As Valentine’s Day approaches, the air is filled with messages of romantic love and affection. However, amidst the celebrations of couples and partnerships, it’s important to remember the profound value of self-love and the joy of embracing solitude. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of loneliness, why it’s essential to cultivate a positive relationship with yourself, and the benefits of finding joy in your own company.

Despite many people opting to live alone or spend time alone, it is not uncommon for this to be stigmatized negatively. This may have originated from the belief propagated by our culture that one must be happier or stronger the busier and more connected they are. According to research, we often have a more negative perception of others who we consider to be “lonely,” and this stigma may make it difficult for us to enjoy our own alone time. But being alone does not mean feeling lonely; loneliness is the feeling that you are not spending as much time as you would like with other people.

It is important to understand that by our very nature, we are neurologically wired for connection, with specific brain regions and nervous systems and even specialised cells specifically evolved to facilitate social connection. Biologically this is not only a survival mechanism based on the concept that there is safety in numbers, but as mammals, strong connections also mean greater chances of success in recreating with favoured partners. In short, we are “herd animals” if you will. Therefor, it is not surprising that research have found a multitude of benefits to having healthy quality relationships with at least a few people in your life. Quality over quantity is key here, meaning that having a few solid deep connections that facilitates feelings of connectedness and belonging caries far greater benefit than having a host of shallow relationships where acceptance is often experienced as being conditional upon appearances, status, resources, etc.

Social isolation and the subjective experience of being lonely have been labelled as some of the most robust risk factors for mental health challenges, cognitive decline, and various physical health problems. Even though mitigating these risk factors is a challenge of our time, the upside is that more and more researchers have set their sights on identifying what we can do to support ourselves in times when we experience feelings of loneliness.

Below we consider some of the things that one can do to reduce feelings of loneliness and combat the negative mental and physical effects of social isolation.

Embracing Solitude

In a world that often emphasizes external validation and social connections, the concept of solitude can be misconstrued as loneliness or isolation. This seems to be particularly true for younger adults and teenagers, where the consistent line of connection to the outside world sits at our fingertips, at the ready for when a positive comment or a simple “like” can provide an instant Dopamine hit, even though it is not authentic and last but a mere few minutes. However, solitude is not synonymous with loneliness, rather, it’s an opportunity for introspection, self-discovery, and self-compassion. Embracing solitude allows you to reconnect with yourself, cultivate a deeper understanding of your desires and aspirations, and nurture a sense of inner peace and contentment.

Research has found that mindfulness practice aimed at i) monitoring present moment experiences, combined with ii) an orientation of acceptance, may facilitate a shift in how a person perceives their situation and also how they relate to other.

There are various ways of learning mindfulness practices including in-person therapy with a mindfulness practitioner, learning about meditation and mindfulness to train yourself, or the most commonly used today, smart-phone based mindfulness applications targeted at remaining present and fostering acceptance.

Starting with only a few minutes a day of mindfulness practice may seem like a small effort, but consistency is key, and soon you will find that you experience things more mindfully without you having to put conscious effort into it. There is a multitude of other benefits to practicing mindfulness. Psychological benefits include reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, improving attention and focus, boosting creativity, facilitating healthy connection in relationships, reducing emotional reactivity, reducing subjective feelings of loneliness, and fostering internal acceptance and self-compassion. The physical benefits of mindfulness practices illustrate the mind-body connection through reduction in chronic pain, awareness of body sensations, improved general health, improved sleep, decreased blood pressure, increased immune function, weight loss, and more.

Finding Joy in Your Own Company

Learning to be contented during times alone involves embracing your own company and finding joy and fulfilment in self-compassion and self-care. Here are some strategies to cultivate a positive relationship with yourself and find joy in your own company.

Practice Self-Compassion:

 Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and compassion, just as you would a dear friend. Even though you may have been raised in a culture where emotionality and self-pity are often frowned upon, the truth is that feeling a bit sorry for yourself when things get tough is healthy, as long as you don’t allow yourself to fall into unhealthy beliefs and depression. Current research has brought about an understanding of trauma and emotionality that suggests that paying attention to our emotions and thoughts in times of stress or sadness, and taking to time to feel the emotions, acknowledging the thoughts, and experiencing any physical sensations that comes about when tough times arise is the most effective, and in actuality, the only authentic way of resolving the physical and mental impact of what life may throw at you. In other words, don’t deny yourself the experience or the time to work through your feelings and thoughts. Take time to pay heed to what you have been through, how you are experiencing life or your situation, and reiterate to yourself consistently that even the worst hour of your life is only sixty minutes long.

