How to prevent the Valentine’s Day blues
February 14th, 2012
07:14 AM ET

How to prevent the Valentine’s Day blues

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.

Many singles use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to engage in unhealthy behavior, such as drinking and self-medicating, to help them forget the date. Growing up, I was no exception.

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.

soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    This story could apply to anyone on anyday. I'm sure, if you've got the blues, one of these suggestions is bound to cheer you up..unless you are clinically depressed. But if not having that special Valentine today really upsets you, think of just why we have Valentine's day. According to some historians today was a sex lottery day in ancient Rome where men could draw the name of young girl from a box and literally have sex with her until the next years drawing. It was one of those pagan holidays that never got changed or incorporated as a holy day by
    the church. There are other stories such
    Rome honoring the she wolf that raised the legendary wolf that founded Rome...etc. So don't feel bad...you never know whose name you could have drawn or what she looked like.

    February 14, 2012 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Randy

      I wish we still did that. I don't care what she looks like.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
  2. undress

    Im celebrating by sticking my d¡ck in a watermelon.

    February 14, 2012 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kbray003

      Wouldn't that be kinda cold???? But, hey.... to each, his own.

      February 14, 2012 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
    • AGuest9

      At least you don't have to listen to it whine about work, money, etc the other 364 days of the year. 😉

      February 14, 2012 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
    • Yeah

      I usually microwave it first to warm it up.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
  3. JK

    A little ironic that a man whose career is creating superficial, artificial looks is attempting to give sound, meaningful, humanistic advice on how people should spend a romantic holiday. Nice try Doc.

    February 14, 2012 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • monah

      You do realize there is a difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic plastic surgery don't you? The fact that he is a plastic surgeon in no way implies he spends his days doing cosmetic surgery. Ask any trauma patient who has needed plastic surgery and they will tell you they are so thankful there are surgeons who specialize in plastic surgery.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Had it not been for a plastice surgeon, after my accident I would never have gone outside in daylight you nincompoop. It's not all like you see on TV. Turn the channel foolish thing.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:20 | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      @ JK The very fact that this doc would recommend actions that could be counter productive to his profession – in terms of improving self esteem of people without asking them to go under his scalpel – say's a lot about his good intentions. Ironic – may be for people like you who have no understanding of ethics.

      February 14, 2012 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  4. olkvgn

    Rely on friends and remember – life is what you make it.

    February 14, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pipit

      Sewing footballs for Premier League Clubs,though the've been doing that for years and popele moaned calling it slave labour,it may pay peanuts but some would say, little is better than nothing when nothing is all you have..

      September 12, 2012 at 02:51 | Report abuse |
  5. AGuest9

    Seriously, some days suck. Try Christmas after your wife leaves you and kidnaps your kids.

    February 14, 2012 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AGuest9

      You just learn to deal with it.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse |
  6. SomeRandomDude

    well this morning i went out and adopted a beta fish (i named him gillbert) and decided to take it to a funny movie. while i was waiting in line some one took my wallet and i chased after them and i dropped gillbert and stepped on him so he is pretty dead right now. so anyways this guy got away. so anyways walking to the liquor store i ran into my ex wife who was with my daughter and this big black dude that was like a foot taller than me. my ex told me she sold my cd stereo system to buy cat food. my daughter asked who i was and the black dude was like "nobody". anyways i said nothing and kept walking to the liquor store. when i got there they wouldn't sell me any booze because i didn't have any ID, which was in my wallet. so anyways i grabbed 2 fifths of vodka and ran out of the store. i stuffed my sock in one and drank some the other. i stopped by my ex's house and lit the sock and threw the bottle through her window then ran back to my house. now i'm finishing the other bottle off and waiting for dominoes pizza. i have my gun loaded in case anyone shows up because i'm not going to jail.

    anyways when i was walking to the movies with gillbert it was one of the happiest moments i've had in years. this is really good advice cnn.

    February 14, 2012 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sowgoodseeds


      February 14, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
    • TinkerbellJayne

      What an awesome comment to post after this stupid article with the most patronising to do list I have ever read. My 4 year old niece could have come up with that list ... buy a puppy, go on a trip ... pfft.
      Random Dude, screw the ex wife & kid, just remember those happy moments you had with Gilbert, all 10 minutes of them *Fade into a montage*

      February 19, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
  7. matthouston

    If you feel sad on Valentine's day, then you deserve to feel sad because you bought into the ridiculous brainwashing campaign that tricks people into thinking they must have a mate to be a human being of any worth. Meanwhile, the corporations are laughing all the way to the bank. ditto with Christmas and Halloween.

    February 14, 2012 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Worf

      You're jaded.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
    • matthouston

      Jade? As you wish. It doesn't change the truth of the matter.

      February 14, 2012 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
    • Beischma

      Well we can't all be big strong tough men like you matt. Teach me how to be like you.

      February 14, 2012 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
  8. Alex

    If you are single, it may be entertaining to note that many of the couples you see doting on each other at restaurants actually have terrible relationships for most of the year - and are desperately trying to make up for it on Valentines Day. Half will be divorced or broken up eventually. Instead of lamenting about being single on Valentines, you should rejoice that you are lucky enough not to be in a bad relationship. Go out with your friends that day and observe all the sad people in relationships wishing they were single like you. 🙂

    February 14, 2012 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ted Bundy

      or pick up some of those desperate single chicks 😉

      February 14, 2012 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
    • sowgoodseeds

      Finally someone gets it!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
  9. Victor

    May I suggest that if seeing other people together and happy makes you upset, depressed, jealous, etc., then the best thing you can do for yourself is examine those emotions and trully determine why you are feeling this way. All the funny movies and puppies in the world are not going to make you happier if you can't determine the underlying causes of your problems.

