Regardless of how you feel about being alone, building a good relationship with yourself is a worthy investment. After all, you do spend quite a bit of time with yourself, so you might as well learn to enjoy it.
Being alone isn’t the same as being lonely
Before getting into the different ways to find happiness in being alone, it’s important to untangle these two concepts: being alone and being lonely. While there’s some overlap between them, they’re completely different concepts.
Maybe you’re a person who absolutely basks in solitude. You’re not antisocial, friendless, or loveless. You’re just quite content with alone time. In fact, you look forward to it. That’s simply being alone, not being lonely.
On the other hand, maybe you’re surrounded by family and friends but not really relating beyond a surface level, which has you feeling rather empty and disconnected. Or maybe being alone just leaves you sad and longing for company. That’s loneliness.
Before getting into the ins and outs of being happy alone, it’s important to understand that being alone doesn’t have to mean you’re lonely. Sure, you can be alone and feel lonely, but the two don’t always have to go hand in hand.
Short-term tips to get you started
These tips are aimed at helping you get the ball rolling. They might not transform your life overnight, but they can help you get more comfortable with being alone.
Some of them may be exactly what you needed to hear. Others may not make sense for you. Use them as stepping-stones. Add to them and shape them along the way to suit your own lifestyle and personality.
1. Avoid comparing yourself to others
This is easier said than done, but try to avoid comparing your social life to anyone else’s. It’s not the number of friends you have or the frequency of your social outings that matters. It’s what works for you.
Remember, you really have no way of knowing if someone with a bunch of friends and a stuffed social calendar is actually happy.
2. Take a step back from social media
Social media isn’t inherently bad or problematic, but if scrolling through your feeds makes you feel left out and stressed, take a few steps back. That feed doesn’t tell the whole story. Not by a long shot.
You have no idea if those people are truly happy or just giving the impression that they are. Either way, it’s no reflection on you. So, take a deep breath and put it in perspective.
Perform a test run and ban yourself from social media for 48 hours. If that makes a difference, try giving yourself a daily limit of 10 to 15 minutes and stick to it.
3. Take a phone break
Noticing a theme here? Cellphones and social media have undoubtedly changed the concept of being alone.
Is anybody really alone when they can pick up their phone and text or call just about anyone? Or check in on what that high school acquaintance is up to without even having to talk to them?
That’s not to say that technology isn’t an incredibly helpful tool for building community and feeling close to loved ones who might be far away. But it’s easy to rely on devices as a way to avoid being alone with your own thoughts.
Next time you’re alone, turn your phone off and stash it away for one hour. Use this time to reconnect with yourself and explore what it feels like to be truly alone.
Not sure how to pass the time? Grab a pen and notepad, and jot down things you might enjoy doing the next time you find yourself alone.
4. Carve out time to let your mind wander
Does the thought of doing absolutely nothing unsettle you? That’s probably because it’s been a long time since you’ve allowed yourself to just be.
Experiment by setting a timer for 5 minutes. That’s it.
Five minutes with no:
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes, darken the room, or stare out the window if you prefer. If that’s too sedentary, try a repetitive task, such as knitting, dribbling a basketball, or washing dishes.
Let your mind wander — truly wander — and see where it takes you. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t take you very far at first. With time, your mind will get used to this new freedom.
5. Take yourself on a date
They might sound cliche, but self-dates can be a powerful tool for learning how to be happy alone.
Not sure what to do? Imagine you’re trying to impress an actual date and show them a good time. Where would you take them? What would you want them to see or experience?
Now, take yourself on that date. It might feel a bit odd at first, but chances are, you’ll see at least a few other folks dining solo or purchasing a movie ticket for one.
If money’s an issue, you don’t have to go big. But also remember it’s a lot cheaper to pay for one than it is for two.
Still sounds too daunting? Start small by sitting in a coffee shop for just 10 minutes. Be observant and soak in your surroundings. Once you’re comfortable with that, going out alone won’t seem so unusual anymore.
