It’s great to have friends, but sometimes it’s also nice to be alone.
The truth is that even extroverts can sometimes thoroughly enjoy their own company and solo adventures.
Then again there’s also the flip-side to that …
At certain times it can feel lonely and isolating to spend too much time alone or to find that you don’t have close friends.
In my case, I know that realizing I didn’t have close friends happened in the middle of a party at an old college buddy’s. I looked around at all the people slapping me on the back and joking around and realized a sobering truth:
None of these guys and girls are really my friends.
And if I walked out the door they’d forget about me in ten seconds.
So I did.
And that was the start of a journey into learning how to be happy without friends.
Along that path of going it alone – and eventually finding real friends who I related to on a deeper level – I learned a lot.
Some lessons were hard-won, others came naturally. I want to share them with you.
Here are 20 things I learned about how to be happy without friends.
1) Own your life
Comparing your life to that of other people or trying to live up to an ideal you imagine exists of friendship and social life is a recipe for misery.
It’s not that friendship doesn’t matter, but nobody’s life is some prefabricated cookie cutter.
The truth is that if you had the “vibrant” social life that many of your friends seem to have you might well be miserable: because the kind of friendships they have and that they value wouldn’t mean much to you.
The first step of how to be happy without friends is to realize and validate your own value.
Your value is not determined by how many friends you have.
It’s determined by you.
2) Be a bit less social on social media
There are a lot of good things about social media, from sharing great music, jokes, and personal news you care about to liking friends’ photos and celebrating success among your social group.
But social media can also be a real mirage.
People tend to present their “best selves” on various platforms and it can lead to deep feelings of inadequacy.
I know for myself that I’ve sometimes cruised social media for a few minutes and had the thought and feeling “why can’t I be normal and happy like those people? Why don’t I have a partner who looks as good as her?”
Try a break from social media for a couple of days and see what happens.
If you’re too linked up to make this easy then put your status informing people you’re taking some chill time to yourself.
In the future try shorter chunks of the social media experience. You’ll start being less fixated on external idealizations of social life and being popular and “happy.”
3) Put down your phone
This is very connected to the last point but broader.
Your phone is an incredibly useful tool and a communication device that helps you stay in touch and share your life with others – as well as get your work down.
But being attached to your phone by an invisible cord leaves you as a slave to technology and the schedule and desires of others.
Your phone has a tendency to make you feel “connected” when you’re not actually connected.
In many cases, it can actually make you believe you have many friends when all you really have are some people to say “what’s up?” to now and then.
Distancing yourself from your phone more often can be a great way to refocus and take a valuable reality check about where your friend status is actually at.
4) Explore spirituality and religion
Whether you are interested in religion, spirituality, breathwork, or anything else in between, having some time away from the social circus can be an amazing opportunity to explore matters of the soul.
Friends are wonderful for sharing our feelings, experiences and time with, but they can also distract us from getting in touch with ourselves on an inner level.
When you have time alone and time where you are focusing on some solitude and reflection you have the opportunity to read, listen, and explore the deeper questions and experiences of humankind.
Whether you choose to go to a temple, mosque, church, bonfire drum circle, a spiritual retreat, or any other location of worship and spiritual exploration, you have a chance when you don’t have friends to find something more.
You have a chance to get to the bottom of this whole “life” thing and decide where you’re at in your spiritual journey.
And that can be pretty exciting.
5) Let your imagination run wild
We live in cultures that tend to prioritize always doing something, working toward something, and accomplishing something.
There’s no downtime, and it can often feel like your only real value is in what you can produce or do rather than just existence itself.
Just “be” and breathe.
Let your imagination run wild and picture beautiful images of peace, love, and tranquility.
Retrace the steps of an old forest path you used to walk as a child. Imagine you’re in a fairy tale where you’re on a vision quest that will lead you to your true identity and mission in this life …
The world is a magical, marvelous place that is full of wonder, kindness, and connection. Open yourself to the goodness and let it be …
6) Move it
Exercise, exercise. It can’t be overstated just how important exercise and fitness is.
