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5 Reasons to Embrace Alone Time & Take Yourself on an Artist Date

“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

When was the last time you took yourself on a date?

Not just you and a friend, or you and your partner, or you and your kid(s). Just you, yourself, and you.

I’m not talking about staying home with a good book, or taking a bubble bath (though I’m a huge fan of bubble baths), or watching a movie by yourself on your couch.

I’m talking about venturing into the world alone to do something fun and outside of your ordinary routine—something that supplies fresh new sensory inputs to the creative well that resides in your right brain, with nobody else’s opinion coloring your own.

Whether you think you’re an artist or not, Artist Dates will enrich you.

I was a left-brained international economist when I first heard the term “Artist Date” about twenty years ago.

I had won a door prize at a networking event that included a free session with a life coach (still a nascent industry at the time—I had never even heard the term before). After a few exercises to hone in on my heart’s true passion, the coach recommended I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.

Though I didn’t identify myself as either artistic or spiritual at the time, I liked the idea of carving out a tiny bit of space for myself. My days were stretched thin between work demands, two young sons, and managing the care of my grandmother. I hired a babysitter and gave Artist Dates a try.

Just as Julia Cameron had promised, I returned home from my solo excursions inspired, rejuvenated, and with a multitude of new ideas, none of which had anything to do with economics.

“Art’s not really my thing,” you might be thinking to yourself.  

Here’s the cool part: Artist Dates don’t have to involve “art” in the traditional sense. Their purpose is to simply spark delight, engage your senses, and move you out of your left brain analytical thinking for a while.

Walking through a stream in bare feet, enjoying a good meal at a new restaurant—really taking in the aroma, textures, and tastes—or trying out the new swing set in the park down the road are all excellent Artist Dates.

Because even if you don’t think of yourself as an “artist,” creativity serves every aspect of our lives and problem-solving capabilities at home, in relationships, and at work. Artist Dates nurture your inner creative child.

No, you’re not a loser if you go out alone…

When friends and family asked what I was doing on my birthday this year, I said, “I’m taking myself to an art museum exhibit.” (Yes, I actually do find art museums fun.)

The response was unanimous: “By yourself?”

Yes. By myself.

I could feel them squirming in discomfort on the other end of the phone line. You can practically hear what’s going on inside their heads:

“That’s sad! Doesn’t she have any friends to take her out on her birthday? What about her husband?”

Sure I do. And for the record, my husband rocks at birthdays.

But the person I wanted to celebrate my birthday with this year was my true self. I wanted to give myself the space to process and express her own impressions of the world without interruption. I didn’t want the responsibility of making anyone else happy that day other than myself, who has gotten me through a lot in this life.

But being alone with her took some practice.

Don’t listen to that other voice that tries to talk you out of your Artist Date…

OK, so you’ve decided to take yourself on an Artist Date. Be prepared. Your ego—the source of that internal critic—will try to talk you out of it.

You can surely find something more important to do.

You’re a bad mother/father if you leave you kid(s) at home and do something fun. 

Stop being silly. You’re not an artist, or even creative. Time is money. Stop wasting it.

Look your ego in the eye and respond firmly: “BE QUIET. YOU ARE NOT IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.”

Even after you’ve managed to get yourself out the door and to your intended destination, the voice won’t stop.

People are looking at you.

You must look lonely and sad, pathetic really.

What if you bump into someone you know? They might tell the neighbors or office mates that they found you wandering around alone. What will that do to your reputation?

On the rare chance that you do actually bump into someone you know, they might ask you to join them because they feel sorry for you. Decline politely, in a nicer tone than you might have to use with your ego. Egos don’t back down very easily.

5 Reasons the Effort of an Artist Date Is Worth It

1. We rarely have space in our lives to hear our deepest responses to new experiences.

Our opinion is often colored by another’s reaction. If we like a sculpture or a movie, we hope our friend likes it to. If they don’t like it, our own enjoyment may be diluted.

Don’t get me wrong—sharing different viewpoints is healthy. But every once in a while it’s good to give your full, unfiltered attention to how you are processing the world.

2. Research has proven that multitasking is a myth.

Our brains can’t think about more than one thing at a time, but rather move back and forth quickly between tasks.

To fully experience a new input—whether through studying the details of a painting, feeling the physical sensations of wind and water walking on the beach, or listening to a great piece of music—we need time to ourselves. We are pulled out of the sensory experience each time we have to talk to someone or even think about their response.

3. Artist Dates reconnect us with our right brain, the non-analytic, non-judgmental source of our creativity and “outside of the box” problem-solving capability.

