Solitude is a scary word, yet spending time alone is exactly what you make it. Being by yourself can be harrowing and lonesome, but it can also be spiritually fulfilling. If you’re someone who never wants to spend time by yourself, or if you spend a lot of time on your own but feel bad about it, then here are a few suggestions to help you embrace spending time alone.
For The Love Of God, Get Off Social Media
While all the various social media platforms can be fun means of self expression that help you connect with the world around you, they can also be an absolute cancer to your mental health. There are a plethora of studies and documentaries about the social media age to consume to help you feel dejected about Twitter, and I’m not here to tell you that social media is inherently good or bad. No, it’s totally up to you what impact it can have on your life.
I think most of us have at least a vague understanding of the necessity to limit social media consumption, but many might not think about it in relation to spending time alone. Most of social media is comprised of a photoshopped reality where everyone is living their best lives, when really that’s not the case. The financial struggles, the anxiety, the heartbreak – all of these things tend to get hidden from the online veil of reality.
What results is a voyeuristic dilution of what it means to exist in society, and it can be tremendously harmful. I know I have spent my fair share of time marveling at the accomplishments of my high school peers, only to absolutely seethe with jealousy, and yet I just keep scrolling.
To let you’re mind wander into such envious and anxious territories is so detrimental to your well-being, and it is so easy to succumb to this temptation when you’re alone. I don’t suggest you avoid social media entirely when you’re by yourself, but it is paramount that you limit the amount of time, and don’t concern yourself with what others have.
Start The Day With Something Productive
To be clear, the imperative of constant productivity that gets perpetrated by “the grind” is harmful. It is not necessarily a waste of a day to not earn money, and in fact we all need days to relax and shut our minds off. However, over-correcting in the other direction is a mistake as well, and it’s one that will prevent you from truly enjoying your down time.
Getting something accomplished early on in the day can give you that feeling that you’ve earned your down time. Even something as simple as doing some laundry or cleaning your bathroom can feel like a huge weight off your mind. This is part of what makes spending time alone so hard sometimes, that it can feel like a waste of your time. If you knock something off your to-do list right away, it will open up the day and help prevent those intrusive thoughts that tend to creep up in isolation.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
This is one of the most crucial things you can do to increase your comfort with being alone, yet is perhaps the hardest to accomplish. So often society tells us that spending a Friday night by yourself makes you a loser, but that’s simply not the case. You don’t need to validate your social life with anyone but yourself, and you can always say no to plans. If you feel like you need to spend some time on your own, then that’s exactly what you should do.
In regards to the social stigma of loneliness, you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t matter at all. Who cares if society says it’s sad to spend a weekend night by yourself? It is only sad if you make it that way.
Get Out And Appreciate Nature
When we are so thoroughly plugged in to the constructs of modern society, sometimes it’s necessary to remove yourself from society’s expectations and remind yourself that nature is so much greater than human civilization. With respect to the universe, humanity is just a blip on the radar, and the cosmic perspective can really help you realize that your problems might not be as massive as you think.
I don’t mean going for a run through your neighborhood, either. Find your nearest forest preserve or whatever you’ve got access to, and take some time to appreciate just how massive and non-judgmental our natural Earth is. This can be one of the best ways to spend some time all by your lonesome, but it can also help you achieve a greater acceptance of your role in the universe, and thus being alone will begin to feel different.
Contextualize Being Alone
Life requires extremes; without evil there is no good. The same applies to being alone. At any given time you are either by yourself or you’re not, and either one grants a greater understanding of the other. If you don’t spend any time by yourself, you won’t appreciate the time you spend with others as much.
If you’re like me, then you get overwhelmed pretty easily in social situations for long periods of time. I need breaks from being around others to recharge and to simply feel like myself again. Yet if I spent all my time by myself I would feel incredibly lonely and sad. If that seems obvious, then that’s the point. We need both to really appreciate the other, so why do we tend to embrace one yet reject the other?
Seek Out Fulfilling Hobbies
This is a very obvious suggestion, yet it is an important one. Lean into your hobbies, whatever they are. Reading, writing, watching TV, playing video games, working out or whatever you’re into, you need to make sure to make time for them. If, when you’ve stopped participating in that hobby for the day you don’t have a sense of fulfillment, it might be time to re-think that hobby.
Much like accomplishing something productive, you shouldn’t always feel like you need to have gotten something done. Instead, do you feel tangibly happier than you did before you started? If so, then it’s probably worth doing. If you spend your alone time engaging in activities that don’t make you feel better, then your mind is likely going to spiral, and solitude becomes the cold, dark place you feared it would be.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It may seem like an odd thing to work on, but just like any skill, enjoying your alone time takes practice. If you don’t actively work on the preceding suggestions or any other means of approaching loneliness that you see fit, you may never truly embrace it.
Being alone with your thoughts is a terrifying proposition sometimes, and if you don’t spend time working on preventing yourself from overthinking, then loneliness may always be a fear. Achieving a sense of self while not falling prey to the existential void is tough, but it’s possible. Indeed, being alone is the only way to understand your truest self, and we need to embrace that.