Happy Alone


Let me just preface this by saying that I'm not here to tell you that being alone all the time is how we're meant to be. I don't believe that for a minute. What I do believe, however, is that there are a lot of people deeply uncomfortable spending time with their own thoughts or doing activities alone. I think some of this can be attributed to a social stigma against being alone. You’ve probably heard it from friends before, saying things like “Well I don’t want to be the only one eating alone” or “Yeah but I can’t find anyone to go with so I probably won’t go…” You yourself start to internalize that being alone is undesirable or strange.

But the reality is that there are times in your life when you’re going to be alone. Embrace these times. Enjoy them. Being alone should not stop you from living your life the way you want to. Yes, there are sometimes things that you probably shouldn't do completely alone for safety reasons - but I'm more talking the small fun things in life. Limiting yourself because of what others might think is a sure way to miss out on fun experiences in life.

Here are some things I delight in doing alone:

Going to the movies
I've heard people say "I would never go to the movies alone - it's so depressing!" to which I always reply "Huh?" (intelligent, I know). I LOVE going to the movies alone - in fact, there are certain films I purposely avoid telling anyone I'm going to so I can see it alone. I like not having to share my popcorn with anyone and not being influenced by anyone else's opinion on the movie. There's nothing worse than having a near tears reaction to a scene and having your friend/partner lean over and whisper about how boring it is. Going alone lets me immerse myself completely in the story. And you're sitting in the dark not talking anyway, so do you really need someone else there?

I took my first trip alone to London and I'm not going to lie, I was VERY nervous. I was paranoid about having my bags swiped in the airport, about missing my flight/trains/reservations, etc. But proving to myself that I could navigate transportation, currency, bookings, and directions in a foreign country alone was a huge jolt of self-confidence. I shopped, ate meals, wandered the city, chatted with locals, attended a workshop, and even went to a huge sporting event all on my own. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was a challenge but the rewards of that have stuck with me ever since. Now I have the confidence to know I could travel alone again. Also, there's a HUGE freedom to being able to make every decision on your trip - if you want to spend 4 hours in a museum, you can. If you want to eat something specific or at a specific time, no one else will complain. Traveling alone can allow you to structure your trip exactly how you want it.

It can be nice to spend time alone with your thoughts. Practicing mindfulness is a great start if you're having a hard time: If you're saying "I'm bored" or "I'm lonely" within 2 minutes of sitting alone, take a deep breath and concentrate one by one on your senses. Connect to what you can see and describe each thing in your mind, then what you can smell, taste, feel, hear. Notice the taste in your mouth, the feel of the ground under your fingertips. It will ground you in the present moment. And once you're there, sitting alone with your thoughts can be so productive. Having time to absentmindedly daydream or mull over your life in a lazy way can spark creativity and new ideas. My best inspiration has oftentimes come from moments where I let my thoughts wander. 

A note on dealing with loneliness
I do get lonely sometimes when I'm on my own. I think there's a fundamental difference between being lonely and being alone, and we should embrace the times we are alone even as we worry that loneliness will creep in. It’s a feeling that will pass. I try to recognize it and sit with it for a minute and then let it go. 

Simply summed up – life is too short to let the absence of another person stop you from doing something you want to do. Do it anyway. Do it alone.

photos by Emily Anderson / sweater from Stay Home Club

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1 comment:

  1. Very nice Alison. I totally agree with you. Sometimes when I have someone with me, I wish I were alone and sometimes when I'm alone, I wish I had someone with me. I too like going to movies alone and I often go to breakfast alone on weekends, but I have friends that don't go anywhere unless they have someone to go with. Julie Bean