Updated: Sep 8
The happiest subset of people is unmarried, childless women, according to professor of behavioural science, Paul Dolan. But just because the data says that this group is the happiest doesn’t mean that you feel the happiest about your single, childfree status right now.
How do you feel about single life right now?
Being single can be exhausting. From the tiresome nature of dating, to the repeated conversations with family and friends that question when you’re going to settle down and have children. Our ability to manage these situations comes from the spectrum of happiness and confidence we feel about being single. There are those that really don’t want to be single anymore and would really like to find someone to settle down with. It might be so that they feel safer, more secure, or even more accomplished by doing so, or it might stop them panicking about any body clock pressures for having biological children. At the other end of the spectrum are those that are fully at ease with single life. It doesn’t bother them to be single, maybe even the thought of any kind of relationship fills them with dread. Sharing a house? Having to check in with someone every day? Dealing with the pressure of marriage and babies? “No thanks!” they cry. Somewhere in between there are those who are indifferent. They don’t see it as good nor bad to be single. There’s those that previously had a desire for a relationship but have succumbed to staying single forever and becoming that crazy cat lady. And there are all those in between. Whichever place you feel you identify closest with, now is the time to be honest with yourself. It’s no good publicly displaying such enthusiasm and passion for being single if you spend all of your evenings wishing that were different. It’s only a matter of time before the facade is shattered and the sense of unhappiness unleashes. Knowing where your happiness lies means you can start to address your unhappiness and discontentment whilst you’re out of control of a relationship status.
What does single life happiness mean to you/look like to you?
Everyone’s definition of happiness is different. What one person tells you makes them happy won’t make the next. Just think about your hobbies versus the hobbies of your friends. Some of them will absolutely LOVE to go running. They’ll get up at 8.30am on a Saturday morning to join a ParkRun event in their local town, and a quick 5km jog around a park will bring them joy and a sense of accomplishment. To others, getting up at any time before 10am would bring them a sense of dread, and no matter how many times they give running a go, it just isn’t for them. We all have different hobbies and interests, so we all have different ways to feel happy. As a society, we also tend to chase happiness in all the wrong places. A lot of media influence, and the influence of our upbringing, environments and the people that surround us, lead us to believe that having and achieving things will bring us joy and happiness. Whether it’s in the material form of money, clothes, and cars, or the milestones you reach in getting a new job, getting married or buying a house, each of these things externally validates us. “When I earn this amount of money, it will mean I’m doing well”, “When I have that car, I’m successful”, and “When I’m in a relationship, it means I’m okay and worthy”. All of this relies on the outward perception to others, whether we receive congratulations or compliments directly, or the reaction and status we perceive we now have. In Mo Gawdat’s first interview on Diary of a CEO podcast, the happiness expert explains that happiness by definition is “events equal to or beating expectations”. He describes it as “that calm and peacefulness you feel when you’re okay with life as it is” and that “it doesn’t matter what life is, what matters is that you can be okay with it.” The distinct difference there is that it isn’t about these events, it isn’t about all of the achievements, the applause, the outcome. It is the acceptance of where you are now. And in single life, we do have to accept that there isn’t always a lot we can do about our relationship status, but we can make sure we’re enjoying the experience as much as we can along the way!
How can you be happy being single?
With the above in mind, we need to detach our “happiness” away from the outcome and instead consider the themes around some of the things we’ve previously desired. In the case of being in a relationship for example, is it love, connection, or safety and security that really drives that want? If it’s getting a particular job is it because of the added autonomy, flexibility or creativity the job offers? Through evaluating what’s behind your wants, you can find what your values are and what matters most to you. And once you know what those driving factors are, you can work on detaching from the specific outcome you previously were holding onto and instead look at other, maybe even simpler, ways of introducing those values into your life. Instead of focussing on the one thing we can’t magically make happen (a relationship), it’s about digging deeper to find what the meaning of a relationship is to us and then finding ways to achieve that love, connection and intimacy in a different form. For me, it’s about connection to others in the deepest sense of the word, free of judgement and having support, which is why I chose to double down on my friendships, start opening up and getting vulnerable so that I could find the love and acceptance in another way. There is no one way to be happy when you’re single. Not least, there will be disappointments along the way as you experience the highs and lows of dating, but also the general ups and downs of life that we all go through, regardless of our relationship status. But by focussing on encouraging in the things that make you truly happy, the things that light up your soul and get you through each day, you’ll find peace with your single status and embrace living in alignment with what matters to you most. Listen to Episode 57 of The Single Girl's Guide to Life: Are You Happy Being Single?