This post was probably the hardest for me to decide writing so far. Although I’ve become much more comfortable and content alone in the last couple of years, by no means am I an expert on always being happy by myself. Make no mistake, I’m no stranger to feeling lonely.
That said, this is now more the exception than the rule. I’ve learnt to be at peace in my own company for the majority of the time. And it’s the aspects of this journey that I’d like to share with you today.
I’ve decided to divide this post into 2 parts – looking inwards and looking outwards. Before I start, I also want to emphasize a couple of things. Firstly, these are all suggestions that worked for me. If they lead you towards more happiness alone, that’s great – but ultimately you have to find what works for you. Secondly, and even more importantly, it’s important to PRACTICE these suggestions as much as you can and are comfortable. Knowledge is great, but action is life-altering.
OK. Here we go.
Part I: Looking inwards
Identify where your discomfort being alone is coming from. Acknowledge it.
A lot of the time, it isn’t the act of being alone that’s uncomfortable. Instead, it’s the attitude your mind takes towards it, the story it constructs. For me, being alone was linked to a crippling feeling of FOMO. My mind believed that any second alone was a second I was missing out on fun, or new experiences, that I’d have in the company of others. It took me time and practice to realize that from time to time, watching a movie by myself instead of being out with my friends was completely valid. Sure, maybe I’d miss out on a wild memory or incredible experience. But in time, I finally realized that taking time to care for myself and recharge was in itself an incredible experience. For you, being alone may be linked to something else, like a feeling of incompleteness after a recent breakup. Search for the cause of your discomfort, and accept that it is there.
Realize that at some level, you’re never really alone.
Here’s where my spiritual side kicks in. As an enthusiast of Buddhism, I believe that we’re all connected in some way, being one energy from the same source. If that’s true, it becomes much harder for loneliness to hit me, as I’m always connected to the Universe around me. Spirituality aside though, think about it this way. Even if you’re by yourself in your dorm room feeling lonely, remember that you’re still probably not alone. If you’re lucky enough to have a good relationship with your parents, they’re likely thinking about you all the time, and are only one phone call away. Same goes for your best friends. You may not have company in-person at that moment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re alone.
Feel your emotions.
For me, being alone often brings far fewer distractions than I’d have around others. This, in turn brings out a whole host of emotions that I’d otherwise suppress in the busyness of my life – the most prominent being nostalgia for the past and anxiety for the future. This is often an intense experience, but is something I’ve come to view as a blessing in disguise. In fact, some of my most focused and purposeful reflection has taken place in solitude. That said, I’ve found that being mindful of my emotions when alone – letting myself feel whatever arises and later allowing myself to let go – has been extremely useful when strong emotions inevitably arise when I’m alone.
Part II: Looking outwards
Travel. Travel SOLO.
Coming in at the first entry of part II, we have travelling, and specifically solo travelling (I’ll definitely make a separate post about this since I have so much I’d love to share with you guys about it!). Solo travelling will put you in new and unfamiliar situations all the time. Whether that’s getting lost in a new city, missing a train or bus, or talking to somebody completely new, you’ll no doubt be pushed out of your comfort zone. With that said, I can’t overstate the self-confidence you can build from travelling by yourself. Each time you’re put in a stressful situation and come out of it in one piece, you’ll realize that you’re all you need, and that you can rely on yourself. And once you taste this feeling in earnest, being content by yourself becomes so much easier.
Have a vibrant social life, so you can have a vibrant solo life.
It’s important to remember that being happy alone does NOT necessarily mean cutting out socializing with others. From my experience, it’s a paradox: the happier you are in your relationships with others, the happier you’ll be able to be by yourself. We’re social animals with social needs, so having good company and meaningful relationships makes us feel good. The more energy you invest into making your relationships with family and friends stronger, the happier you’ll be when spending time by yourself. After all, knowing that you have a strong network of support behind you can give you unparalleled peace of mind.
Immerse yourself deeply in a pursuit or passion.
Ever heard of the “flow state”? In the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the creator of the term, flow is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter”. Have you ever been so immersed in doing something – studying, playing a sport, music – that you’re surprised when you look up and see that 5 hours just flew by? That’s the magic of the flow state, which can be both a productive and enjoyable way to spend time alone. In fact, writing these blog posts with full attention is one of my favorite things to do by myself, firmly grounding me in the present moment. Find an activity that you’re deeply passionate about, and lock in. You’ll be amazed at how content you might feel, as well as the great work you might produce.
An incredible YouTube series on flow by Big Think. Highly recommend checking out.
And that’s it from me for this one! I know this is one of the more lengthy posts I’ve written, but I just had so much to say about it. As always, feel free to reach out, I’m always happy to discuss!