The Art of Being Alone

Are you comfortable being alone? Do you mind going out to eat by yourself or going on a solo shopping trip? How comfortable are you with silence? Do you need to have the TV or a podcast on to keep from feeling alone? How comfortable do you feel with yourself when you are alone?

If you’ve never thought about this, it’s worth taking a moment to review your life and see how comfortable you are in your most important relationship in your life…. your relationship with yourself. In our current culture, we have a myriad of ways of distracting ourselves from feeling alone. Whether it’s social media, podcasts, TV, YouTube, or gaming, we often do whatever we can to avoid being alone with our thoughts. Sometimes we might do these activities for fun, but other times, we might be avoiding sitting with ourselves in the moment. Often we’re so focused on distracting ourselves that we miss the experience of the present.

So what is all this stimulation really about? Why do we so often distract ourselves? It could be that we fear being alone because it has a negative connotation. Being alone does not have to be equated with feeling sad or being lonely. We can think of it as peaceful solitude instead: a time to be with ourselves enjoying our own experience. It is not a mark against us. If we judge ourselves for being alone, we might miss out on things we really enjoy just because we don’t have anyone to go with. We might even stay in unhealthy or toxic relationships due to the fear of being alone.

So what should we do, if we fear being alone? First, consider getting counseling. A trained counselor can help you develop greater tolerance for being alone, which can lead you toward a deeper and more meaningful relationship with yourself. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you’ll ever have. Instead of constantly distracting yourself, you can begin to discover and enrich all of your experiences: cognitive, emotional, sensory, creative, and imaginative. By facing the fear of being alone, you can begin to live more fully and increase your feelings of self-worth and self-assurance.

If you’ve been avoiding being alone or feel uncomfortable doing so, it’s time to make a change. Facing your fear and beginning to sit with yourself can be daunting. Try making small changes first. Here are some ideas for things you can do to help you face your fears:

  • Listen to music you love. Make a playlist that is all YOUR favorite songs. Or maybe branch out and start exploring a different type of music than you usually listen to. This is a great way to get to know yourself better and begin to enjoy your own company.
  • Try drawing a picture instead of being on your device or using other distractions. Never been an artist? That’s ok. Don’t worry about whether your drawing will be in an art museum someday. Waking up your imagination is a wonderful way to begin to get to know your creative side and get to know yourself better.
  • Get outside. Going on a walk or getting out in nature is a great way to have some time for you.
  • Move your body. Go for a walk around the block or begin stretching every day. Have a dance party while you make dinner. Doing something for your body can help you begin to love yourself more.
  • Take a break from your phone and social media. Distracting yourself with your phone or social media disengages you from life that is happening around you.
  • Have some “just you” fun. What do you like to do by yourself? Do you like doing something that others might not understand or want to do? Plan some time for activities that you enjoy without worrying about what others will think or whether they would want to join you. This is one of the great things about being alone…it’s time to do your own thing!

If you find yourself looking at some of these ideas and wishing you had someone to do them with…you are not alone. Feeling lonely or feeling afraid to be alone are common feelings that are hard to cope with. Try to think of practicing solitude as building a relationship with a new friend or extended relative that just moved to town. Developing a relationship with YOU will have long lasting benefits, such as increased self-worth, self-love, self-compassion, and confidence. You will feel better and more comfortable being YOU….and what could be better than that?

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