That mysterious Valentine's Day flower arrangement delivered to you at work today with a blank card should have your office buzzing and make you feel happy -- even if you sent it to yourself.
Just be sure you do it the right way.
10 singular Valentine celebrationsValentine's Day can cause stress for everyone, especially those not in a romantic relationship. But National Louis University psychology professor Claudia Pitts, who has a practice in Lake Zurich, offers 10 tips to help you make it through the day.
1.) Celebrate Singles Awareness Day, which some observe on Feb. 14, but others observe on Feb. 15 in order to differentiate it, and also take advantage of 50 percent discounts on Valentine's candy.
2.) Be grateful for all you do have.
3.) Love doesn't have to be limited to romantic love. Volunteering to walk dogs at a rescue shelter, staffing a hotline or donating to a cause you believe in can be ways of spreading love on Feb. 14 or any day.
4.) Orchestrate an anti-Valentine's Day party with a gift swap, in which everyone draws a name and gets the recipient some chocolates, flowers or wine.
5.) Send yourself flowers at work, with a blank card, leaving everyone to speculate about who sent them. Or, send anonymous flowers to a single friend.
6.) Gather supportive people and do something completely unromantic, like go to a comedy or horror film, help at a homeless shelter or work out at a health club. Typing "anti-Valentine's" into Pinterest will also provide ideas.
7.) Treat yourself by going to a spa, splurging on a nice meal or box of chocolates or going to a show. Remember that many people in relationships do not get these little niceties from their partners, but singles can provide them for themselves or their friends.
8.) Volunteer to baby-sit your little cousins or friends' kids. Not only will your friends or family appreciate it, time with kids is great. They might even give you a valentine card or some candy hearts.
9.) Instead of calling or texting an ex, reach out to your mom or grandmother or someone else who might be feeling isolated.
10.) Remember that Feb. 14 is just one random day, and soon will be gone for another year.
"Don't be dishonest. You want to avoid that," says Claudia Pitts, a psychologist with a practice in Lake Zurich who is an associate professor of psychology for National Louis University, which has campuses in Elgin, Lisle, Wheeling, Skokie and Chicago. Instead of pretending the flowers are from Zac Efron, Rihanna or even that new cutie in human resources, there is no harm in keeping a secret.
"There is a notion of radical self-care, that it's shocking to take good care of yourself," Pitts says, adding that you should treat yourself every once in a while. And what better excuse than Valentine's Day, when the pressure can get to some people?
"It's all about expectations," Pitts says, explaining how people often expect "grand, romantic gestures" when that might not be realistic. "It's all supposed to be magical."
When Valentine's Day is not as magical as you might want, Pitts suggests you can improve the holiday mood by focusing on all the good things you do have, such as friends, family members, vacations, a good job, a loyal pet, a fun hobby or an exciting trip in the offing. Even better, contact someone else who appreciates love.
"If you have a need to reach out, don't call your no-good ex. Call someone who would like to hear from you," Pitts says, noting that many seniors would appreciate a phone call or visit on Valentine's Day. Or you could offer to baby-sit for friends.
"You get the affection and gratitude of the parents, and you get to spend Valentine's Day with someone who thinks chocolate is a miracle and loves spending time with you," Pitts says. "Little-kid love is pretty strong stuff. Valentine's Day is about love, and why do we have to restrict it to romantic love? There are a million kinds of love. Why does it have to be boy, girl, box of chocolates?"
For that matter, why does it even need to be real? In Japan, virtual reality dating rivals the real thing, with one government survey showing that nearly 30 percent of single women and 15 percent of single men in their 20s admit to falling in love with an avatar or character from video games. One online porn business started offering 30 virtual reality videos last April, reported 38 million virtual-reality searches in nine months, and featured 1,800 such videos by the end of the year. Sex robots are on the rise.
In the 2013 movie "Her," Joaquin Phoenix's character built a virtual dating life with the artificial intelligence of Scarlett Johansson's voice coming from his smartphone. A movie expected out this spring, based on Ernest Cline's 2011 novel, "Ready Player One," features a cast of characters who spend all their free time exploring a virtual reality world.
"There are lots of people who are shy and don't want to go out," says Steven Paterson, an expert in virtual reality who works in and writes about that field from his home in California. It's easier now to create virtual reality video games with fantastic beasts and exotic planets than it is to create a video game with a lifelike romantic interest who joins you in your living room, Paterson says.
But if virtual reality can let us "visit" museums, explore the oceans, rocket into space or sit courtside at an NBA game, it can let a real husband in Naperville enjoy a virtual Valentine's dinner with his real wife on a business trip in Paris.
"But it would probably be easier to take that flight home," says Paterson, who notes virtual reality may someday merit a $2 billion investment from Facebook but is not quite ready yet for the consumer just looking for a date.
But that world is coming.
"Creating a virtual boyfriend or girlfriend, I think that will be reasonable in five years," Paterson says.
Then, you could just have your new virtual reality love interest send virtual Valentine's Day flowers to your virtual office. In the real world, we still have plenty of ways to celebrate.
"It's up to you to choose to be loving," Pitts says. "It's a matter of trying to figure out how to have a good day."