“Valentine’s Day Blues” refer to a set of negative emotions including sadness, loneliness or anxiety that some individuals experience in association with Valentine’s Day, a holiday traditionally dedicated to celebrating love and romantic relationships.
A 2022 study found that these “blues” are a real psychological phenomenon and a form of situational depression that occurs in the weeks following February 14th. These feelings can also be triggered in anticipation of the holiday.
Here are three reasons why Valentine’s Day is a difficult event for many, according to the study.
1. The Commodification Of Love
Valentine’s Day is deeply entrenched in cultural expectations and popular media. Societal norms dictate that individuals should express their love through grand gestures and extravagant displays of affection. This cultural pressure can intensify feelings of inadequacy for those who are unable to meet these expectations or find themselves without romantic partners or tokens of affection.
According to a 2024 survey, Americans are expected to spend roughly $14.2 billion on their significant others this Valentine’s Day, highlighting the widespread obligation to participate in the holiday.
Researchers also found that participants who receive valentine’s gifts report lower levels of psychological distress. However, individuals left out of Valentine’s Day festivities might find themselves grappling with social exclusion, stress and disappointment.
Researchers suggest that since the marketing narrative around this time encourages fantastical illusions of romance, individuals are frequently disillusioned with the shortcomings of their own reality.
“30-to-40 year olds likely feel social pressures to develop relationships that match specific expectations concerning monogamous and long-term commitment. The celebration of Valentine’s Day provides evidence of such commitment. Flowers, roses, and candlelit dinners all send a message that the relationship—and the individual’s life at this point in time—is on track. By contrast, not receiving Valentine’s Day gifts indicates failure and, especially for women, a running out of time to get it right,” the researchers explain, based on their finding that this age group faces greater mental health risks than others around Valentine’s Day.
2. The Social Comparison Trap
Research shows that comparing oneself to others on social media is associated with social anxiety. Individuals are often inundated with images and stories of seemingly perfect romantic relationships online, especially around Valentine’s day. The pressure to measure up to these curated displays of love can evoke envy and thoughts of being “forever alone,” especially for those who are currently single or experiencing relationship challenges.
Idealized representations of romance on social media or in real life can lead to lower self-esteem and a negative, pessimistic self-perception, with individuals measuring their worth based on their romantic status or the perceived success of their relationships. Understanding that social comparisons do not accurately reflect the complexities of real relationships is crucial in breaking free from this trap.
3. Heightened Levels Of Loneliness
According to a 2023 study, loneliness can kill. The absence of a significant other during a holiday focused on love and connection may intensify feelings of loneliness. Social isolation and a lack of social support significantly impact mental health and well-being.
Additionally, research indicates that singles may experience higher levels of loneliness than those in relationships. Individuals may also feel lonely within their romantic relationships or after a recent breakup, of which Valentine’s Day is a reminder.
Here are some ways to navigate the emotional turmoil of Valentine’s Day blues.
- Practice self-compassion. Treating oneself with kindness and understanding during difficult times improves mental well-being. Embrace compassionate self-talk, replace unrealistic or overly negative thoughts about your love life with more balanced and constructive perspectives. Prioritize self-care practices that bring joy and relaxation. Mindfulness practices, for instance, can help manage stress and anxiety. Take time to reflect on and appreciate the positive aspects of your life, relationships and personal accomplishments.
- Fortify social connections. Strong social support is linked to better mental health. Planning social activities that focus on shared interests and positive interactions can reinforce a sense of belonging. For instance planning a “Galentine’s celebration” re-emphasizes important social connections in one’s life and turns Valentine’s day into a day of celebrating familial and platonic love. Research shows that single individuals are also adept at maintaining social connections.
- Perform acts of kindness. Engaging in acts of kindness and altruism is associated with enhanced well-being. Consider volunteering or performing random acts of kindness to shift the focus from personal concerns to contributing positively to others’ lives.
- Plan ahead. If Valentine’s Day tends to trigger negative emotions, plan activities or distractions in advance. Whether it’s a movie night with friends, a solo adventure or a creative project, having a plan can help alleviate the anticipation of negative feelings.
- Seek professional support. If Valentine’s Day blues become overwhelming or persistent, seeking support from a mental health professional can be beneficial.
Valentine’s Day blues, though common, are not insurmountable. By recognizing and understanding the psychological factors at play, individuals can take proactive steps to navigate this emotionally charged holiday.
Valentine’s Day can exacerbate the fear of singlehood. Take this test to find out how this may be impacting your mental health: Fear Of Being Single Scale