Healing from your past experiences will allow you personal growth and better future decisions and experiences. Embrace your imperfections and celebrate your strengths, recognizing that self-compassion is essential for fostering resilience and emotional well-being. Your past experiences have given you an opportunity to learn, but you don’t need to linger there. It may not have been what you planned or even deserved, but you are able to heal and prosper.

Engage in Self-Care:

Prioritize activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul, whether it’s practicing mindfulness, engaging in hobbies, or pampering yourself with self-care rituals. Make time for activities that bring you joy and fulfilment, nurturing a sense of well-being and contentment. Self-care is often misrepresented as taking time to have luxurious time in the day spa or treating yourself to expensive treats and experiences, but that is not really what self-care is about. Just as caring for a child means that you provide not only what is necessary to keep them alive, but rather to give them a good experience of life, fostering feelings of safety and joy, and providing them with things that bring fulfilment and growth, the same is true when caring for yourself. It is sometimes difficult to identify a need for self-care, especially if you are stuck in the rollercoaster of modern-day work and home life demands. But the simple truth is that you do not need to take hours every day to be good to yourself. Getting into the habit of making better choices for yourself, identifying your true preferences in everyday situations (and honouring them), engaging in activities that you enjoy on a consistent basis, and focusing on what sensory experiences would bring you satisfaction in the moment are just some examples of self-care. Ask yourself, what would be good for me right now? What do I really feel like eating for dinner? (Rather than just grabbing the most convenient option available.) Creating enjoyable sensory experiences, whether it be through food, physical activities, body-care, intimacy, creative activities, and other recreational activities are all part of self-care.

Cultivate Gratitude:

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude to grow a positive mindset and appreciation for the present moment. Take time each day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for, whether it’s the beauty of nature, the support of loved ones, or the simple pleasures of life. Start daily rituals to reflect on the positive experiences of your day, either on your own or with those around you. Take time in tough situations to reframe and identify any benefit that may have resulted as a by-product, however small. Having gratitude for the small things in life leads to a better experience of the world.

Set Boundaries:

Establish clear boundaries that honour your needs and values, allowing you to prioritize self-care and protect your emotional well-being. Learn to say no to activities or relationships that drain your energy or compromise your values, creating space for activities and relationships that bring you joy and fulfilment. A lack of boundaries may lead to feelings of confusion, frustration, and poor self-worth. Setting healthy boundaries ensures that the relationships and engagements that make up your day fulfils you and brings you feelings of self-acceptance and contentment. “No.” is a full sentence and there is no shame in using it. If a demand from someone else makes you feel uncomfortable, or goes against your values, beliefs, or even just your preferences, a polite “no” will allow you to honour your own boundaries.

Embrace Growth and Self-Discovery:

Lastly, embrace solitude as an opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. Use this time to explore your passions, pursue your goals, and embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, cultivating resilience and self-confidence along the way. Just as having healthy relationships with others are important and take time to build, having a healthy and enjoyable relationship with yourself requires you to spend time with yourself and enjoy your own company.

In conclusion, being your own Valentine is a powerful act of self-love and self-compassion that allows you to find joy and fulfilment in your own company. By embracing solitude, practicing self-compassion, engaging in self-care, cultivating gratitude, setting boundaries, and embracing growth and self-discovery, you can cultivate a positive relationship with yourself and find joy in the beauty of your own life experience. Remember that you are worthy of love and belonging, and true fulfilment comes from within, not from external sources. Celebrate yourself this Valentine’s Day and every day, honouring the unique beauty and resilience of your own journey.

Footnote: If you feel like you might need some assistance to work through experiences that affect you socially and emotionally, or that you are unable to cope with your current feelings of loneliness, please feel free to reach out to us or your local suicide or depression helpline.

To schedule a session with the author or any of our counsellors at Vita Nova, please contact us on 0712979992, or go to We offer a range of counselling services and have interns that can provide you with assistance for free if you are not in a position to afford therapy.

For 24 hr assistance on mental health matters contact SADAG on 0800 567 567

Help is always available.

The Author: Linda-May Roodt (Specialist Wellness Counsellor)

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