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On Love & Loneliness 


A circular blue road sign with a white arrow piercing a red heart and pointing left
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February is associated with many important days and causes, including World Cancer Day on February 4th and International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th. February is Black History Month in the US, LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK, and, this year, Lunar New Year, Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day, and Ash Wednesday are also in February. One of the most widely celebrated days in February is Valentine’s Day which falls on the 14th


Valentine’s Day is dedicated to showing the people you love just how much you love them. Valentine’s Day is usually marked by gift-giving and spending quality and/or intimate time with your loved one. For some people, Valentine’s Day is a day of joy but for others, Valentine’s Day is the complete opposite. With Valentine’s Day just passed, some of us might have some lingering feelings towards the global holiday. For a lot of people, these feelings may be positive but for others, they may be negative. This post explores the not-so-fun side of Valentine’s Day and what we can do to combat these negative feelings. 


What if I don’t love the day of love? 


Many people are not huge fans of Valentine’s Day and their reasons for this may differ. Some people don’t care much for Valentine’s Day because they believe that it's too commercialised and others might struggle with the holiday for more personal reasons (1, 2). Seeing so many idealised relationships around you can be emotionally or mentally taxing if you are not in one of your own, have had bad experiences in the past, or if your current relationship does not match the ones you see on social media, TV, or in films. 


For Black women, in particular, finding a romantic partner to spend Valentine’s Day with can be hard. Christian Rudder, the co-founder of the dating site, OKCupid, reviewed the data of 25 million members to identify dating trends. Among Rudder’s findings, Black women were statistically considered to be one of the least desirable groups to date, alongside Asian men ​(3). While these statistics were based on a review of data from 2009 to 2014, there does not seem to have been any updated statistics since then. While seemingly outdated, it is likely that the conclusions that Rudder drew are still applicable to people today. The anecdotes in this 2022 Woman’s Health article suggest that, unfortunately, the dating landscape and the hardships that Black women face when dating have not changed much since 2014.


Difficulty finding a partner or negative experiences with previous or current relationships may mean that we miss out on celebrating Valentine’s Day. This can, unfortunately, negatively affect our mental health.  Research suggests that people who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day are more likely to experience a form of situational depression, called ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ ​(2,4). This depressive episode affects women more than men and can last for over three weeks after Valentine’s Day ​(2,4). A lot of people also experience increased feelings of loneliness around February 14th ​(5,1). 



What is loneliness?

Loneliness is commonly defined as the feeling we get when there is a mismatch between the relationships we have and the relationships we need (6). This is different from simply being alone; we can feel lonely even when we are with other people. Loneliness is sometimes broken down into three categories; emotional, social, or existential loneliness (6). Emotional loneliness is the feeling we have when we experience the loss or absence of a meaningful relationship. Social loneliness is defined as the lack of a wider social network that can provide a sense of belonging and community and existential loneliness occurs when we feel disconnected from others around us.


Feeling lonely from time to time is fairly common, but for some people, this loneliness can be severe. Severe loneliness is frequent, intense, and long-lasting. In recent years, the number of people experiencing severe loneliness has been growing, rapidly becoming a public health priority in the UK ​(6). Between 2017 and 2021, the proportion of adults in the UK who said that they ‘often or always’ felt lonely rose from 5% to 7.2% (6). Some research suggests that feeling lonely often, or for a long period of time, is a strong predictor of poor mental health ​(7). People who experience a lot of loneliness have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression ​(8,9). Loneliness has also been linked to a 16% increase in the severity of depression symptoms ​(10).  


Although, Loneliness can affect anyone, Black people in the UK are more likely to experience loneliness than the rest of the population. According to a report by the Mental Health Foundation, one in three Black people have experienced feeling lonely some or all of the time compared to one in four of the general population ​(6). Unsurprisingly, racism is a large contributing factor to why so many Black people in the UK are more likely to be lonely. You can read more about the reasons behind the increase in loneliness among Black people in the UK in this Galdem Article. 


How can we minimise negative feelings around Valentine’s Day? 

Feeling lonely around Valentine’s Day can be difficult to deal with, especially when surrounded by so many people who all seem so happy. Spending time with your loved ones can help to minimise any loneliness or negative feelings that you may be experiencing. Valentine’s Day is about spending time with your loved ones but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean a romantic partner! Spending Valentine’s Day with your friends and family can be just as meaningful as spending it with a romantic partner. You can celebrate Valentine’s Day any way that you want. It doesn’t even have to be about celebrating others. You could spend Valentine’s Day showing yourself some love. There’s no reason why you can’t treat yourself to a nice meal or some beautiful flowers to help minimise any negative feelings you may have.  


If you would rather avoid Valentine’s Day, next year you could always try celebrating Galentine’s Day! Since the iconic Galentine’s Day episode of ‘Parks and Recreation’ aired in 2010, Galentine’s Day has been celebrated on February 13th. Galentine’s is dedicated to spending time with your friends and letting them know just how much you love them. Galentine’s can be a wholesome alternative to Valentine’s Day and can help you feel supported and less lonely. 


It may feel hard to reach out to others around you when struggling with loneliness, but it is important to let your friends and family know when you need help so that they can support you. If you would prefer to speak to someone more, you can get telephone mental health and relationship support from groups like Mind, Samaritans, and Relate. If you need more support with your mental health, you could also ask for help from your GP. Mind’s guide to seeking help for a mental health problem can help you get started.  


In conclusion, if you are not someone who loves the day of love, Valentine’s Day can be difficult. You may struggle with your mental health or loneliness, but you are not alone! Many people feel this way. Spending some quality time with your friends and family, or even by yourself may help you push through. 


By Esther Ansah, Blog Writer


References 

  1. Harding D. Love Yourself: Keeping Your Mental Health During Valentine’s Day. The Northern line. 2022  

  2. Choi JA, Benton B, Luo Y, Green K. What About Love? Does the Over-Commercialization of Valentine’s Day on Social Media Leave Us Living in a Sadder, Material World? 2023 

  3. Kleinman A. Black People And Asian Men Have A Much Harder Time Dating On OKCupid. The Huffington Post. 2017 

  4. Lange R, Jerabek I, Dagnall N. Do the ‘Valentine’s Day Blues’ Exist? A Legacy Report on a Purported Psychological Phenomenon. Journal of Scientific Exploration. 2022 May 22;36(1):49–68.  

  5. Mind. Valentine’s Day and Mental Health. 2023

  6. The Mental Health Foundation. All the Lonely People. 2022 

  7. Mushtaq R, Shoib S, Shah T, Mushtaq S. Relationship Between Loneliness, Psychiatric Disorders, and Physical Health: A Review on the Psychological Aspects of Loneliness. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(9):WE01.  

  8. Beller J, Wagner A. Disentangling Loneliness: Differential Effects of Subjective Loneliness, Network Quality, Network Size, and Living Alone on Physical, Mental, and Cognitive Health. J Aging Health. 2018 Apr 1;30(4):521–39. 

  9. Jaspal R, Breakwell GM. Socio-economic inequalities in social network, loneliness and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2022 Feb 1;68(1):155–65.  

  10. Lee SL, Pearce E, Ajnakina O, Johnson S, Lewis G, Mann F, et al. The association between loneliness and depressive symptoms among adults aged 50 years and older: a 12-year population-based cohort study. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021 Jan 1;8(1):48–57.  ​ 


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