“How to be happy alone?”
This question has been emailed to me a lot lately. A lot of people are stuck in their homes due to the coronavirus and their wondering how they can be happy when they’re alone all day.
We’re often taught that you can’t be truly happy when we’re alone. Common knowledge says your most joyful and happy moments are when you’re with your family or close friends.
And that’s a fair assumption. We are social beings after all.
But it doesn’t mean that alone time isn’t important. And it certainly doesn’t mean that loners are miserable, despite what society might think.
In fact, in my experience, I’ve been able to find happiness when I’m alone. For me, I use this time to reflect, understand my feelings and dive deep into where my life is going.
And in this article, I’ll offer 7 tips on how to best utilize time alone and why it can be extremely beneficial.
Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments.
1) Alone time allows you to get in touch with yourself
This is why I love alone time. It gives me time to reflect on where my life is at and where I think it’s going.
Time alone is important for “restorative solitude”, according to psychologists.
Restorative solitude allows us to regain our energy, check in with our feelings and understand our own meaning and purpose.
Thanks to the Internet and economic development compared to our in this day and age, there is so much knowledge available and different decisions we need to make.
We really do have the power to make positive changes if we decide to take responsibility.
But without taking a step back and analyzing where your life is and where it’s going, you can get stuck in a rut of doing the same things over and over.
That’s not the kind of life I want to live.
I’ve found that writing is a great way to reflect and analyze. I don’t know about you, but I find that writing has a way of slowing down your mind and structuring the information in your head.
I also find that it’s a great way to understand my emotions so I can accept them and release them.
Perhaps that’s why Harvard Health Blog says writing may help ease stress and trauma.
If you’re wondering how you can start journaling, here are the 3 questions I ask myself to get going:
- How am I feeling?
- What am I doing?
- What am I trying to change about my life?
These questions will give you insight into your emotions and prompt you to think about the future.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to these three questions. You may just want to write about whatever is on your mind. It’s up to you.
This is also a great exercise if you find yourself feeling lonely even when you’re around other people.
Often times, when we’re feeling lonely we call upon our friends to hang out in an effort to get our minds off what we’re dealing with.
But perhaps because of an emotional issue we’re going through, or a circumstance that none of your friends have gone through, you feel even more lonely around other people.
In fact, in a 2008 study, one of the factors that lead to loneliness was “the ability to self-regulate emotions associated with feeling isolated.”
And to be honest, there’s nothing worse than that: Feeling lonely even when you’re around others.
But in my experience, writing down what you’re feeling and what you’re going through allows you to get in touch with yourself.
It’s a safe space to express your emotions without judgment. It organizes your thoughts as well.
I find that communicating with myself gets my mind back on track to what I know is important. And this makes it a lot easier to hang out with my friends and close ones.
If you’re looking to use this time in self-isolation effectively, then I highly recommend you check out Jeanette Clare’s book: How to be your own life coach: 10 essential steps to creating a life you love.
It’s a wonderful guide to help you tap into your purpose in life, set goals, and develop an action plan to achieve every one of them.
2) Forget about the idea that you need to be in a relationship to be happy
Now I’m willing to guess that if you’re reading this article that you might be single and wondering how you can be happy when you’re not in a committed relationship.
Perhaps you just broke up with someone you loved, or maybe you’ve been single for a while.
Whatever it is, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a significant other to be happy.
I can vouch for that.
I broke up with someone I’d be dating for 2 years almost 3 years ago now. It was tough at the time and the few months after, but right now, I couldn’t be more pleased that they decided to end the relationship.
Believe it or not, I was actually happy I became single. It opened up my life in many ways that I’m thankful for now.
If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have met my new girlfriend who has been the best girl I’ve ever dated (If you’re interested, you can read a bit about my relationship in this article here).
So don’t worry if you’re single. In fact, in a study of 1,000 single people and 3,000 married people, single people reported higher levels of learning, positive change and growth.
That’s exactly what I found. I’ve pushed myself to meet new people and try new things. Of course, I’m not saying that you can’t do that if you’re in a relationship, but being single is the push that many people need.
The advice I give many people now is to only get involved in a relationship if you meet the right person. Otherwise, I think there’s more freedom and possibility when you’re single.
So don’t get down if you’re recently single or perpetually single, there are some advantages to it.
In fact, I wrote an article explaining why single people are happier.
Here is what I found from my research:
1) Single people are more social: Research has found that Americans who are single are more likely to support and stay in touch with their family and socialize with others.
2) Single people have more time to themselves: Time alone is important for “restorative solitude”, according to psychologists.
3) Single people have more time for leisure: Research suggests that single people spend an average of 5.56 hours a day on overall leisure activities, compared to married people, who spend an average of 4.87 hours a day on leisure.
4) Single people report experiencing more personal growth: In a study of 1,000 single people and 3,000 married people, single people reported higher levels of learning, positive change and growth.
