A psychologist reveals the benefits of being single that we've all accidentally ignored.

"I've been single all my life," said Bella DePaulo. And she's perfectly happy with that.

DePaulo is a researcher and psychologist, and she says that she's never fantasized about giant weddings or the ideal spouse. But she did notice that, sometimes, it seemed like everyone (including other scientists) were trying to push her toward marriage.

There have been a lot of scientific studies about the benefits of marriage.


Our culture puts a lot of pressure on people to want to get married. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images.

"I was used to seeing headlines that said, 'Oh, if you get married you'll be happier and healthier,'" said DePaulo. And it's true, there's a lot of information out there that links marriage and health. A lot of it paints a pretty doom-and-gloom picture for single people.

"But I didn't think I'd be happier and healthier if I got married. I always loved my single life."

It seemed like the whole world was saying that single people were destined to be unhappy, and DePaulo just figured she was the exception.

But starting in the mid-to-late '90s, after talking with some other single people, DePaulo started looking into whether this was actually true. She started with research papers. And what she found shocked her, she said.

DePaulo thinks it's time we gave the whole subject a new look.

DePaulo is now a project scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara and she has been studying and writing about the single life for many years. In 2006 she even published a book called "Singled Out" about the subject (plus a few more since).

This is what she knows:

Single people make up a huge and growing percentage of the American population. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, singles outnumber married people in America.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

That alone might be enough to warrant a second look, but as a researcher herself, DePaulo said she noticed something else. Many studies about the benefits marriage fell into a few pitfalls that might accidentally make the results biased against single people.

On Aug. 5, 2016, DePaulo gave a talk at the American Psychological Association's annual convention to explain this.

For one example of this accidental bias, imagine a study that sorts people into two categories: "currently married" and "currently unmarried."

Simple, right? But here's a hitch: Where do divorced people go? Putting them in married doesn't feel right, but putting them in the unmarried category means you can no longer tease out how people who never married are doing. And if you don't include them at all, aren't we missing a big part of the picture?

There are other potential pitfalls too, such as how long into a marriage you look at people or whether it's better to examine random people or one person over time. And on the flip side, there simply haven't been many studies specifically about singlehood either.

These subtle experimental problems may have hidden the truth about relationships for decades.

Relationships are a lot more complicated than "married" or "not married," which is something that can be hard to reflect in a scientific study.

There are people who are single and waiting for the right person to come along, of course. But there are also couples who tried marriage, decided it wasn't for them, and amicably went back to being single. There are also loving, supportive couples who live together but don't tie the knot (and, it's worth pointing out, that until recently there were a ton of LGBT people who may have wanted to get married, but weren't allowed to).

Just saying. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

And, yes, there people who are just happily single-at-heart and who choose that life for themselves.

As it turns out, being single may have its perks too.

Many people thrive in their single lives. A lot of people think being "alone" means being "lonely," but quiet moments of solitude can also be a blessing to be savored and appreciated.

Conversely, some single people may actually be better connected than married people, spreading out their love over a whole group of people, instead of focusing most of it toward one person. One study, for example, found that single people may end up more connected to their friends and community than those who are married.

Furthermore, single people may devote more of themselves toward finding work that feels truly meaningful to them. Some research indicates singles may be more likely to volunteer as well.

Volunteers at a soup kitchen in Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

"[The] single life is something that many people embrace and they can live their lives fully, happily, and unapologetically," said DePaulo. "And so many things they've heard about the scare stories that will happen to them if they stay single just aren't supported by the research."

The benefits of marriage studies probably shouldn't be wholly dismissed, of course. Many people do get measurable and immeasurable benefits from marriage. But each person is different and what may bring benefits for one person might not work for another.

Perhaps we need a greater degree of nuance when studying or talking about the wide range of relationship styles people choose. With more categories and more nuance, maybe we can learn more about the benefits of singlehood, rather than just the pitfalls.

The greater takeaway here is that there's no one blueprint for the good life.

“More than ever before, Americans can pursue the ways of living that work best for them. There is no one blueprint for the good life,” said DePaulo in a press release about her talk.

“What matters is not what everyone else is doing or what other people think we should be doing, but whether we can find the places, the spaces and the people that fit who we really are and allow us to live our best lives.”

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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