Wondering how to get comfortable with being alone? Maybe even start to enjoy your time with yourself?
Some people thrive on solitude and “me time,” while others avoid it like the plague. If you fall into the later category, you aren’t alone. (What a relief, right?) A study of 20,000 U.S. adults showed almost half of the people reported feelings of loneliness.
We’ve been raised to believe time alone is a negative situation. After all, what do parents say when kids misbehave? “Go to your room,” or “take a timeout.” Time alone feels like we’re being punished and isolated from the fun.
All humans crave social interaction in some form, which is why social media and other tools are so popular. Yet, many of these tools take up our time, masking as social connections but ultimately leave us feeling hollow. When we’re alone, we rush to fill the space with our online connections, media, and the noise of other soft addictions, because we feel uncomfortable.
So, if you’re avoiding alone time, here’s how to build your solitude skills and get more comfortable with being alone.
Being alone is a little uncomfortable for many people. In fact, it gets so uncomfortable some people start to fear alone time or take extra steps to avoid spending time by themselves.
What most people are really afraid of isn’t the state of being alone, but the feelings that come up when we’re by ourselves. Many people aren’t comfortable with feelings. We’ve been taught to avoid sadness, hurt, and fear. We find it’s more comfortable to express some feelings (like joy, satisfaction, and even anger or frustration) while other feelings we’ve learned to tamp down and avoid.
When you’re surrounded by other people, it’s easy to stay distracted from your feelings. You may feel like friends and acquaintances turn a situation into a party. You laugh, enjoy a glass of wine or two, and carry on conversations. Your mind is turned on and you’re busy. You may even be engaged with others and building healthy connections.
Then, the moment you’re alone, if there isn’t someone there to distract you, feelings start to bubble up to the surface. You may not even know where those feelings are coming from. In fact, it’s not uncommon to experience sadness, fear, or melancholy feelings when you’re alone, without an obvious trigger.
As you mull through the day, regrets may start to arise. You may reflect on something you did or said that didn’t go as planned. You might cringe at comments you made, an embarrassing moment, or a mistake. All of your unfinished business starts to move to the forefront of your thoughts; those uncomfortable feelings surface.
Some people are so uncomfortable with the prospect of loneliness, they can’t even stand in an elevator alone. They may even get out their phone or find another distraction to keep their mind busy.
Yet, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being by yourself. In fact, it’s good for you. When you learn to mindfully spend time alone, you get to know yourself better. You reflect and become more in touch with your emotions and feelings. You explore your dreaded “unfinished business” you’re avoiding, and you start to work through it.
Remember, if you’re uncomfortable being alone with yourself, it’s likely you’re uncomfortable being with your feelings. The good news is, this gives you a great starting point to work from.
If you’re uncomfortable with being alone, pat yourself on the back! Admitting and realizing that being alone is a struggle for you puts you on the path to working through it.
The first step to enjoying your time alone is to let go of the idea of being comfortable. Don’t expect to feel comfortable with being alone—in fact, being by yourself isn’t going to feel comfortable all the time. At first, it might even feel really uncomfortable, and that’s okay.
It’s more about shifting your goal from “comfortable” to exploratory. Think of your time alone as though you’re going on a date with yourself. What is your ideal date?
You get to know about the other person. You discover more about who they are and what makes them tick. You may learn about their yearnings, their fears, their goals, and their vision for the future. You may start to develop a rapport and build a connection with your date, right?
Dating is all about discovery and learning. It’s no different when you’re spending time alone. You will start to discover more about your likes and dislikes. Get to know who you are. Work to discover the wonderful person inside you. You may discover you really like yourself and even start crushing on yourself a little!
Now, of course, this may sound silly or daunting. Get to know myself? Of course, I already know who I am!
For most people, spending just a short amount of time alone, mindfully exploring their emotions will kick their craving for distraction into high gear. Don’t get surprised if the urge to check your smartphone, turn on the television, or rush to the store and shop hits you hard.
Our discomfort with being alone plays into our soft addictions—those activities we use to distract ourselves from really feeling our feelings and tapping into our emotional core. It’s not that shopping, TV, or even social media is bad, per se. All those activities are used in healthy ways in moderation, but when we use them to distract ourselves from our thoughts and emotions, they become destructive rather than constructive.
There’s a real benefit in spending quiet, mindful moments with yourself. Your creativity goes up. Your imagination becomes stimulated and alive. You may connect with your spiritual side and find healthy outlets for your energy. Alone time becomes beautiful and productive.
If you’re ready to spend quality time with yourself, use it as a chance to explore your creativity and self-expression.
Exploring creativity in your alone time doesn’t necessarily mean you need to paint, sketch, or draw. There are plenty of other creative ways to stimulate our brains. Problem solving, resolution, journaling, reflection, studying, and learning are all great ways to tap into your creative side.
You may find quality time in powerful silence or you may prefer music during your time with yourself. You may enjoy cooking, creating, gardening, or other activities that allow you to still get in touch with your emotions and thoughts. Find a mindful flow and aliveness during your alone time, rather than leaning on distractions and escape methods.
Not only does this increase the quality of your “me time,” but it will help you in other activities throughout your day. You may discover a higher focus at work, more engagement when you’re connecting with others socially, and a deeper connection with your significant other.
When you’re in a path-positive brain center you’re focused on a task. You’re consumed by doing, achieving, getting items done on your to-do list. You aren’t aware of where you are—where your “being” is—you aren’t in the moment. You’re simply getting through the job at hand.
As you become more mindful, you’ll move to another brain center. You’ll become more sensory-aware. Colors may become more vibrant. Your senses may feel heightened. This is because you can’t feel as deeply when you’re driven and busy doing rather than mindfully being. You’re distracted from the beauty of your surroundings.
Meditation is a helpful practice as you’re tapping into your mindful side. It helps to train our brain to watch, become more present and aware in the moment. At the same time, you want to incorporate mindfulness in all your activities, not just those ten minutes when you do your meditation app. You want to become aware of those thoughts and feelings throughout your entire day.
Our goal should be to increase our mindful living when we’re alone as well as when we’re with others. Inside us is a rich and beautiful universe. If we don’t take time to discover ourselves and look under the surface, we may miss the wonderful potential that exists inside each of us.
Find more ways to connect with yourself and build your connections with others by visiting the Wright Foundation. Join us for our upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll explore new ways to get in touch with your emotions and explore unfinished business. Discover your limitless potential and start living your best life today!
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.