Single with Valentine's Day blues?

Story highlights

  • Being single on Valentine's Day can be painful when it's marketed everywhere as the romantic day of the year
  • Don't turn Valentine's Day into a Cry Day, a Moping Day or a Drinking Day

Pepper Schwartz is professor of sociology at the University of Washington and co-author of "Frommer's Places for Passion: the 75 Most Romantic Destinations in the World." She is the love and relationship ambassador for AARP and writes the Naked Truth column for AARP.org. The opinions in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)I remember some lonely Valentine's Days. Yes, you know it's just one big commercial Hallmark invention. But you still envy your peers who are sitting down to an expensive candlelit dinner with their honey, loving their cheesy card and enjoying the roses.

You think that every couple you see is lucky in love, even though it's not true. If you drill down on your blossoming blues, you will feel like you are destined to be alone forever and then work yourself up into a pretty yucky pity-party.
I am not making light of the situation. Being single on February 14 can be painful when the day is marketed everywhere as the official designated romantic day of the year. It's especially miserable if you've been trying hard to meet someone and striking out, or if you've recently broken up with someone you loved.
    It's important to try and do an end run around any deepening sadness. There are a number of ways to avoid a noxious slump. You can remind yourself how lucky you are in other ways (mildly effective), how artificial the day is (so what?), how many of those couples will actually break up (mean-spirited) or you can make Valentine's Day a blast and actually enjoy yourself.
    Don't turn Valentine's Day into a Cry Day, a Moping Day or a Drinking Day. Here are some of my favorite remedies for lonely Valentine's Days:
    Distract yourself with something fabulous
    Sometimes, that's the only way to get out of a really bad mood. In other words, simply be so engaged in something that you can't even remember it is Valentine's Day.
    So this would be a good day to go do something that was fully absorbing and exciting. It might mean going to a scalper and splurging on a great game, band or Broadway show. Or, be a tourist in your own city and go on a city lights helicopter tour, or do your first sky dive. Less expensive, but still expansive -- how about signing up for a day or evening at a Korean or Russian spa and getting the full treatment!
    The point of all this is to keep yourself in the moment as opposed to being alone with your refrigerator, giving in to its siren call to open the door and eat every carton of ice
    Have a fantastic dinner party with friends
    Happy is the person with a dense network of friends. A study by a group of researchers at Brigham Young Hospital said that having a "rich network" of intimate relationships (friends and family) was more predictive of mental and physical health than whether the person struggled with alcoholism, smoking or major diseases.
    There is basically nothing better for you than hanging out with people you love or like a lot. A raucous dinner party of your favorite peeps is going to make you happy, feel fortunate and know that your life is on the right track, whether or not you have that special someone. Better yet, make it a pajama party so you are not alone at 2 a.m. wondering why you ever got a king-sized mattress.
    Spend a day with Mother Nature
    Yes, your heart beats faster when you are in love. But it also beats faster when you are in the mountains hiking, snowshoeing, skiing or maybe on dirt bikes exploring back woods trails. Mother Nature fills your heart with wonder, even adoration, and those endorphins pulsing through your body create contentment and sometimes, bliss.
    Your world seems complete -- and it is. Feeling strong and getting physical is a good anecdote to the blues. And if the outdoors doesn't woo you, consider finding a gym "boot camp" for the weekend or sign up for a dance class that doesn't need to be partnered. I learned some African dances from the Sierra Leone area and they are a perfect way to raise the mood.
    Make someone else's day great
    There's nothing like going to help someone less fortunate than you that makes you kick yourself in the butt for even momentarily feeling sorry for yourself.
    Bring Valentines to a children's hospital, a homeless shelter or maybe just your shut-in great aunt. Give joy to others. You will like yourself better and you might continue this custom even after you have found a loving partner. Maybe get a group of other single friends to go with you and go out afterward together so that you can share that fulfilled feeling of having given love to people who badly need it.
    There are other things you can do, but the point is that single people can find a way to celebrate this day that will not feel like a compromise.
    Love is wonderful -- it expands your heart and soul -- but you don't need a spouse or partner to experience it. On the other hand, be assured, romantic love is out there and it only takes one great introduction, one chance moment in a grocery store, or one click of a profile online to change your luck and make next Valentine's Day a very different one.
    But who knows? You might like all the things you did this Valentine's Day so much that you'll do the same thing next year -- just adding, the love of your life.