Contrary to many of the messages we get, being single is not an ailment.

Pop culture acts like romantic relationships are as crucial to adulthood as employment. Family members may express concern about us not being married or having a significant other, with increasing levels of alarm the older we get.

But while social interaction and human touch are absolutely essential to mental health, having a girlfriend or boyfriend is not. In fact, singledom is way better for your mental health than a toxic or even mediocre relationship.

How can we make the most of the opportunity to date ourselves?

Enjoy being unshackled

With partnership comes commitment and responsibility. Being single, however, means unfettered freedom. Outside the limits of your job, morality or the law, you can go anywhere and do anything - whenever you want. That not only means staying out late on a Monday night but the liberty to pick up and move across the country. This kind of autonomy is also possible in a committed relationship too, but we have to take partners' feelings into consideration.

Indulge in your guilty pleasures: blast cheeseball music, go on video game binges, watch an entire season of a show on Netflix without waiting on someone else. Decorate your pad to suit your preferences, spend your money how you like. Eat pizza every meal for a week or spend 5 hours a day at the gym.

It's your time, do with it you want.

Go on dates anyway

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in responsibilities that we forget to schedule frivolous nonsense unless we have a date as an excuse. Treat yourself to a day adventure or fun night out, regardless of whether anyone else is joining. Check out movies, street fairs and comedy shows. Go to brunch, take weekend hikes, visit a museum. If it's cool enough to do on a date: it's cool enough to do with friends or alone.

Side note: if it's not cool enough to do with friends or alone, that's probably a cue that it's a bad date idea. And if you're not entertained by your own company: that might be a sign other people won't be riveted either.

Other significant others

It's assumed that single people are lonely. Even though friends, career and family are great sources of happiness, romantic partnerships are privileged above other connections. Even if you spend lots of time with people you adore, doing things you enjoy, if you're not in love then there's supposedly a hole in your life. Reject that idea.

Friendships can have a way better cost/benefit ratio. Buddy hang outs are rarely as anxiety-producing as dates, but can yield just as much entertainment, intimacy and commitment. Friendship also tends to be more stable and requires less loss of autonomy.

Sleep tight

Staying up late getting some loving is fantastic, but the next day is major payback. And cuddling is wonderful, but a quiet night's rest feels really good too. Sleeping solo means no dealing with snoring, cold feet, blanket hogs, or early alarm clocks.

Best version of you

One of the best  – and hardest – parts of being single is the opportunity to develop yourself.

Who are you? What are you about? What do you hope to accomplish? When you've had the chance to work on those things and freely explore your multiple facets, it can lead to not only liking yourself more but also being a better friend or partner to others.

Bouncing from relationship to relationship can lead to morphing to fit a situation and relying on others for validation, rather than constructing an independent sense of self. It's entirely possible to grow into your best self while in a relationship, but going at it alone can speed up the process.

Self love

It's easy enough to find sex outside of a relationship, though looking to hookups for pleasure is a dicey game, especially for women.

When it comes to connections between men and women, there's a big orgasm gap. While women in long term situations are likely to get off during a bout of lovemaking, they are far less likely to during a one-night stand. It may be unfamiliarity with her body, anxiety, or simply lack of investment on the part of the male.

There's no need to save sensuous, even romantic sessions for other people. We can create gourmet sexual experiences just for ourselves: setting the mood with candles, chill music, a hot shower and a clean bed. Luxuriate with a drawn-out process of cleaning up, shaving, lotioning down and slipping into something sexy, even if you're the only one who will see it.

Take the long route, try some toys, and explore a variety of sensations instead of rushing to finish. On your own, you can get the exact sensation, duration and pace that you desire. Not only is this kind of pleasure valuable on its own, it's instrumental for being able to tell partners what you really want. And when you know you're guaranteed good loving on your own, there's no need to settle for middling efforts of others.

Good solo, better together

The point of partners is not to fill gaps in our lives, but to share the joys and challenges of life alongside us. When we feel OK on our own, we don't need to stay stuck in subpar situations out of fear of being alone or that we can't do better. And when we have spent time becoming interesting, occupied, fully actualized adults we have that much more to offer when someone worthwhile comes into the picture.

Dr. Timaree Schmit earned her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from Widener University, where she now trains future sexologists and clinicians. Her passion is bringing rational, empirically-based, sex-positive information to the world, empowering others to celebrate their bodies, build intimacy and experience pleasure. 

She has an award-winning podcast, "Sex with Timaree", and hosts a BYOB sex ed, comedy/game show "DTF: Darryl and Timaree Fun Hour" which can be seen every second Friday at the Franky Bradley's (1320 Chancellor St.)