Being single isn’t always a walk in the park—especially when movies and television shows seem to push the concept that you aren’t truly “complete” until you’ve found a significant other.
People’s single lives are often portrayed as a sort of purgatory they are forced to endure until they find their soul mates. So much so that a 2008 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that single people are often thought to be unhappy by others.
But experts say these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the 2008 study also found that single people self-reported levels of well-being that was similar to participants in relationships. And there are plenty of benefits that come along with living your life free of a romantic relationship. Here are a few, according to experts:
Your mind is uncluttered
“Believe it or not, relationships are ‘mentally’ expensive,” says relationship expert and bestselling author, Susan Winter. “Intimacy and partnership takes up a lot of space in our heads. Even though much of this is happening unconsciously, there’s simply a lesser capacity for individually focused thought.”
Winter refers to the time people in relationships inevitably spend worrying about their partners and, at times, ruminating on even the smallest quarrels, as “the price of love.” This sort of stress can inhibit people’s happiness by keeping them from living in the now, she says.
“Emotional discord can be all-consuming as it removes us from the present moment and present situation,” Winter says. “This is true whether the internal turmoil is based on a fight with our mate, or a fear for their health and wellbeing.”
Conversely, “being single is an act of purging the clutter and making room for new thoughts (and dreams) to breathe and grow,” she adds.
You’re more open to whatever life throws your way
Being single can make people more willing to roll with the punches, experts say.
“It’s almost like you have no choice,” says Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a New York-based psychologist and relationship expert. “When you’re alone you have to be more self-sufficient.”
Free from the constraints of having a partner, people’s lives suddenly become totally and completely their own, according to Dardashti. There’s nobody hindering you from setting out to chase your ambitions. “You’re more likely to take risks and have adventures and have more novelty within your journey,” she says.
You have time to get in touch with yourself
“People say a lot of times, when they’re in relationships, that they’ve lost themselves,” says Dr. Dardashti. “And that’s largely because we stop doing things independently.”
She says that in relationships, people risk losing touch with themselves because they have less time alone to focus on their own personal development. “When you’re alone, it creates opportunity for being more in touch with something inside of you,” she says.
Dr. Dardashti adds that a common complaint she hears from patients in relationships is that they’re feeling out of touch with their creative sides. When you’re single, she says there’s more room for creativity. “Can you have creativity and be in a relationship? Yes, of course,” she says. “But, for the average person, it’s hard to balance those two.”
You have a chance to figure out what you want out of life
Dr. Jenny Taitz, clinical psychologist and author of How to Be Single and Happy, looks at being single as your chance to figure out your own personal “mission statement.” She says this is the critical time to figure out who you are and what you stand for.
“When we’re not in a relationship we really have some time to get clear about what matters to us and what we value,” she explains.
And that is the time when you can recalibrate and reflect on lessons learned from past relationships. “Being single is the perfect time to reassess who you are and where you want to be in life,” says Winter. “What changes do you want to make? What classes, associations, or new attitudes would you like to develop? You now have the time and the ability to focus on the one consistent factor that will create the change you’re seeking– yourself.”
It can be the best-case scenario
Being in a relationship isn’t always the optimal choice for everyone. “If we think of three options, one option is to be happy when you’re single, another option is to be unhappy in a relationship, another option is to be unhappily single,” says Dr. Taitz. “Being single and happy seems like the only viable option for someone who’s looking for love and is not finding it.”
In order to truly become happily single, Dr. Taitz suggests practicing mindfulness. “So much of happiness has to do with living in the present moment,” she says. And doing this will enrich enrich other aspects of your life, too.
“You can strengthen your friendships, you can get clear on what’s important to you—you have a lot of freedom. You can design your best day,” Dr. Taitz says. “If you’re spending your single time ruminating about how you’re going to meet someone or what’s wrong with you, you miss that opportunity so you really want to be single with a smart head space.”
It’s a chance to become financially responsible
One of the perks people often attribute to relationships is the ability for both partners to share responsibilities and financial burdens. But experts say that being single can actually incentivize you to be more frugal and financially independent.
“Sometimes when you’re single and don’t share expenses with someone else, you push yourself to advance and to be resourceful because you’re not relying on someone else to cover your expenses,” says Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). “This can be a great thing for your career and life.”
You can make self-care a priority
“Partnership can be wonderful,” Winter says. “We have someone with whom to share our ups and downs, as they do with us. But when we’re single, we’re required to focus on the areas of our lives that need attention.”
She cautions that these areas — such as working out, socializing with friends, taking time to focus on personal aspirations and spending time alone — often get pushed aside in relationships amid our need to assist others. “While single, there’s no distraction that pulls us away from our own self-care and personal development,” she notes.
You learn to enjoy your own company
Being single doesn’t necessarily need to be synonymous with being lonely. In fact, experts say that you can actually gain an appreciation for time alone.
“It’s liberating to discover that we can enjoy our own company,” says Winter. “Being content in our own company frees us from the need to chase others.”
When we learn to enjoy being alone, we become more selective about the company we choose—spending time with only those who improve our lives and contribute to our wellbeing, according to Winter.
Your confidence level can skyrocket
“When you’re alone, there’s a strength that almost has to be there,” says Dr. Dardashti. “We tend to sometimes rely on our partners for a lot more than what we need to.” As a result, she says that being single provides an opportunity to tap into one’s inner strengths, which in turn can actually manifest in a greater level of confidence.
“Solitude breeds self-reflection, and self-reflection breed’s confidence,” adds Winter. “Absolute solitude is almost impossible when you’re in a partnership. We always have our partner in our thoughts.”
And this confidence cultivated in solitude will eventually trickle into all of your relationships.
“The best relationships occur when you have a good understanding of your needs, wants and values,” says Syrtash. “Being single allows you to focus on these things. Having this confidence and self-awareness will ultimately serve you in all of your relationships, not just romantic ones.”