It's not uncommon to fear being alone. To find sitting in silence with ourselves uncomfortable. And quite often we rely on other people or external sources of distraction so that we don't have to sit in that space for too long.
There is a section out of my favourite Dr. Seuss book 'Oh the places you'll go' which I often think about.
I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.
All Alone! Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.
Throughout life our situations change. Relationships can end. Loved ones pass away. Our children will eventually know how to stand on their own two feet and will make a life for themselves. Our health could force us to end work sooner than planned. We will at one point or another be left in our own space. All alone. So it's important that we learn how to be OK with that.
There is truth that as humans we need the company of others. To fare better in life we need to feel a sense of connection and community. To love and feel loved.
So a life of solitude isn't necessarilly healthy.
But to be loved by others we first need to love ourselves. And that means learning to love being in our own company. And of who we are.
Otherwise we can become emotionally dependant. Which places a lot of strain on our relationships. Especially if the other person values their independence and enjoys their time alone. We become needy and desperate. Qualities which aren't exactly positive to a healthy relationship.
We all deserve to flourish. And that requires self-sufficiency and confidence.
So how do you learn to love being alone?
A willingness to try
First and foremost nothing will change if you aren't willing to try. If you don't face that initial uncomfortable feeling of being alone and work through it, chances are you might not move past it.
Learning how to be mindful of your surrounding. Learning how to slow your thoughts down so you begin to appreciate the world right in front of you for what it is. For the beauty in stillness and silence. To just be as you are and not feel the urge to fill moments of quiet with distraction.
It's a constant practice. The more practice you have at being alone in your own company, the more comfortable it will become. And enjoyable.
Awareness of activities you enjoy
Begin to notice the activities that bring you joy. Where you enter a state of flow. Prioritise them and bring them into your days more often.
If you really have no idea what takes you into a state of flow, something I found helpful is to start a list. Those moments you feel that you are deeply concentrating on an activity and enjoying it, note it down. It will eventually give you clues as to what gives you a feeling of flow.
You could also enrol in an organised activity. A class or workshop. Finding something you enjoy requires attempting different things to gauge what it is that sparks an interest. Then you can grow that interest and practice it in your own time alone.
Turning off digital distractions
With the convenience of smartphones I feel we rely on them to fill those moments of silence. Yes they have opened up our world and made life much easier. But they also tend to make us feel like our lives are dull and boring in comparison to what we see in the lives of others online. They are training us to feel we always need to be 'on.' And essentially we are un-learning our innate ability to be mindful.
The more we practice putting our phones to the side, the less we rely on them, and the better we become at utilising that time for greater quality experiences. And actually be present to notice and appreciate them.
Still unsure of what to do when you are alone?
For those who still have no thoughts on what to do when you are alone, here are a few suggestions:
- Find a good book, curl up in a comfy chair or in bed, and read
- Sit in nature for a while observing your surrounding - notice what you feel, see and hear
- Learn to cook one meal from the cuisine of another culture, then try another
- Educate yourself on indoor plants and begin to bring them into your home
- Grow your own vegetables and herbs
- Put your favourite album on, listen, sing or dance, or do all three
- Get out some pencils and colour in or draw. There are mindfulness colouring in books to help with this
- Fill up the bath, light a candle and soak for a while
- Find a nearby trail and spend an afternoon walking - walking safely when alone of course
- Go to a nice cafe and sit and enjoy a meal on your own. Take a good book if it feels awkward
- See a movie on your own
- Pick up a camera, head out into nature and photograph what you see
- Enrol in an online course and learn something. There are many free courses out there
- Jump on your bike and go for a ride
At the moment I'm enjoying these activities on my own:
- Writing about life and wellbeing
- Reading each night before bed
- Going for a run at sunrise a few mornings a week
- Taking myself out for coffee when the kids are at school, listening to music, usually writing or reading
- Creating mini-movies of my loved ones
- Learning how to sew clothing for my daughter
It's easy for many of us to say that we don't have time for these things. Or the money to do them. We all do it. But they are often excuses. And nothing good will come from a life full of excuses. It's when we begin to view life pessimistically. Where we rely on others to bring us happiness. And blame them or the world for why we feel so unfulfilled.
We all have things that need doing. Work that demands a lot of our time. Things that need fixing or cleaned. Kids that need looking after. Bills to be paid and finances that need managing, and so on.
But we also have a life. One life. Which will be filled with times when we are confronted with being alone. And in those moments we can learn to find joy in them. To discover things about ourselves and about our interests. We can learn to love being in our own company. And it's from there that we can potentially thrive.