5) Single people have fewer legal liabilities: As LearnVest has reported, marrying someone makes you legally responsible for their financial missteps, whether that means assuming equal responsibility for their debt or becoming part of lawsuits filed against them.
6) Single people tend to have less credit card debt: Debt.org reported that single people are less likely to have credit card debt than married people.
7) Single women tend to earn higher salaries: As sexist as this is, a recent study found that women see bigger salaries when they’re single compared to their married counterparts.
8) Single men tend to work fewer hours than married men: The same study highlighted above found that single men between 28-30 work 441 fewer hours outside the home per year than do their married peers, while men between 44 and 46 work 403 fewer hours if they are single.
9) Single people tend to exercise more: Researchers from the University of Maryland found that men and women the ages of 18 and 64 who had never been married tend to exercise a lot more than their divorced or married counterparts.
10) Single people tend to sleep better: According to a survey, single people tend to get the most sleep – an average of 7.13 hours a night – compared to people in relationships, whether they are married or not.
3) Separate the feelings from the facts
When you’re alone and experiencing loneliness, you can start to think everything in life is terrible.
When a dark cloud comes over you, you forget why you go to work, why you do your hobbies and why you even bother with social life at all. This isn’t necessarily because you’re physically alone.
But it’s the development of the emotion in the thoughts, and our feelings of loneliness growing out of itself.
But what you need to remember is that loneliness is a feeling (or a set of feelings), not a fact.
When you find yourself trapped in a cycle of thoughts consisting of your brain asking itself, “Why am I so lonely and why does everyone dislike me?”, just take a step back from the inner turmoil, take a deep breath and relax.
Now ask yourself, “What is making me feel lonely? What are my worst thoughts, and are they actually true?” Often, you will find that your worst thoughts aren’t true at all.
A great practice that helped me to reframe my brain to be a little more positive was practicing gratitude.
The technique that I used is to reflect on my day before I go to sleep and think of 3 positive things that happened that day.
Whether it’s a great workout, a friend buying you coffee, or a phone call with your parents, just scan your day and write down what you appreciated.
Even the smallest things are worth writing down.
In fact, a white paper by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley says that people who consciously count what they’re grateful for may have better physical and mental health.
“Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”
Furthermore, gratitude may also encourage pro-social behavior:
“This suggests that practicing gratitude changes the brain in a way that orients people to feel more rewarded when other people benefit, which could help explain why gratitude encourages prosocial behavior.”
(To learn more about how to practice gratitude and other mindfulness techniques, check out my most popular eBook on the art of mindfulness here)
4) Find your tribe
As we’ve discussed above, when you’re lonely, you may be lost and isolated in a crowd, in which case you may think that no amount of social connection can help you crawl out of your pit of loneliness.
You might start to think that you are absolutely incapable of establishing meaningful social connections with others. But this is why you need to find your tribe.
What does this mean? It means finding people who share your interests and are willing to include you in their social gatherings.
Too often, lonely people will try to find other lonely people, but this just makes the act of establishing strong connections even more difficult, as both parties are incapable of doing it on their own.
But this also means keeping your original social networks and social bonds.
Don’t isolate yourself from your current friends and relatives because you have found a new network or tribe.
Once you manage to crawl out of your loneliness, those original social ties will feel a lot better than before.
For some practical tips to finding your tribe, try these:
1) If you haven’t got any passions, start to try new things. Take up new hobbies. Whatever you’re interested, you’ll be able to find others who are interested in the same thing.
2) Attend meetups. There are hundreds of clubs out there dedicated to things like dancing, creative writing, books, hiking, yoga, meditation. Whatever is, use the Internet to find where these clubs exist in your city. Most clubs are pretty welcoming of new people because that’s what makes a club thrive.
3) Stop negatively judging others: If we dislike everyone, it can make it hard to establish connections. Try to see the good in others.
5) Find new sources of meaning
This tip is particularly important for those who have just ended a relationship.
Because a lot of us create our meaning through our relationships and when you lose someone that’s been so significant to your life, you lose a significant amount of meaning.
It’s imperative you find new meaning in life in order to build yourself up and get over that one person that you loved.
And if you’re feeling lonely, then finding new sources of meaning will help you, too. After all, it’s much more fulfilling to chase meaning, rather than happiness.
Actively looking out for happiness only leads to feelings of unhappiness, as a study in 2011 affirms.
In the study titled “Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness”, this valued publication navigates through the ways we actively pursue happiness and how doing so only leads to self-defeat.
“The more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed,” the study says.
Even as life changes for the better, people continue to feel hopelessness and loneliness.
Psychologists define happiness as a state of comfort and feeling good in the moment. Meaning, though, is deeper.
Psychologist Martin Seligman says meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you.
While our culture is obsessed with happiness, Smith says that seeking meaning is a more fulfilling path.
Studies show that people who have meaning in life are more resilient, do better in school and at work and live longer.
