if not Valentine's Day?).
The catch is, you'll need to find them for yourself. You see, being single is actually an ideal chance to overhaul your well-being. It's not a question of single vs relationships (they can both be good, and they can both be pretty damn difficult, too), but it is about looking on the bright side of singledom - a Valentine's Day gift that could transform your life and outlook.
Here are four ways being single can seriously boost your well-being.
Discover true passion... for a hobby
Most of us complain we don't have enough time, but when you're single, especially newly single, filling those endless hours you'd usually have spent with a significant other can feel daunting.
The quiet weekends you once longed for are suddenly sad reminders of your aloneness. They are also a wonderful opportunity to discover a new passion. Hobbies make life more interesting, make you a more confident, well-rounded person and they're also a fantastic distraction - backed up by science. There's good reason music, art and craft activities are used as therapies, and studies have found that engaging in hobbies stimulates the mind, helps slow cognitive decline and reduces depression and the effects of stress.
It might take a while to discover your true hobby passion - but get out there and have a blast looking.
Fall in love... with fitness
There's so much pressure to find love, right? Well I'm all for it. Love is a wonderful thing.
Find it - and then, heck, be utterly smug about it too. But before you punch me, let me clarify, I'm not talking about romantic love. I'm talking about being in love with fitness.
You don't need me to tell you how regular exercise will safeguard your future health and help ward off major diseases and depression - you know all that already.
What I will tell you though is that since my last break-up, I'm fitter than I've ever been - and all the happier for it.
At first, getting out on my bike on Saturday mornings gave me a reason to get out of bed.
Over time, it became a source of new-found body confidence, helped me feel physically and mentally stronger, and has transformed my life in ways I never would have imagined possible.
Learn to truly appreciate... the quiet moments
We moan and yearn for peace and quiet, and then when we get it, we moan there's nothing to do and panic that we're sad and friendless.
Most humans need some downtime. It helps us rebalance, recharge and focus. If you want to fill every moment with activities, and that's what works for you, fantastic - but there's real value in saving some time for doing, well, absolutely nothing, too.
But sometimes, not having any plans is the plan - and you don't have to feel guilty about that or justify it to anybody. Embracing those quiet moments, and learning to enjoy them, will not only bring a sense of calm, but mean you're more present and energised when you are filling your time with activities and other people.
Indulge in pampering... yourself
Generally speaking, when you're single, you get less presents and you get spoilt less, because there isn't a significant other who puts you at the top of their Christmas shopping priority list or splashes out on your birthday. Oh boo hoo. I'll tell you what is fun - treating yourself.
Life is too short to wait for somebody else to make you feel special, and, since there's no significant other buying you gifts, you save money on not having to buy them any either. Chances are you're a good person with a good heart, right?
There is nothing selfish about spending some of your hard-earned cash on a few treats for yourself; we can all benefit from a little boost every now and then.
Kathryn Wilson (27) is a DJ for Q Radio and lives in Belfast. She says:
After a three year relationship, I have been single for about two years now. There are advantages to being single — the freedom and not needing to shave my legs all the time.
Now I can invest time in my friends. When you split up with someone they take memories with them to a certain extent — but now I’m making some fantastic new memories with my friends.
Most of my time is taken up with music, but I also train at Crossfit.
When I’m not working then I’m at gigs or music festivals. If I was ever looking for someone they would have to have similar interests to me as music is my passion.
One of the best aspects of being single is not having to answer to anyone — I can make plans at the drop of a hat and I don’t have to check in. If I had my way there would be no such thing as Valentine’s Day in a nightclub — it would be Single Awareness Day — everyone would be single there, while all the couples are in restaurants having their romantic meals.
I actually don’t mind Valentine’s Day. I’ve been in love on February 14 before and I have fond memories of it so I actually wouldn’t begrudge anyone else their romance either.”
Dwayne-Andrew Kerr (23) is Mr Northern Ireland and lives in Lurgan. He says:
I split with my girlfriend last September. The best thing about being footloose and fancy free is that you can do anything you want instead of having to consider someone else.
I can go out with my friends to clubs without worrying if a girlfriend will mind.
