February 14th, 2012
07:14 AM ET
Anthony Youn, M.D., is a plastic surgeon in Metro Detroit. He is the author of “In Stitches,” a humorous memoir about growing up Asian American and becoming a doctor.
Confession: I hate Valentine’s Day.
But I bet I’m not alone.
For the first 26 years of my life I dreaded Valentine’s Day. Every February 14 served as a reminder that no one wanted to date me.
I couldn’t stand going to restaurants and seeing all the lovey-dovey couples lost in romantic bliss. Valentine’s Day may be great if you’re in a relationship, but it can be depressing if you aren’t.
As a rail-thin, nerdy teenager, I spent every February 14 alone, drinking a two liter of Orange Crush and watching my favorite movie, “The Karate Kid.” I imagined a parallel between this film and my life: Skinny loser nerd overcomes hideous looks, beats up mean jock kids and earns the love of a cute girl.
In college, my Valentine’s Day tradition consisted of binge drinking and overeating - anything to make me forget that I didn’t have a girlfriend. Not only did these unhealthy habits repel the actual women I wanted to attract, but they caused me to feel even worse the next day.
So how do people escape the pain and loneliness of such a holiday?
As a happily married physician, there are a few healthy options I recommend to my single patients to prevent the Valentine’s Day blues:
1) Exercise. Studies show the endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine released during working out can improve your mood. Not only will you feel better, you’ll look better and be healthier.
Improving your appearance and health may also help you in your quest to find a valentine.
2) Volunteer for the needy. Several studies have shown that volunteering for the less fortunate has beneficial effects on mood, health and even life span. These benefits can be instantaneous.
A survey published in Psychology Today describes the “Helper’s High” - an immediate euphoric sensation experienced by over half of volunteer respondents.
3) Travel somewhere sunny. Nearly 10% of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues. For many, February is the worst month for SAD. Studies show that sunlight can boost levels of serotonin, counteracting SAD and improving mood. Just having the sun shining on your face may be enough to make you forget you don’t have a date for Tuesday night.
4) Go to a funny movie. Emotions are contagious. The phenomenon called “emotional contagion” describes the infectious effect that our interactions and surroundings can have on our mood. Watching a humorous movie, reading an enjoyable book, or even taking in a stand-up comedy act will help you stay happy on Valentine’s Day.
5) Adopt a pet from a shelter. Studies show that people with pets live longer, happier and healthier lives. If you’re looking for unconditional love, this is a great way to get it and save a life in the process. Best of all, your pet won’t expect an expensive Valentine’s Day gift.
So remember: Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Valentine’s Day. And the holiday lasts only 24 hours, so after that you're in the clear.
At least until Sweetest Day.
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