Instead of watching Netflix all day, you can use this time to learn new skills or catch up on face time with people you haven’t spoken to for a while.
If you’re looking for some online courses to improve yourself, I wrote down a list that have personally benefited me the most. Check out that list here.
I’ve also received some emails from people wanting to learn to meditate. Great idea!
If you’re looking for a course, I highly recommend checking out The M-Word by Emily Fletcher. It’s a 33-day program that teaches some great modern-day meditation techniques. Emily is a fantastic down-to-earth teacher as well. Check it out here.
Here are some ideas to add new meaning to your life right now:
1) Become a better listener.
There’s a lot to learn from other people. Listen with the intent to understand rather than trying to jump in with a response. Most of your friends have probably been through a breakup before. They may have something valuable to teach you.
2) Stop comparing yourself to others.
You might be unnecessarily comparing yourself to other people, particularly those people in a happy relationship.
But there’s really no point in comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different circumstances. And you don’t really know what’s truly going on with someone else’s life and their relationships.
It’s better to practice compassion and assume we are all equal. Look inside yourself and forget the need to compare.
3) Connect to your own inner wisdom.
It’s tiring to always look to others for advice and what you should think. Sit quietly with yourself and understand what you really think and feel.
4) Let go of guilt.
Stop finding ways to prove that you’re not enough. Yes, you’re going through a breakup, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough. Relationships end all the time for a variety of reasons.
It’s more likely that the relationship ending had nothing to do with you. Don’t let your mind sink into a cognitive bias that everything is your fault. Choose self-compassion instead.
6) Love yourself
Now if there is one lesson you learn, it’s this: You are absolutely the most important person in your entire universe.
It’s your reality after all.
In the grand scheme of things, you might just be another person, but in your understanding of reality, you’re the most important thing that matters.
This is why it’s so crucial you take care of yourself. Your relationship with your self is the most defining factor in shaping the kind of life you live.
If you don’t love yourself, listen to yourself, and understand yourself, the more confused, angry, and frustrating your reality will be.
But when you begin and continue to love yourself more, the more everything you see, everything you do, and everyone you interact with, starts to become a little bit better in every way possible.
But self-love isn’t easy. As they say: you are your own biggest critic.
We’re programmed to have bouts of self-loathing, and for many of us, these phases of self-hatred can turn into our entire lives.
Think of the people in your life that you love and respect. How do you treat them?
You are kind to them, patient with their thoughts and ideas, and you forgive them when they make a mistake.
You give them space, time, and opportunity; you make sure they have the room to grow because you love them enough to believe in the potential of their growth.
Now think of how you treat yourself.
Do you give yourself the love and respect that you might give your closest friends or significant other?
Do you take care of your body, your mind, and your needs?
Here are all the ways that you could be showing your body and mind self-love in your everyday life:
- Sleeping properly
- Eating healthy
- Giving yourself time and space to understand your spirituality
- Exercising regularly
- Thanking yourself and those around you
- Playing when you need it
- Avoiding vices and toxic influences
- Reflecting and meditating
- How many of these daily activities do you allow yourself? And if not, then how can you say you truly love yourself?
Loving yourself is more than just a state of mind—it’s also a series of actions and habits that you embed into your everyday life.
You have to show yourself that you love you, from the beginning of your day to the end.
7) What do you really want to do with your life?
Do you have a purpose?
Understanding what you want to do with your life is crucial to being happy and living a fulfilling life.
But even if you know that already, it still doesn’t help you figure out what you want to do with your life.
So, how can you figure it out?
According to Ideapod, these thought-provoking, weird questions may help you unlock the purpose that has been hidden from you until now.
Check them out:
- What were you passionate about as a child?
- If you didn’t have a job, how would you choose to fill your hours?
- What makes you forget about the world around you?
- What issues do you hold close to your heart?
- Who do you spend time with and what do you talk about?
- What is on your bucket list?
- If you had a dream, could you make it happen?
Remember, if you want to learn how to love yourself, then you need to have a purpose that unlocks that love.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
To be happy when you’re alone:
1) Use alone time to get in touch with yourself. Start journaling and asking yourself important questions about your feelings and where you want to head in life.
2) Forget about the idea that you need to be in a relationship to be happy. Studies have shown that single people are just as happy as people in a relationship. You just need to make the most of your freedom and opportunities to grow.
3) Separate the feelings from facts. Look at your life objectively and start being grateful for all the things you do have in your life.
4) Find your tribe: Find people who are interested in things you’re interested in. This is a great way to make friends and establish connections.
5) Find new sources of meaning: Chasing happiness will make you unhappy. Instead, search for meaning. Try new hobbies, meet new people, become passionate about different topics.
6) Love yourself: Focus on your habits and how you can take care of yourself. Personal hygiene is important in loving yourself.
7) What do you want in life? Understanding where your passion and purpose is will make you feel less lonely. It gives you motivation and reason to live a meaningful life.
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