Singles Awareness Day: The benefits of being single

(CNN)An increasing number of people around the world are opting to go solo. The number of American men and women who have never been married, are divorced or living alone has been on an upward trend for several years, according to the US Census Bureau.

Despite the fact marriages or relationships are less common these days, being single continues to have stigma and feelings of loneliness attached, no more so than on Valentine's Day. Feeling of loneliness among singles not yet having found "the one" still abound.
However, recent research shows that some people view singlehood as a happy destination rather than a stop on the journey to marriage.
    The research by Dr. Elyakim Kislev, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found that if you're single, you can redefine the concept for yourself: You don't have to be lonely, and you're not a failure. Being single can be an advantage instead of a source of agony, he believes.
      Kislev analyzed US and European databases and conducted interviews to examine trends in singlehood and what made some singles happy, finding that for some, happiness was a choice lifestyle or something they came to accept.
        "The fact is that many societies see tremendous growth in the single population and we need to change this image we have that being single means you are frustrated, less worthy or abandoned," said Kislev, author of the research presented in his book "Happy Singlehood: A Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living."
        Singlehood and living alone are also on the rise in many countries including Japan, Italy and Sweden, various studies have shown.
          Kislev believes there are ways to turn feelings of loneliness into the ability to feel empowerment and joy at any stage of your life.

          Identifying the root of loneliness

          If you're going to try to pull yourself out of feeling lonely, it's important to identify the cause of that loneliness, according to Kislev. There are differences between chronic loneliness, social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
          Chronic loneliness is defined as loneliness or social isolation that occurs over a long period of time and affects your mental and physical health, according to the American Psychological Association. It can "increase the risk of developing [health problems such as insomnia and heart disease], psychological distress and behavioral problems," said Dr. Indra Cidambi, medical director focused on mental health and addiction treatment at the Center for Network Therapy in New Jersey.
          Feelings of, or temporary, loneliness are based on subjective, self-perceived feelings of neglection or "a discrepancy between one's achieved and desired levels of social relations," according to experts.
          "Being alone does not make a person lonely, but the perception of being alone is what makes one lonely," Cidambi said.
          Previous research has shown that married people can be just as lonely and unhappy as their single counterparts.
          "It was proven time and again that married people can be very lonely and emotionally deprived within their wedlock, sometimes exactly because they are committed to this one person and gave up on nurturing other connections," Kislev said.
          "Instead of facing loneliness at its roots, many people chase partnership only to discover that loneliness is a standalone problem, the cure for which mainly lies within oneself, as researchers have repeatedly argued."

          What makes some singles happy

          The databases Kislev used included the US Census Bureau and the European Social Survey. He examined relationship trends in more than 30 countries and conducted more than 140 interviews with single people in the United States and Europe -- people between ages of 30 and 78 who comprised all genders, sexualities and socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
          He found key differences between happy singles and unhappy singles, generally dependent upon whether they internalized stereotypes about being single or shrugged them off.
          People who were unhappy with being single felt resigned due to reasons including having never found the right person, feeling they might grow old alone or as if they were missing out on life. In contrast, the happy singles enjoyed their solitude, "took responsibility for their lives and were satisfied with their social ties as a substitute for marriage," Kislev wrote.
          Some happy singles found pleasure in their solitude, fortified by procuring exciting experiences that can be had outside of a relationship, such as traveling or finding new hobbies. They used their time alone to "replenish themselves" and "be empowered by focusing on themselves in these moments," Kislev said.