When you get moving you pump out all sorts of endorphins and positive feedback loops that empower and energize you.
Even if you just start by doing a good stretch in the morning, you are putting action first and getting things moving.
There are all sorts of plans you can make in your head. But putting them into action in your body is an entirely different story.
Our body stores all sorts of trauma and blockages of energy and when you choose – through an act of will – to get it moving, things begin to happen.
Go to the gym or get running on the track.
Start moving your body. See what happens.
7) Make friends with the great outdoors
One of the best strategies for how to be happy without friends is to make friends with the great outdoors.
There’s something about hiking on a trail and smelling the forest and feeling rays of sunlight peek through the trees or canoeing on a lake as the water gurgles that’s restorative to your soul.
Scientific research also increasingly shows that spending time in nature can alleviate and prevent depression and emotional problems.
Instead of feeding feelings of insufficiency or loneliness, feed the sensation of completion and integration that you get in nature.
Feel your place in the biome, connected to everything around you …
Then imbibe that impression of fulfillment and solidarity deep into your bones.
8) Look at the upsides
Being alone when you want to be is super, of course.
It’s being alone when you wish you had people and friends that’s the hard part.
During these times it can be easy to get dragged down if start thinking of the negatives and focusing on them.
For this reason, I recommend looking at the upsides: it’s one of the best ways when it comes to how to be happy without friends.
You can cook naked, sleep in, dance to the music you want to listen to without having to justify it to anyone (except maybe your annoyed neighbors if you live in an apartment complex).
More? You can read what you want, watch the shows and movies that you want, do what you want, spend time on a dating site chatting with those you might be interested in …
You can hone your skills, go play sports, design a tabletop board game or video game, make customized T-shirts and so much more.
9) Try volunteering
Volunteering is one of the best ways to get out of your head and learn how to be happy without friends.
Volunteering and giving back to your community whether it’s at a soup kitchen, helping as a Big Brother or Big Sister, or finding old folks home where you can play music or be a companion a few times a week can be a life-changing experience.
Realizing how many people around you are lonely or in need of a mentor and friend will really open your eyes.
And giving back will give you a feeling of fulfillment and purpose that no amount of motivational speeches, alcoholic drinks, or junk food binges ever will …
So keep your eyes open and look for opportunities to help out.
10) Being grateful never hurt anyone
Being grateful has a number of positive health effects and even if you don’t have many – or any – friends, chances are there are some wonderful things in your life from physical health to family that you can be grateful for.
Even if it’s something as basic as feeling grateful for your first cup of coffee in the morning or a beautiful sound that a street busker is playing when you walk to work, send that grateful vibe out and let the good energy flow …
Another good idea is to write a list of what you’re grateful for and think of it once or twice a week.
When you’re feeling low down about the friend situation take that lists out and gives it a look.
11) Take it easy on yourself
Letting yourself go and being lazy isn’t going to help if you’re trying to learn how to be happy without friends.
But brutal self-criticism and negativity won’t help either.
There are a lot of goals and great things you can do if you have more time to yourself, but whatever you end up committing to, take it easy on yourself.
There is nothing wrong with you and there is no need for you to be like an image of what you believe is normal or fun.
Trust that your life is where it needs to be at this moment and then work from there.
12) Learn to cook
One of the best ways to master how to be happy without friends is to learn to cook.
Soon enough you’ll have better friends – and romantic partners – than you can believe. Trust me.
Plus, cooking is just a lot of fun.
It’s true that preparation can take time, but if you have decent kitchen space and a bit of time to get busy you can create some culinary masterpieces.
Start easy with macaroni and cheese and go from there.
You never know what you can discover in the kitchen and the sense of accomplishment you’ll get taking the first bite of a mouth-watering lasagna you just prepared is incomparable …
13) Explore your creativity
The best friends are often those who encourage our dreams and spark our creativity.
I know in my own case that it’s been that way ever since my seventh-grade art project with my friend Adam made everyone ooh and ahh.
But even if you don’t have friends you can use this time to explore your creativity.