Any activity that activates our fives senses engages our right brain. In a world that’s constantly judging, comparing, and critiquing (all the domain of the left brain), Artist Dates bring more balance to all of us.

4. Staying connected to our right brain is key to inner peace.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, after experiencing a stroke that completely shut down her left brain hemisphere, describes our right hemisphere consciousness as “completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world.” She should know, since she lived there for quite a while when her left brain was healing.

5. Learning to be comfortable in our own company is a skill that takes practice.

The earlier you start, the more prepared you’ll be if your life path leads to some alone time.

So go on! Put an Artist Date on your calendar. Practice spending time with yourself now, and you’ll never be dependent on someone else for your own happiness again.

About Martha Brettschneider

Martha Brettschneider is an author, photographer, and mindfulness advocate. Her book Blooming into Mindfulness: How the Universe Used a Garden, Cancer, and Carpools to Teach Me That Calm Is the New Happy chronicles her transformation from left-brained economist and screaming mom into a meditation-touting creative. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two sons. Visit her at marthabrettschneider.com.

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  • Somewhere, somehow society has shamed people into believing that you should always go out with friends or be with other people. Yet, some of the most miserable people I know are married. And some of the happiest and most active gladly do things by themselves. It’s a shame, too, that people look to other people for validation and social proof. They look to other people before they will take up the mantle themselves and do things. As a result, they end up doing nothing.

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  • I couldn’t agree more, ManSpirational. Being comfortable with our own company is a skill that all of us can learn with practice. The hardest part is shifting your mindset and stepping out the door!

  • Beth Tuttle

    I love the idea of an “artist date”! I thought by giving myself alone time to read a book or walk my dog was efficient but after reading your article I realize how much more potential I could tap into and really connect with my authentic self if I scheduled an artist date on my calendar. I am going to make a point of trying this out and sharing it with my clients. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wonderful, Beth! Let me know how it goes! 🙂

  • fragglerock

    I love taking myself out on dates. When you’re by yourself, there’s no pressure to rush or converse.

  • I agree, fragglerock. It’s luxurious!

  • Anna

    Martha,

    Thanks for bringing attention to this important activity! I was an only child for the first 9 years of my life in a single-parent household. You better believe I developed ways to be comfortable alone very early on! As an introverted adult, I now require a lot of time alone to be with my own thoughts and recharge. I am lucky to already love and crave that time, but I know there are many, many people who struggle with this skill. To anyone who might be in that situation, keep trying! Think of it as your own little adventure! Martha’s right, it is very worth the effort. In addition to all of the wonderful creative benefits mentioned, learning to love spending time alone is also another step on the path to loving your true self! My own journey started with realizing I was one of my favorite people to spend time with. Sharing joy and beauty with those we care about is great and brings us closer. Share those things with yourself, too! To get the most out of these experiences, leave your phone in your pocket/purse. We’re not truly by ourselves otherwise. I’m always amazed that simply being alone can open the senses to so many things I wouldn’t notice otherwise.

    Thanks again for the fantastic post. 🙂

    Anna

  • I have just set an artist date for tomorrow! Your post has fully inspired me to shut down my left hemisphere for the day. I’m going to see if I can’t engage in bringing a little more peace, love, joy, and compassion to my world. Who couldn’t use a little more of that in their life? And by the way…your blog is wonderful. Hopefully, readers here will check it out!! It’s a must read.

  • “…realizing that I was one of my favorite people to spend time with.” High five to you, girlfriend! And yes, I should have mentioned the importance of unplugging from your phone as well. Thanks for the great comment, Anna! 🙂

  • Thanks for the kind words, Bill! Make sure to let me know how you spent your artist date — have fun! And right back at you re: the blog. Waiting anxiously for your next piece! 🙂

  • Joel Scott

    Yes, much like Bill, I too have just set an artist date for Saturday night! Thank you Martha

  • Wonderful, Joel! Enjoy! 🙂

  • Mahesh Sahu

    Very good article. I actually do sometimes this artist date during simple morning walk time. Just leave room alone with no such fixed plan. Try to feel the wind, rain and sun light, and seat in some unknown place, play with some stray dogs. These are fun. Thanks for articulating this important aspect of life.

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  • Thanks so much for the kind words, Brittany, and for sharing the piece with your circles! Artist dates boost positive energy flows in the world, which benefits each and every one of us (it’s a great “think globally act locally” exercise)! 🙂

  • You have a lovely artist date practice, Mahesh! It’s a fun and different way to incorporate mindfulness into our lives (it’s clear from your comment that you know what I’m talking about). Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  • Danielle Dinh

    I’ve never heard of an artist date. Been meaning to visit local art museums but no one has time or interest to come with me. This article is giving me the kick to just go by myself.