Now I spend less money on dinners, birthday and Christmas presents. And next weekend I won’t have to spend any money on Valentine’s stuff either.
It’s easier to meet people when I’m single and I’m more likely to talk to women if I’m single.
I’ve never actually had a girlfriend over Valentine’s Day. Honestly, I don’t plan that, but it always happens like that. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to it.
I don’t go out on the night, and it doesn’t bother me at all being single. I think Valentine’s Day is a bit of a marketing ploy to get money out of you.
Those in a relationship should celebrate each other every day and not be told to do it on a particular day.”
Rebecca McKinney (29) is a co-host on the Cool FM breakfast show and also works as a fashion stylist. She says:
My last relationship was pretty serious — we were together for a year. But the relationship ended seven months ago.
I now really enjoy the fact that I just build my schedule around myself and not someone else. My job is busy and my hours can be quite erratic and unpredictable — my alarm goes off at 4.30am. Being single means I can just get on with what I need to do.
My last relationship was very flexible, but I think anyone I meet in the future will really have to understand the demands of my job. Outside of work I have a great group of girlfriends and for the first time in years a lot of us are all single at the same time.
We’re having so much fun at the moment — when we go out we’re all on the same page and we go away on trips all the time. One of them lives in London and it’s the easiest thing for me to pack a suitcase after the show and fly off to see her for the weekend.
I also have a trainer now so I spend a few hours at the gym each week and it’s a great place to go and get my head showered.
I’m actually quite shy, so I’m not a serial dater and I don’t use Tinder or social media to date.
Sometimes listeners approach me through the radio station. And my co-presenters Pete and Paolo take the mick out of me for being single all the time, but it’s all good fun and I don’t mind at all. I know if I was to meet someone the guys would start grilling them to find out if they’re right for me.
I’m actually looking forward to Valentine’s Day as I will be spending it with my friend in London. We’re going out for dinner, cocktails and dancing.”
Louise Murphy (32) from Belfast is a communications officer for a charity and runs the Belfast Brunette blog. She says:
I’ve been single since last August after a very long relationship — I broke up with my partner of 12 years. It’s a bit of a minefield becoming single now. In the early Nineties and Noughties you met people by chatting in a bar or a club, but people don’t do that any more, it’s all about Tinder and dating apps.
I’m really enjoying the single life now. It’s great to be able to make decisions on the spur of the moment and not have to take anyone else into consideration. I always wanted to go to Marrakesh so I’ve already booked a holiday there in May. Since becoming a singleton, I’ve had a haircut and have a personal trainer so I’m revamping myself a bit. Now I’m doing all the things I missed out on over the last 12 years.
I’m trying to bit of everything including proper ballroom dance classes — which are actually really funny.
I also started the blog and I’ve really enjoyed doing that. My ex was a bit of a home bird so we didn’t do much socialising. Now, though, I’ve rediscovered a love of getting out and about, so I’m reconnecting with people. This will be my first single Valentine’s Day for a long time and it’s a bit strange because my ex never really went in for it at all.
I’ve been dreading it a little because most of my friends are attached and even at work people have started talking about how they will celebrate it — it can make you feel very alone.
The flipside is that I was in Dublin recently and decided I should treat myself to a lovely new bag and a new pair of sunglasses for Valentine’s Day and I certainly wouldn’t have got those in my old relationship.
I’m on Tinder but it’s just for a bit of craic at the moment as I’m just not looking for a new relationship. I’m just enjoying the time by myself at the moment.”
The celebrity singletons
Famous ladies who are currently unattached are:
Despite recent speculation she is dating Leonardo DiCaprio, the We Found Love singer claims to be single and ready to mingle.
■ Kourtney Kardashian
Now that her long-time lover and father of her three children, Scott Disick, has left, Kourtney is making the most of her new-found freedom.
■ Kate Hudson
Having split from her former fiance, Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy, Kate Hudson is very much a bachelorette this weather, having fun with her friends rather than planning a wedding.
■ Emma Watson
The former Harry Potter star has a thing for two other Harry’s apparently — One Direction’s Harry Styles and Prince Harry. But she is enjoying her independence for now before committing to a relationship.