The Art of Being Alone

Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely. Learning to be alone is good for our souls.

Many people in this world naturally enjoy spending time alone. They are content to take a solo walk, read a book in the shade of their favorite tree, or visit a local park for some sightseeing. And then there are others who can't stand the thought of not having another person around them.


These people may get anxious just thinking about spending time with themselves. To them, nothing sounds worse than enjoying some quiet time with me, myself, and I. Sometimes these people are just easily bored, but often there is a deeper reason for their "alone time jitters."


Have you wondered how to be happy about being alone but you just aren't sure where to start? First, you'll want to explore why you may struggle with the concept of alone time. Once you understand that aspect, you're ready to move on to how to enjoy that time for yourself.


 

But first, why is alone time so important, anyway?


If you feel like you are perfectly content always being around others, why should you care about being alone? While social interaction is important for us as humans, being alone is equally important for our overall health. The benefits of being alone include:

  • Getting in touch with yourself: if you're always with other people, you are involved in their conversations. You're sharing your thoughts on the topic at hand. Maybe you're worried about what they will think or how they will respond to you. You aren't taking much if any time to think about yourself. You may not even fully know what your own interests and passions are because you're always influenced by others.

  • It builds energy for when you do hang out with others: this post from Very Well Mind discusses how people who live alone have a more active social life. The same can be applied to people who spend a beneficial amount of time flying solo, regardless of whether they actually live alone. When you refuel your mind and spirit during your alone time, you're ready to take on the crowd next time.

  • You can let your creativity flow: as I alluded to above, when you are not in touch with yourself, you may not be sure what gets you excited about something. What lights a fire in you to complete a project? Do you enjoy art? Writing? Woodworking? From your personal fulfillment to your professional goals, unleashing your creativity will bring you happiness and positivity.

Alone time can also reduce stress, help you feel less overwhelmed, allow you to concentrate better, and more. With these benefits, it is hard to argue that being alone is important.


Why does everyone enjoy being alone but me?


You might feel like you're the only person that doesn't actively seek out time to be by yourself. At the coffee shop, you see that girl happily consumed in her book and sipping her mocha latte. You scroll through your social media feed and see that all your friends spent the day alone at the spa and feel so rejuvenated after some "me time."


But all you feel when you're alone is, well, lonely. Is something wrong with you? No! There are several reasons your heart doesn't jump for joy when you think about being alone:

  • You never truly learned to be alone: maybe you grew up in a busy household with siblings and were always surrounded by others. You went straight to college or into the workforce, military, et cetera where you always had friends or colleagues nearby.

  • You don't want to get too deep into your own head: many people can avoid their own negativity as long as they're distracted. Being involved in external conversation can keep you from being forced to turn your attention internally. To put it simply, you do not want to face your own thoughts. In fact, a study done by the journal Science showed that many people would rather give themselves electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts for just fifteen minutes! Eek!

  • You equate being alone to loneliness: no one wants to feel lonely. When we feel lonely we feel as if we have no support network, no "people." Being alone does not mean you are lonely. But when you can't differentiate between the two, it's easy to see why being alone seems daunting.

  • You already have a deep-seated fear of being alone: in some cases, the fear of being alone is triggered by something more intense. Maybe there was a trauma in your life. Something bad happened to you as a child when you were left alone. Loss and grief can intensify feelings of loneliness as well.

  • Here's a common one- you are an extrovert: introverted people truly feel like being around lots of people sucks the energy right out of them. I can relate to this. I am very much an introvert. Extroverted people, on the other hand, thrive in crowds. They draw energy from other people and feel their best around others. It makes perfect sense that this type of person would shy away from being alone. Want to know what personality you are? Take the free test from 16 Personalities to find out.

This is not an all-inclusive list of reasons a person may dread being alone. With so many factors at play, it's easy to understand why some people just aren't good at it. The good news is that you can work at it and learn to enjoy it.


An orange butterfly sitting on a pink zinnia flower with a green background.
It's hard to see this beauty and not feel at ease.

How do I learn to enjoy being alone?


There is no magic bullet solution to learning to enjoy being by yourself. You can't expect to change your entire way of thinking overnight. Chances are it will take some time. You may need to try several different things over weeks or even months. But there are some tips that can help you learn to enjoy alone time:

  • Take the plunge: it might be the scariest of these tips, but sometimes when you're hesitant about doing something, just jumping in headfirst is the best option. Instead of overthinking it, just pick a day and spend it alone. You may very well find that you enjoy it far more than you thought. And once you get over the initial uneasiness of being by yourself, it will become easier.

  • Take up a new hobby: have you been thinking it would be fun to learn to paint? Maybe you always wanted to write a book. Cycling, metal detecting, bird watching, or gardening are all great ways to enjoy time alone. Gardening has so many benefits, and you'll get so much pleasure from tending living things. If you spend your alone time keeping your mind focused on the thing you enjoy, there will be no time to feel lonely or anxious.

  • Try to discover the root cause of your anxiety, and work to resolve it: it is true that some trauma or loss can never be "fixed." But we can work to overcome these things. Sometimes when you allow yourself to fully explore these root causes, you can figure out how and why they trigger your anxiety about being alone and you can create a coping mechanism. When you are in charge of your own emotional well-being, you are strong.

Just as there are many reasons behind a person's fear of being alone, there are many approaches to overcoming the fear. Try one or more of the above suggestions and see how they work out for you. And remember to give yourself grace and patience. It will take a little while and expecting it to happen immediately would just be an unfair letdown for you.

Once you learn to enjoy your own presence, you stop chasing people in your life. -Unknown

 

Learning how to be alone can be hard. But it is so worth it. Have you struggled with being by yourself? What are your tips for overcoming that fear? What is your favorite activity to enjoy when you're having a "me day?" Let us know in the comments!

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