I’m one of those people who has always been in relationships, but yet none have lasted.
So when I found myself single yet again and this time for quite a long time, I started to wonder:
Is being single going to make me lose my mind?
I started to think that maybe I’m not cut out for long-term relationships. And I worried about how I would cope with being single.
If you’re also feeling concerned about the effect that being single can have, then this article is for you.
Being single is what you make it
I’m going to skip to the end conclusion straight away and then work backward.
Because ultimately I think the answer to this important question of whether being single affects your mental health comes down to this one thing:
Single life is what you make it.
We can’t control the things that happen to us in life, but we can control how we approach the things that are seemingly out of our control.
Knowing the potential pitfalls that can come with being single helps us to better avoid them.
But the reality is that being single is different for everyone. It depends on where you are in life, what you want, and even what you think being single will mean for you.
For example, someone who has left a difficult relationship might feel relief from having to deal with a partner’s mood swings or other issues. Someone else may worry about loneliness or finding new friends and other relationships in the future. And someone else could just enjoy the freedom of being able to do whatever they like without having to ask anyone’s permission.
The point is that no two people experience being single in exactly the same way.
But our own attitudes will deeply impact our experience of being single and how we deal with any challenges that can arise from flying solo.
What are the negative effects of being single?
There are reasons why being single can feel hard at times. But there are also plenty of ways to get through it.
Here are some common problems that many people face when they’re single, and some of our biggest fears around the idea of being single.
1) Feeling lonely
At the top of the list for me was definitely a fear of being lonely.
When you’re single, it can be easy to spend your free time alone because there isn’t a significant other who is automatically always around.
There is sometimes an assumption that more time spent alone will mean loneliness. But often this is false.
Spending more time alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be sad or depressed.
In fact, research shows that single people are often happier than people in a relationship.
Negative stereotypes lead us to believe things like single people will die alone and miserable, when in fact science has shown the opposite can be the truth.
When we worry about being lonely when we’re single we’re neglecting to acknowledge that there are many different ways we feel connection in life.
It’s not just romantic partners, it’s also through friends, family, and community.
Far from being single making you inevitably lonely, one study highlighted that single people can have an advantage over those in relationships.
It concluded that: “unmarried people have a unique advantage: They are more active socially, which means they’re sometimes even happier than their married counterparts.”
Yet again it’s a case of making the most of things. The key to being happier single and not feeling lonely, is putting yourself out there and seeking other forms of connection.
Or as the research study puts it:
“Singles who pursue social interactions more proactively than do couples can bypass them in the happiness index.”
I’m going to lay all my deepest darkest fears about myself bare.
Because I can’t help but think that they are not only mine. I suspect many of us singles face the same ones.
They are thoughts like:
Is being single normal?, Why am I single? or is there something wrong with being single?
I think a lot of us can’t help but worry that being single is some sort of rejection. And us human beings don’t do well with rejection.
That is just something that is in our minds, rather than being the truth. But there is no denying that being single can still feel heavily stigmatized.
From an early age we are taught to look toward romantic relationships as the “norm”. That is despite an ever-growing number of people being single.
It happens in lots of potentially subtle and unconscious ways. The surprised comment of “why are you still single?” that someone may have even intended as a compliment.
The well-meaning mom who hopes you find “the right one and settle down soon”.
Single shaming can be a thing. As the BBC points out people’s assumptions are driven by long-running expectations from society:
“Single shaming results from negative biases about people who are not partnered: they must be sad and lonely for not having a partner; they’re actively looking for one, but haven’t found a match yet; and there must be something wrong with them that’s causing to them to wind up alone. All these stereotypes are driven by pressures to conform to long-held societal standards: get the partner, shared home, 2.4 kids and dog, and a person has assembled all the ingredients they need for a happy life.”
3) Fear that time is running out
I have another confession for you.
Every time I found myself single again, no matter what age it was, I’d be stuck with the fear of ‘what if I don’t find anyone else?’
Somewhere along the line with every passing year, I’ve also added to this the more generalized fear of: ‘What if I never find someone and stay single forever?’
Most of us probably feel less afraid of being single when we’re 18 than when we’re 40.
The reason is we think there is still “plenty of time” to find a partner when we’re young. But we worry that if we’re still single at 40 that time is somehow running out.
There is no denying that biologically there are some constraints, particularly if you want to have children. But I also think partly this is to do with general ageism that undoubtedly goes on in society.
We end up putting mental time limits on things, and we fear that love works the same way.
In reality, you can find love at any age. And it doesn’t always follow our carefully planned out timetables.
