5 Ways to Embrace Being Single for the Holidays

Rear view of person with shoulder-length hair in heavy coat walking two dogs in snow at sunsetIt seems almost everywhere we turn, we’re reminded it’s the “most wonderful time of the year.” From holly jolly music to impossibly cheerful movies playing on a loop, it’s a seasonal theme that’s hard to get away from.

But what if it’s not that wonderful this time around? What if it’s the first holiday since your divorce or breakup? Or you simply haven’t met the love of your life yet and are dreading another New Year’s Eve alone, or as an awkward third, fifth, or ninth wheel? For many, the holidays may bring more angst than joy.

Dr. Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, and author of The Power of Different, prepares people to expect the first holiday after a loss to be the hardest (phone communication, December 16, 2016). “Any significant event or anniversary that would have been spent with your loved one will often exacerbate feelings of loss, grief, and loneliness.” All the expectations that the holidays bring can make one feel like they are “alone in it.” It’s important to remember,” she says, “that this is not true and there are others in the same boat.”

If you’re feeling anxious about being unattached this holiday season, below are some things you can do:

1. Get Out of the House

Getting out and about rather than staying home and isolating is one tip Dallisa Hocking, founder of dating network LoveFrogKisser.com, offers her single clients. “It can be really easy to slip into feelings of loneliness if you keep yourself locked inside, without socializing,” Hocking says (email communication, December 14, 2016). “Ask a friend to grab coffee, go and see a movie, or check out that new restaurant in town. Being around others will help to lift your spirit!”

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Dr. Saltz agrees. “To retreat when lonely can make it worse,” she says. Saltz strongly suggests reaching out to others, asking to join them, or finding a group of people who are going through something similar.

Dating and relationship coach Jonathan Bennett advises single people that “contrary to Christmas movies, your soulmate isn’t going to appear under the tree wearing a bow and instantly solve all of your problems.” He suggests doing things to bring cheer to others, such as wearing an ugly sweater to work or to a party, or to throw your own holiday party (email communication, December 14, 2016). “This method will not only help you feel better about the holidays, but also get you out among people, many of whom are bound to be single!”

Even if you’re not looking to meet a romantic partner, being around other singles may help you feel less alone, and perhaps lead to new friendships or potential networking opportunities.

2. Volunteer

Making others feel good naturally makes us feel good. We are social beings, after all. Research has shown over and over again the link between generosity and the release of “happy” chemicals in our brains, including dopamine and oxytocin—sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because of its release during social bonding.

Acts of kindness such as volunteering have also been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and stress, and lead to better health and longevity. Volunteering—whether at a nursing home, hospital, animal shelter, or soup kitchen—is also a good way to meet like-minded people and new friends. Who knows where that might lead?

3. Practice Gratitude

The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Whether you decide to be with others or stay in and treat yourself to a favorite movie and good food, be sure to treat yourself as you would want anyone else in your life to treat you.

One of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves this holiday season, and all seasons, is the gift of gratitude. Most of us are experts at focusing on the negative. It’s easy to become attached to the often-false stories we tell ourselves. At one time, this constant attention to the “bad stuff” was essential to our survival. We still need to be aware of the realities surrounding us, both good and bad. However, when we devote most of our energy to the negative, we are putting our emotional and psychological well-being at risk.

Regardless of how little you think you have, there will always be someone with less. Being reminded of this can put things in perspective. In a culture based on individuality, it’s all too easy to get lost in our own bubbles. Sometimes we could use a good bubble burst to put our egos in check and realize that, hey, maybe life isn’t so bad and we have a lot for which to be grateful.

4. Renew Your Purpose

Or simply renew. The holidays could be an opportune time to reflect on the past year and imagine how you would like the next year, or next few years, to look. Why not get a jump-start on your New Year’s resolutions list?

Perhaps this is the perfect chance to take that trip you’ve always wanted to take. Especially if you’ve recently gone through a divorce or breakup, temporarily getting out of the place where all your memories reside may not be a bad idea.

Dating expert and blogger Treva Brandon Scharf (The Late Blooming Bride) has some advice for single people during the holidays (email communication, December 14, 2016): “First, be okay being by yourself. Make peace with being alone, find enjoyment in the quiet time, and remember: being single isn’t the worst thing in the world. You can use the time productively to get things done, or engage in the things you love.”

5. Embrace Your Singledom

Scharf, who married for the first time when she was 51 and considers herself rather well-versed in singledom, says she’s spent many a holiday single and still had a great time.

