Finding the Love Within: Combatting Valentine’s Day Depression

Holding hands on valentines day

Not long after Christmas, as the new year comes around, we start to see the first signs of Valentine’s sneaking in. Whether it’s displays of cards and chocolates in the supermarket, clothing companies advertising ‘the perfect outfit’ and various meal-for-two deals from dining outlets, it can be very hard to ignore. For some people, the pink and red clamour of Valentine’s Day can quickly become suffocating.

When faced with this holiday of romance, many people find themselves feeling lonely, overwhelmed, and even depressed. It can feel as though you are existing outside of something – which often leads to feelings of dejection and dread.

These emotions can be very real, and feel very raw. But, it’s important to remember that there are ways to measure our happiness, worth, and success outside of a single, commercially-oriented day on the calendar.

What is Valentine’s Day Depression?

Dejected romances, scorned lovers and solo-dates proliferate in the media. It’s not rare to see TV shows or films that use a bad Valentine’s day as a plot point. In these shows, we might see the fictional broken-hearted crying, eating meals and drinking alone, surrounded by a sea of tissues. Some might even see these depictions as humorous: they’re a frequent feature in comedy as well as drama. But recent research has shown that there is more depth to this phenomenon. More than just a character arc on our screens, there is tangible evidence that ‘Valentine’s day blues’ is experienced by many.

One researcher analysed a study from 2004. They found that Valentine’s Day Depression is vastly more affecting than we may realise. Far from the caricaturised representations of our media, an increase in depression, anxiety and stress can be identified These feelings of ‘anxiety, depression, rumination, and social anxiety,’ were present for weeks following Valentine’s, suggesting that Valentine’s Day Depression is more serious than media may have us believe.

The research found that:

  • Valentine’s Day Depression is experienced by both men and women
  • Men felt the effects of VDD for two weeks,
  • Women felt the effects of VDD for three or more weeks
  • Effects of VDD were particularly prominent in those aged 30-40
  • Effects of VDD were least prominent in those aged 40+

This suggests that Valentine’s Day Depression is a lot more than feeling disregarded. It’s a phenomenon that can play on deep seated and painful feelings about belonging and self-worth.

Combatting Valentine’s Depression

According to a recent survey, only a third (33%) of Brits celebrate Valentine’s Day in the traditional sense. 55% of survey respondents said they would not be celebrating Valentine’s at all. That means that however you are celebrating Valentine’s, you are not alone.

Valentine’s Day can unearth a lot of uncomfortable feelings, lead to negative self-talk and strong emotion. But that does not mean you can’t enjoy yourself on the 14th of February. There are a lot of ways you can manage these feelings in order to kick Valentine’s Day Depression.

Loving Yourself First: Self-Worth outside of Relationships

Valentine’s is a day for lovers; but not everyone will find themselves struck by cupid. Valentine’s Day is difficult for a lot of single people. You may have recently separated. The day may remind you of the pain of a divorce, or even refresh the sting of bereavement.
Whatever the reason, not having a romantic relationship does not mean that you do not deserve to celebrate. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love – and love comes in many forms that are not romantic. Your worth is not defined by your relationship status, even when the poetry-emblazoned cards and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates make you think otherwise.

If we have low self-esteem, we can have a tendency to look to others for validation. Feeling happy, confident and even proud of ourselves comes from a strong place. Being able to locate your value outside of a relationship may be challenging, but it is an empowering step to identify that you do not need another person to recognise what you deserve.

Loneliness and High Expectations: A Recipe for Depression

Love can sometimes feel like a gift. But that does not mean that presents and gift-giving are the only ways to love (and be loved). Valentine’s Day is naturally romanticised. It has become synonymous with bouquets of red roses, chocolates, and dinners in expensive restaurants. But the fallacy of this is two-pronged.
Firstly; love is not necessarily measured in objects. Secondly, we have come to believe that these objects are a prerequisite, and that not receiving them means that we are, in some way, deficient. Our value is not determined by either the price of a gift or the gift of someone else’s attention. If you do not have a ‘magical’ Valentine’s Day, that does not reflect badly on you as an individual. However, it can provoke feelings of loneliness, which can catalyse a range of other negative emotions.

If you are seeing people around you being indulgent on Valentine’s Day, it can be difficult not to feel left out. If you are in a relationship, having a quiet day (or not choosing to celebrate at all) does not mean that your spouse does not value you. If you are single, this does not mean that you are a failure – remember that our conceptualisation of commercialised holidays are not always accurate, and that they are often sensationalised online.

Lonely woman on valentines day

From External to Internal Validation: Loving Yourself First

A lot of people suggest that ‘in order to love others, you have to love yourself.’ This suggests that self-love makes you a better partner. But self-love is more than just a prerequisite for a relationship. Self-love can be key to unlocking a greater sense of wellbeing, confidence and happiness. Feeling comfortable in yourself can also lead to improvements in other areas of our lives, such as:

  • higher attainment at school or work
  • improved interpersonal skills
  • better mental health
  • better physical health
  • lower likelihood of engaging in ‘antisocial behaviour.’

The truth is, relationships can be temporary. Our relationship with ourselves is perennial, and is therefore perhaps the most important to nurture.

Celebrate Yourself: Be Your Own Valentine

One of the ways you can combat Valentine’s Day Depression is to treat yourself with extra care and love. Take the day to celebrate yourself – be your own valentine! There are many ways you can look out for (and treat yourself) in the slew of romantic activity. You could:

  • take a break from social media or block specific hashtags around Valentine’s Day
  • avoid romance films and TV shows that may exacerbate Valentine’s Day Depression
  • unsubscribe from mailing lists that may relate to Valentine’s content
  • spend time with family and friends
  • treat yourself to a small gift
  • cook a favourite meal
  • spend time with a hobby
  • spend time exercising
  • meditate
  • listen to your favourite music, or watch your favourite films
  • buy yourself flowers
  • practice journaling: make a list of all the things you like about yourself

Loving Yourself is Year-Round: Develop Self-Care Routines

Self-love can be a life-long practice. It is more than just buying yourself a treat every now and then – it is a mental shift that reflects the movement towards considering yourself first.

One research team defined self-care as ‘the ability to care for oneself through awareness, self-control, and self-reliance in order to achieve, maintain, or promote optimal health and well-being.’

Self-care, then, is an active practice. By embedding a routine of self-care into your life, you may find that you become more confident and experience a natural increase in mood. That could mean that when Valentine’s Day comes around next time, it may not feel quite as painful.

Seeking More Than Just Romantic Connection

Valentine’s Day notoriously celebrates romantic love. But our lives are made up of a web of loving, beautiful connections that manifest in a range of different ways. Recognising the value of our existing support systems – our families and friends, work colleagues, support staff and acquaintances at places like the supermarket or the gym – can do wonders for our confidence. Practising gratitude for the people we have in our lives is a great way to not only boost our own mood, but also to lift others.

Recognise When You Need Professional Support

You deserve to feel healthy, happy and content. For some people, this may mean adding small acts of self-care into their daily lives. For others, that could mean taking the steps to access formal treatment for mental health conditions. Recognising that you need support for depression, stress, or anxiety shows emotional intelligence and resilience. It is, in itself, a profound act of self-care. At UKAT, we offer mental health support for a range of situations, including treatment for dual diagnosis. We believe that everyone deserves to feel good about themselves– regardless of relationship status. Our programmes of support offer you the chance to work on the most important connection of all; the one you have with yourself.