Take up knitting, painting, or basket weaving. Write a comedy screenplay. Make a documentary.
Find out about the Norwegian and Danish concept of hygge and see if it appeals to you and if you can get creative with it.
Exploring your creative side is always a good call.
14) Go where you want to go
When it comes to how to be happy without friends, one of the best ideas is to embrace the freedom you have to travel (and make new friends).
You can go where you want to go insofar as your job and other aspects of your life allow that.
And even if you only have a few weeks vacation, you don’t have to worry about getting roped into a resort-style boozefest with friends you can’t stand or dragged along to tourist destinations that bore you to tears.
You can go where you want to go and soak it all in.
15) Shake it up
Having a circle of friends is often part of having a routine.
Drinks on Friday night, drop-in volleyball on the weekend, relaxation at the lake with the boys – or girls – on Sundays.
When you don’t have friends – or have only a few close friends – it’s a great opportunity to “shake it up” in terms of your routine.
Do a small interior renovation or build a table. Design your garden differently or research some amazing tropical plants that might grow well in it.
Go shopping for the best armchair in the world on Friday night instead of hitting up the pub …
Take a day to golf instead of watching TV.
Your schedule is up to you, and you can decide what to do and when to do it.
16) Get hard
The harsh truth about life is that we have to fully learn to be alone. Even in a happy marriage or with deep friendships or family connections you are still ultimately responsible for your life and will face unique challenges and stresses that those close to you won’t face.
One of the best tactics for how to be happy without friends is to use the experience of being lonely to get hard.
It’s not that being sensitive is bad or that you must become some unfeeling brute who doesn’t care about personal connections.
But you can use the experience of being solitary to toughen up physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Building resiliency is always a good idea.
17) Focus on family and loved ones
Family and loved ones aren’t really “friends” but in many cases, they are those who will be there for the long haul.
Spending time and energy on these relationships is a great idea.
Do more things with family members and your significant other or partner.
Maybe you have a sibling who is feeling a little bit lonely themselves who would just love to go for a drive? You could be a that big brother or big sister friend to your sibling.
If you’re looking for how to be happy without friends, think about all those potential friends and people to do things with who you might have previously overlooked.
Having a small or nonexistent friend circle can actually be a golden opportunity to realize how many potential friends and activity partners you have that you never thought about …
18) Self-acceptance is key
When you try to live up to an image of what you think your life “should” be you end up miserable.
Going out to meet new friends you don’t ultimately have much connection to anyway is genuinely a waste of time.
And not only that, forcing yourself to socialize and be someone you’re not, distances you from yourself and your own power.
Forgiveness and self-acceptance are key. Accept that you don’t have to be the same as other people and forgive those who have triggered feelings of abandonment or betrayal in you.
These internal blockages and pain inside yourself won’t be overcome by fast friends, and working past them will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
19) Prioritize your health
No matter how many friends you have, poor health gets in the way of everything.
When you’re looking for how to be happy without friends, prioritizing your health is an excellent place to start.
Eat healthily, work out, sleep well, and try some yoga or pilates.
Get outdoors and try out some of the other steps on this list and you’ll find it all works together for your health.
In addition, schedule those visits and tests at the doctor that you might otherwise be too busy to do.
Having more free time after work or in times that others spend with friends gives you the ability to check up on your health more assiduously.
20) Draw a roadmap for the future
Time alone can be an excellent time to plan for the future.
If you’re sitting there wondering how to be happy without friends and cursing your social life then you are missing out on time you could be using to draw up a roadmap for the future.
Making a list of your goals and plans can be exciting and reassuring.
When you know where you’re going then it can be less worrisome where you’re currently at.
Plus, when you have a plan then that optimism and drive tend to accumulate around you and attract the kind of friends that you’d love to have in the first place.
So use the time to yourself to draw up a roadmap for the future.
You might also be interested in reading:
- “I have no friends” – All you need to know if you feel this is you
- 8 reasons I hate my friends and 4 qualities I want in future friends instead
- Toxic friends: 10 common signs and what you can do about it
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