But nevertheless, when the timing seems “off” somehow, being single can hit us harder.
We may worry that we have missed some sort of important milestone in life – like marriage or kids – and that sense of perceived loss can impact our mental health.
Will being single make you lose your mind?
Being single is neither good nor bad for you. It can be both or either. It’s how you act when you are single that will determine your experience of single life.
Here are three things that are bound to make you lose your mind when you are single:
1) Isolating yourself
Being single doesn’t make you lonely, isolating yourself from other people does. Being single doesn’t make you feel disconnected, not nurturing human relationships does.
If you sit at home every day alone when you are single, then yes you probably are going to feel lonely and cut off. But it would be unfair to say that is a symptom of being single.
Plenty of single people have far more jam packed social lives than couples.
You may need to be more proactive to create other relationships in your life, but the rewards can be even greater in doing so.
Having a romantic relationship can even make us a bit lazy. We can become dependent upon them to be a lover, our best friend, our counsel and our support system all rolled into one.
When you are single you do need to make sure you are getting this human need for connection elsewhere. But that isn’t a bad thing.
It can encourage you to create even more strong bonds in your life from all kinds of different sources.
2) Waiting around for someone else to save you
Being single is going to make you lose your mind if you hold onto the belief that you are not whole alone.
Even the language that we often use about relationships can lead us to think and act like we need someone else in order to feel complete.
We even refer to partners sometimes as our “other half”.
But if you don’t think that you can be happy until you have a partner in your life, then you are not going to be.
I recently watched a really powerful video by Justin Brown about how to be happily single—even when you want a partner.
It was full of really practical tips and observations.
One of which was to ask yourself what you are looking for in a partner. Then ask yourself how you can start to bring those elements or qualities into your life right now.
It hit me like a ton of bricks because it suddenly struck me how often we are waiting for someone else to bring fulfilment and happiness into our lives.
Rather than get started on creating and shaping a life that we love, we think that someone else can offer us a shortcut there.
If, like me, you do want a relationship eventually, but also want to feel happy and fulfilled whilst you are single, I’d really recommend checking out Justin’s short free video.
It’s different from a lot of the stuff I’ve read and seen about single life because it doesn’t just tell you that you “should” be happy being single, it actually shows you how.
3) Feeling sorry for yourself
I’m the first person to admit that being single can make you question yourself.
Our own deep insecurities and fears combine with societal pressure and expectation. Before you know it you can spiral into a big downer.
You let those scary thoughts take over, you give up on even trying to be happy single, and instead, you wallow in self-pity.
It’s normal, but it’s also super important to keep perspective and feed yourself positive thoughts about being single too.
Because being single can be a genuinely positive experience in your life if you let it be and work hard at making sure it is.
Remind yourself that you won’t be single forever if you don’t want to be. There’s no way of predicting the future, but statistically speaking if nothing else, at some point you probably will be in a relationship again.
We may glamorize and idealize relationships, but they also come with their own set of challenges.
You have just as much chance of losing your mind in a relationship as you do being single. You can be in a relationship and totally miserable.
Mental health issues aren’t exclusive to singles, that’s for sure. So rather than feeling sorry for yourself, commit to taking full responsibility for yourself:
- Indulge in self-care — treat yourself, do things that make you feel good, “date” yourself.
- Spend time with friends.
- Make new connections — online, volunteering, joining clubs and groups.
- Enjoy your freedom — be spontaneous, have adventures, try new things.
- Invest in your own growth — take the time to get to know yourself more, develop yourself by learning something new, taking a class or work on your goals.
- Strengthen your other relationships and connections.
- Suit yourself — learn what you want and how to satisfy your own needs.
- Learn independence — discover how to be more self-reliant, self-aware, and responsible for yourself. We all need to lean on people, but it can make you a stronger person when you have to make choices for yourself as a single person.
To conclude: How to be happy and healthy single?
It’s easy to think that finding a relationship is going to be the answer to all our problems.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with someone. But the truth is that having a partner won’t automatically make you any happier.
It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way that ends up stabbing us in the back.
We get stuck in awful relationships or empty encounters, never really finding what we’re looking for.
We fall in love with an ideal version of someone instead of the real person.
We try to “fix” our partners and end up destroying relationships.
We try to find someone who “completes” us, only to fall apart with them next to us and feel twice as bad.
Rudá’s teachings showed me a whole new perspective.
So, if you want to learn how to be happy single, I’d recommend starting with yourself first and taking Rudá’s incredible advice.