    February 14, 2012 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Worf

      It's purely hormonal. No profound, underlying causes.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse |
    • CatastropheCathy

      Good point. I like seeing happy couples...it gives me hope.

      February 14, 2012 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
  10. themoi

    What a contrived holiday! Everybody knows that love and romance don't exist in today's society so what's the point?

    February 14, 2012 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • the_BLack_kid

      yes there is but its really rare i have seen it once..

      February 14, 2012 at 10:21 | Report abuse |
  11. Susan

    What's worse than not having a special someone for Valentine's Day is being in a relationship and not being acknowledged on that day. I've been in situations like this in the past and it makes you dread Valentine's Day. Remember, it's only a day fostered by Hallmark ! It will soon be over.

    February 14, 2012 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tacc2

      You're an idiot if you feel you need to be acknowledged on V-day because society tells you that's what should happen. As long as your significant other acknowledges you at other times and makes you feel appreciated and wanted...IT...TOTALLY...DOESN'T...MATTER.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
  12. CatastropheCathy

    Good advice. Having a partner in life isn't the end all. it is better off to be single than with someon and unhappy about the relationship. If you are single use this time to improve yourself and spend the time with your friends doing the hobbies you enjoy. Share gifts with friends. Two of my neighbors gave me gifts yesterday and I thought that was awesome – not the gifts but the fact that they cared about me. you can do this with your friends and it feels great!

    February 14, 2012 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. euni

    As a pet owner, I do NOT suggest adopting a pet on a whim just b/c you have the blues on a commercial holiday. Pets are a lifelong responsibility much like having a small child. A dog is completely dependent on you as an owner to feed it, clean it, take it for walks, care for it when it gets sick, pay for its medical bills, food, ect. Saving a pet from the animal shelter is a noble act however, many pets end right back up in the animal shelters b/c of people who adopt on a whim and decide they made a hasty decision. Make absolute sure you would make a responsible pet owner.

    February 14, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NC

      Good point.

      February 14, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
  14. acidrainbw

    Valentine's Day was MADE for the single guy. especially in a city like New York. the bars and clubs are full of attractive, single woman who want nothing more than to just hang out with a guy for the evening. so get your a$$ off of your couch, put down the rocky road and go help them out with that. it may sound shallow or whatever but hey, i was one of those guy who would sit at home alone because i as single and because women dont really like to date guys like me (short guys) and only started coming around and taking notice after i started making a lot of money. so if women are allowed to be shallow in that way... so are we lol. go get em boys

    February 14, 2012 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tacc2

    F*** Valentines Day. And all those other obligatory holidays. I don't like being expected to celebrate something and then made to feel guilty that I don't.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Quid Malmborg

    My strategy for coping: drink a bottle of wine, watch "High Fidelity," and be thankful that I'm not Jack Black's character.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Stu

    Buy yourself something.....I'm going to go out and buy a new putter to add to my collection of half a dozen. Seasonal golf hopes spring eternal in winter where all the swing flaws disappear. PS.....Happy Valentines Day to my ex 🙂

    February 14, 2012 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. esf

    I stopped reading after "my favorite movie "The Karate Kid'". That in and of itself is more depressing than any lonely Valentines Day spent drinking, masturbating, and sobbing.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Huge Mustache

    It's even worse in the gay world. Everyone wants young, hung and buff. If you are not all of those three, get used to being alone. gay men go by looks alone and care less about personality and values than straight people. Gay men will have sex with a serial killer if he's hot.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Huge Mustache

    Sure, it would be nice to have a boyfriend, but not just to have one for Valentines day. Valentines Day sucks!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Deedie

    Lonelyheart since 1984

    February 14, 2012 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Deedie

    Lonelyheart since 1984.:'( Dread the day!

    February 14, 2012 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. janetlaw

    How 'bout this. Get up, go to work, work-out, and go home. Same as any other day. Oh, and I refuse to feel "ashamed" for being single, as these stupid contrived days are aiming to make me feel. Though, it is a great excuse to eat chocolate!

    February 14, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. GWilly

    what about those pesky watermelon seeds?

    February 14, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Don

    Wipe Valentines Days completely from your mind and off any reminder list, this will also aid in riding yourself of any Blu's, This, like most of these other celebrations we see in our calender year are manufactured. Out of these valentines day is the one day that comes and goes withou even missed by many.

    February 14, 2012 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Doc Holiday

    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.” There's your problem. Orange Crush will do it every time.

    February 14, 2012 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Joe

    I was stood up on valentines day and instead of feeling sad I actually introspected and started to feel better. What hurt was that I was stood up by a girl I would never have dated in the first place (she was fat) so I lowered my standards just so I wouldn't be alone that day. When she stood me up at first I thought it was my fault but for all the wrong reasons. I introspected and realized that I shouldn't have lowered my standards to begin with. Made me feel a whole lot better about myself even if I did spend it alone rather than spend money on some company I didn't want to be with in the first place.

    February 15, 2012 at 04:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. NJBob

    What a crock.

    February 15, 2012 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Brenda

    Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about "romantic love". It can be about showing love to all the loved ones in our lives, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren. Everyone loves getting a Valentine gift, and you will feel the love returned. What goes around, comes around.

    February 15, 2012 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Dennis

    What a lot of people fail to realize is that you can be in a relationship and still be lonely. If it is any consolation to those single people out there, I've been married for almost 14 years to the same woman and feel very lonely at times. Our sex life is dismal and I can not get her to open up and tell me the exact reason (s) why. For the singles out there, rejoice in the fact that you have the flexibility to be alone because being in a relationship is not all that it is cracked up to be. Please don't fall into the trap of believing that everyone in a relationship is happy because it simply is not true. I always advise the single people in my world to think carefully about entering into a long-term relationship.

    February 15, 2012 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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