Editor's note: Barbara Hayes, author of "Beware of Dogs: How to Avoid Dating Disasters," is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She wrote the book to help women determine the difference between petty dating issues and the big red flags in relationships.
(CNN) -- What? You have no one to kiss at the stroke of midnight Friday?
New Year's Eve is second only to Valentine's Day as the alleged worst time to be single.
Although I doubt that "everyone winds up kissing the wrong person goodnight," as Andy Warhol maintained, there are clearly lots of other people who are either single (half of adults in the U.S.) or in unhappy relationships (more than will admit it).
Of the two, I'll take single anytime.
When you are single, you have the option to do virtually anything that you want to do. When you are in an unhappy relationship, you have to undo that situation before you can even begin to do what you want without consequence (assuming that it is not illegal, immoral, or fattening, which includes a lot of the fun things, as Alexander Woollcott points out).
Beyond that, many people find that they actually feel lighter and brighter without the weight of a stressful and dissatisfying relationship holding them down. They become more productive and adventurous. New Year's Eve can actually be a time to celebrate being single and not being in a bad relationship.
The new year is a great time to think about what we truly want, to look at ourselves in a new light. We can start training for a triathlon (well, you can), learning Italian (in case we ever meet Andrea Bocelli -- sigh), painting delicate watercolors, or lounging in comfy sweats on a lazy day without anyone making cutting comments.
So, start the year by making big goals that you can achieve in baby steps taken every week. If you falter, do not think of it as failure, think of it as a temporary setback, a learning experience.
Research shows that reframing our "mistakes" in that way makes the difference between ultimate success and failure. Reward yourself for every tiny successful step. Keep it all in perspective: At the end of a week, a month, and so on, look back and acknowledge the small but significant changes that you have made.
By next spring you could be running a 5k, chatting with a charmingly mysterious man in the Piazza San Marco, or creating a lovely landscape at the seaside.
So for singles who feel sad this New Year's Eve, think of all of the bad eves that you have had with Mr. or Mrs. Oh-So-Wrong.
Pamper yourself by staying home and luxuriating in your 12th viewing of "Casablanca," by taking a long bubble bath, or by doing any of the things that you never did because your ex didn't want to. Or go to a big bash, drink champagne, laugh, and dance with one hand waving free.
Remind yourself that the next relationship you get into will be with someone kind, caring, and considerate because you are committed to never again settling for Mr. or Mrs. Will-Do-for-Now.
Then, smile! Research also shows that smiling sends a signal to your brain that you feel happy, which causes you to smile more, which causes you to feel even happier, and so the cycle perpetuates itself.
And remember that your new year will be a great adventure because you will make it one.