Sonja Lyubomirsky: Who Says You Need a Partner to be Happy on Valentine'...

source: bigthink 2013-02-14

If you don't have that special someone this Valentine's Day, don't despair. You're in good company. Nearly 50 percent of American adults are single. And many of them are happily single. In fact, "there are many life-long singles, especially women, who are very happy, who are no less happy than married or partnered people," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside and the author of The Myths of Happiness.

In this video, Lyubomirsky lays out the reasons why singles should not be stigmatized by society as people who must be "more lonely, more sad, more deprived, and even less mature." As Lyubomirsky points out, single people do in fact have "rewarding, lasting and meaningful relationships."

Happiness Myth: "I can't be happy when I don't have a partner."
Sonja Lyubomirsky: "I can't be happy when I don't have a partner." So, we grow up in a culture that's very couple oriented and so people who don't find partners or don't find partners for a long time feel deviant, they feel discriminated against, they're not invited to parties... and so it could cause a lot of unhappiness.

I talk about the research that's actually been written a lot by Bella DePaulo, who's a researcher in this area, about how happy a lot of single people are. So, it turns out that there are many life-long singles; in fact, I believe half of the adults in the United States today are single. There are many life-long singles, especially women, who are very happy, who are no less happy than married or partnered peopled. They have -- they tend to have a lot of friends, a dozen or more really deep friendships. I mean, can those of you who are married and have children, you know, can you say the same for yourself? Do you have a dozen really deep friendships that with whom you, you know, keep in touch with on a very regular basis?

Single people tend to be very close to their family members, you know, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents. And their friends are their own. You know, when you think about it when you're married and with children, a lot of your friends are not really chosen by you; they might be your partner's friends or they might be your kid's friends' parents, but when you're single you tend to choose your friends.

The bottom line is, I mean, what I like to highlight is that there are a lot single people who are very happy. And so if you have not found a partner or if you're not sure if you want to compromise or you want to live with someone else for the rest of your life, there's just a lot of hope for you out there from the science.

Ordinary Magic Trick: Become your best possible self. Focus on your personal goals.

Sonja Lyubomirsky: So if you're single, maybe you're not so happy being single. Instead of kind of focusing so desperately on finding a partner, I talk about becoming your best possible single self and there's research on what are called "best possible selves" and they're basically kind of ideal visions of ourselves, sort of what -- when you think about yourself in five years and ten years and 20 years, you know, who do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want to be doing?

So basically what research suggests is that focusing on that, focusing on the future, focusing on your goals, makes people happy, you know, striving actually makes people much happier than actually -- than even achieving. And then maybe in the process you might find someone, but you're not -- you know, you're going to be, hopefully, you're going to be happy sort of pursuing all the different myriad goals in your life in becoming the best person you can be. That's a much healthier approach than just sit around and mope about the fact that you're single.

And so, again, this really ties back to the -- to one of the themes of the book that happiness lies within, that you could be a single person and you could be a very happy single person... and a lot of it depends on sort of what you focus on, what do you think about. Or you could be a single person and you can dwell on the fact that you're single and how depressed that makes you and be an unhappy person.

So, again, happiness really lies within us, not outside of us.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd