“Sometimes, you need to be alone. Not to be lonely, but to enjoy your free time being yourself.” ~Unknown
First, let’s be clear, being alone is different than feeling lonely. The feeling of loneliness can arise even if you are not alone, or you can be alone and not feel lonely. It all comes down to the meaning your mind creates at that moment in time.
In my twenties being alone was something so triggering that I would find any distractions I could come up with to avoid it: partying, unhealthy relationships, constantly being on the go and busy… Being alone meant not being good enough—not good enough to have friends, not good enough to be in a relationship, not good enough to be loved…
I have learned over the years to truly enjoy my own company and now find being alone rejuvenating—most of the time. However, during the time of isolation and disconnection we have all lived in the past couple years, my old patterns and limiting beliefs around being alone have brought back that old, familiar discomfort with solitude on a couple of occasions.
Even if you’ve gotten to a point where you enjoy being alone most of the time, solitude can trigger some discomfort. Let’s explore ways to stop the mind from creating unnecessary pain, and learn how to enjoy being alone in those triggering moments.
1. Honor those feelings.
First and foremost, listen to what is happening within. As soon as you feel that a situation triggers difficult emotions (sadness, discomfort, anxiety…), take a breath and observe what the trigger was.
Maybe you came home from work to an empty apartment. Maybe you saw a happy family on the street, and you are going through a divorce. Maybe you spent some time on social media and saw families reunited for holidays, whereas you are away from family.
2. Do not distract yourself.
Take a breath and choose not to turn to whatever habits you might have developed to distract yourself from those uncomfortable feelings. Maybe you tend to open the fridge and eat, maybe you tend to turn on your mobile phone and scroll on social media, maybe you numb with alcohol, TV, or anything else.
Take a breath. Or two. Or three.
Trust that you can handle the emotions that are there to be felt.
Observe the emotions’ flow, the movement of energy, with no resistance. Observe with curiosity and kindness the sensations within the body. Where are they located? Do they have a certain texture or color? What type of sensations arise? Tightness? Contraction? Sweating? Your heart beating faster?
4. Observe the thoughts and beliefs that make the feeling worse.
Observe where you mind goes.
Maybe you equate being alone with being miserable.
Maybe you think being alone means “nobody loves me.”
Maybe you equate being alone with being a failure or a burden.
Maybe you think being alone means “I will always be alone.”
As I mentioned before, I associated being alone with not being good enough.
All our beliefs come from what we’ve experienced or learned in the past. Maybe your grandmother was alone and perceived as a burden because everyone had to take care of her. Maybe in your family there was a big emphasis on being social, outgoing, and fun, going out and having friends around, and being alone meant being some type of loser.
Maybe your expectations are coming from the culture of the society you live in, expecting you to be married, having kids; and if this is not the model you are living, you might feel disappointed or you might think others might be.
Maybe it’s the optics that bother you most. “What would people think if I spend New Year’s Eve alone? What would people think if I am not married by thirty-five?”
5. Reframe what being alone means to you.
Once you observe those thoughts and beliefs and the negative impact they have on your state of being, give yourself permission to choose different beliefs.
Are those beliefs absolute truth? Or are they a construct of your mind and society? Are those constructs serving you well? Do you know someone who is single and happy? Do you know someone who chose to be alone for New Year’s Eve and enjoyed it? Are any of your single friends happy and free? Don’t you long sometimes to be alone, quiet, at peace
Are you ready to let go of those beliefs? If so, take a breath and make the decision that those beliefs are gone for good. Visualize them dissipating into the air as you breathe out.
Maybe reframe being alone as being free. Doing anything you would like to do, when you want to do it. Maybe being alone means being strong and independent.
Maybe being alone means being quiet, being at peace. Maybe being alone is simply giving yourself time to rest and rejuvenate.
The truth is that being alone only has the meaning you create for it, so choose a better belief. A belief that serves you right here, right now.
6. Do more of the things that energize you.
Now that you’re not attaching a meaning to being alone, learn to enjoy your own company by doing things you love to do, on your own.
- Go for a walk in nature. Nature has a way of bringing you back to your true self, your natural self, to a state of balance and peace. Nature is non-judgmental. Nature is beautiful. And you are nature. So spend time outside. In winter, in summer, on a rainy or sunny day. Breathe, look, observe, feel.
- Read an inspiring book from one of your favorite authors or spiritual teachers.
- Listen to the music you love and give yourself permission to dance.
- find a guided meditation that you truly enjoy and cultivate a peaceful, elevated state of being.
- Move your body. Yoga is one of my favorites because it is a full mind-body-spirit practice, but anything from rock climbing to dancing could work—or any type of exercise you enjoy. Get the energy flowing.
- Sign up for something you always wanted to do or learn, online or offline, like painting classes or singing lessons.
Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely if you stop judging yourself and let yourself enjoy your solitude.