According to relationship and dating coach Rosalind Sedacca (Women Dating After 40), being single could be a really good thing. “You’re not tied down to anyone or stuck in an unhappy relationship. Your life is full of possibilities. It’s a choice of how we want to see ourselves,” she says (email communication, December 15, 2016). “Embrace your individualism, not your relationship status. You are much more than a single [person]. You have talents, experience, a unique background, personal interests in your work, etc. It’s up to you to feel whole, complete, and empowered as a valuable individual who happens to be single. Being part of a couple does not make you a better person!”

I couldn’t agree more. Neither could Paige Donner, author, photographer, entrepreneur, and “life enthusiast” who lives in Paris, where she has spent the past three holiday seasons single—and loved every moment of it. “I am firmly of the mind that I would rather be alone than with someone who is not right for me,” she says (email communication, December 14, 2016). “… I guess that is why I love this time of year so much. It is all about being a human being rather than a human doing, and this is something I can easily be when I am by myself on Christmas Day.”

Whether you recently got out of a relationship, haven’t found one, or have no desire for a relationship but dread the holiday season, try some of the suggestions above and see how a change of perspective might make a difference. The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Whether you decide to be with others or stay in and treat yourself to a favorite movie and good food, be sure to treat yourself as you would want anyone else in your life to treat you. It’s your holiday to celebrate, or not, as you would like.


  1. Renter, E. (2015, May 1). What generosity does to your brain and life expectancy. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/05/01/what-generosity-does-to-your-brain-and-life-expectancy
  2. Saltz, G. (2017). The power of different: The link between disorder and genius. New York, NY: Flatiron Books.

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  • Julie

    December 21st, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    I have to admit that there was a time when I would probably been all mopey about being single but I have kind of come to enjoy it. I can worry about pleasing me and making myself happy and not really giving a rat about what anyone else has to think about it.

    I think that there was a time when I focused so much on pleasing others that I lost myself somewhere along the way. I am trying to find my way back to me again.

  • jeff d

    December 21st, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    This is my first Christmas without my ex wife and it is shaping up to be a tough one. I don’t even get the kids until the week between Christmas and New Years so I’m a little unhappy about that but the judge speaks and you listen. I am thinking I might just build a fire and not leave the house til they can come over on Monday.

  • zoey

    December 22nd, 2016 at 6:18 AM

    I’m not single, I have my doggy children and that feels perfectly right to me.

  • Parson

    December 22nd, 2016 at 10:58 AM

    What is there to be sad about? It gives me the time that I need to be able to go out and do things for other people who have far more worries in their lives than whether or not they have someone to share the holidays with. These are people who are just trying to make it day to day and if I can do something to help take their minds off of that struggle then why would I not be willing to give some of my time and energy to them?

  • Mallory

    December 23rd, 2016 at 8:24 AM

    This time last year I was engaged to be married and starting to plan my wedding.

    This year- not so much. He called off the engagement because he seriously has fallen in love with someone else.

    I guess that I am glad that he told me now instead of after the wedding but It really does not make it any easier to know that he is basking in happiness right about now and I am still miserable.

  • Lacey

    December 23rd, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    The tendency is to want to run and hide but I say get out there and enjoy life, even if it feels like it is impossible. Nothing is impossible

  • marianne

    December 23rd, 2016 at 10:37 PM

    first holiday alone for me. I lost my husband this year and miss his presence although he had been very ill the last five years and we never really could travel or arrange a celebration. what I have come to realize is that my nature needs, or perhaps it is natural human need, to be with people. I feel more human when I have someone around me who loves me and completes me. I am alone but not lonely…I need someone’s love and affection but would not settle for just anyone’s love an affection

  • Donna B

    December 24th, 2016 at 6:15 AM

    I am so over it in terms of will I or will I not ever find someone to settle down with.
    I have tried to find the right person and then I have tried to let it go.
    I think that I am the happiest when I have stopped all the trying, and just being at ease with who I am either with or without another person in my life.
    I have friends, I have family, I have my health.
    Why should I be disappointed with not having anything else?

  • Peg

    December 26th, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    I am likely to stay single for the rest of my life because I don’t think that I have it in me to get married again. The singleness does not tends to bother me so much and Thanksgiving or at Christmas because I am always around friends and family and that is sort of a balm against feeling bad for me. But come New Years Eve when everyone is out with their significant other and kissing at midnight that is when I do admit that I get a little bit lonely.

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    February 19th, 2017 at 11:46 PM

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and never manage to get anything done.

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