6. Get physical
Exercise helps release endorphins, those neurotransmitters in your brain that can make you feel happier.
If you’re new to exercise, start with just a few minutes a day, even if it’s just morning stretches. Increase your activity by a minute or two each day. As you gain confidence, try weight training, aerobics, or sports.
Plus, if you’re still uneasy about going out on your own, hitting the gym alone can be a great starting point.
7. Spend time with nature
Yes, another cliche. But seriously, get outside. Lounge in the backyard, take a walk in the park, or hang out by the water. Absorb the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Feel the breeze on your face.
Research shows that 30 minutes or more a week spent in nature can improve symptoms of depression and lower blood pressure.
8. Lean into the perks of being alone
Some people find it especially difficult to be happy while living alone. Sure, it might be a little quiet, and there’s no one there to listen to you vent after work or remind you to turn off the stove.
But living solo also has its perks (naked vacuuming, anyone?). Try to take advantage of the physical and mental space that comes with living alone:
- Take up all the space. Spend the day taking up the entire kitchen to cook a tasty meal you can munch on for the next week.
- Spread out. Trying to get back into an old hobby? Get all your materials and spread them out across the floor and decide what you want to use for your next project. Not done deciding in a single day? No problem. Leave it out until you’re done, even if it’s a week from now.
- Have a dance party. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Put on your favorite music, and, neighbors permitting, crank it up. Dance like no one’s watching, because, well… they aren’t.
There are so many ways to volunteer your time in service of others. You can volunteer in person or help out remotely from home. Either way, helping others can make you feel good. Plus, it can help you feel connected to others while still getting in some quality alone time.
Research volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. It’s important to find something that feels right to you. Make sure their needs are a good fit with what you’re willing and able to do.
If the first thing you try doesn’t work out, it’s perfectly reasonable to move on and look for something else.
Perform a random act of kindness whenever the opportunity presents itself.
10. Acknowledge things you’re grateful for
Research shows that gratefulness can boost feelings of happiness and hopefulness.
It’s easy to take things for granted as you go about your day. Devote some time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for.
They don’t have to be spectacular, mind-blowing things. They can be as simple as that first cup of java in the morning or song you play over and over because it calms your nerves.
Make a list — mental or physical — of the things in your life that you appreciate. The next time you’re alone and feeling down, whip out this list to remind yourself of everything you have going for you.
11. Give yourself a break
Self-reflection is a good thing. Harsh self-judgement is not. It eats away at your self-confidence and happiness. When that negative inner critic comes to call, turn toward that more positive voice that resides in your head (you know it’s in there somewhere).
Don’t judge yourself more harshly than you’d judge anyone else. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t keep beating yourself up over them. Remember the many good qualities you possess.
12. Serve yourself a top-notch meal
No dinner companion? Eating alone doesn’t have to mean eating prepackaged food in front of the TV. Prepare a fabulous meal for one.
Set the table, use a cloth napkin, light a candle, and do whatever you would do if you were throwing a dinner party. You’re worth it all by yourself.
13. Find a creative outlet
What have you always dreamed of doing, but have put off? Don’t worry if you’re not good at it. The point is to try something new and different, to take a step outside your comfort zone.
Take on a home improvement project. Learn to play an instrument, paint a landscape, or write a short story. Do it on your own or enroll in a class. Give yourself ample time to see if it’s worth pursuing.
If you don’t like it, you can at least cross it off your list and move on to something else.
14. Make plans for solo outings
Find interesting things to do and put them on your calendar. Give yourself something to look forward to. After all, anticipation is half the fun. Plus, seeing it on your calendar might also help you follow through.
Visit a nearby town and stay in a bed and breakfast. Attend a local festival or farmers market. Buy a ticket to a concert or that amazing art exhibit everyone’s talking about. Plan for something you’re really interested in and make it happen.