The time has come for you to master the art of being alone, embrace solitude and start loving your time alone.
Yes, solitude is an art in the sense that it is a skill acquired through experience, careful study and observation. And as with all other skills, you can get better at it with time, practice and dedication.
Just because you are alone does not mean you should feel lonely. You can be alone AND content all at once, even when you think you hate being alone or are not cut out to be alone.
Solitude is not the same as being lonely. Solitude refers to a state or a situation of being alone and is neither good or bad, whereas loneliness refers to a (generally negative) feeling. So, it is possible to be alone and not feel lonely. That’s why I call it the Art of being alone, or the Art of solitude.
The truth is, you are not lonely: you just don’t like being in your own company. You’ve also not learned to just. sit. still.
You are probably not seeking the company of other people because you enjoy their company. Well, not just that. You are probably seeking the company of others to escape the discomfort you are experiencing when you are by yourself.
What I’m implying here is that it’s not that you don’t like being alone or that you like other people; it’s that you don’t like being with yourself.
This is great news for the lonely souls out there. You don’t necessarily need to be with people to “get over” your loneliness. You can simply start learning to be comfortable with yourself.
Okay Mindy, but how exactly do I master the art of being alone? How do I even get comfortable with myself?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
Here’s a list of my best tips for mastering the art of being alone
All the things I did to go from being extremely lonely all the time, fearing of solitude and living in a permanent state of discomfort with myself, to actually thriving alone. I’m so happy now, whether I’m alone or with with other people. I’m happy and feel completely at ease with myself when I’m on my own.
Here’s how I mastered this subtle art of being alone.
1. Be patient: enjoying solitude (or any other personal transformation) doesn’t happen overnight
First things first: understand and accept that mastering the art of solitude and going from dreading solitude to being okay with it does not happen overnight and it will take time, especially if you are not comfortable being on your own right now.
You will not go from feeling sad, lonely, or cut off from people, to “totally happy” by yourself in 24 hours. Unless, of course, you are high on something, which I do not recommend you do. It will only create a bigger mess for you to handle later.
Learning to be okay with being alone is not a “quick-fix”. It involves patience, persistence, and self-awareness, all things you don’t acquire overnight.
Also, personal transformation usually involves setbacks. Things will not always go as planned and you will experience loneliness, sadness, anger, anxiety, etc., especially in the beginning.
Related post: Don’t beat yourself up. Do this instead.
But remain consistent in your efforts and have faith. The results will come if you push through the hard stuff.
2. Make mastering solitude your focus, and commit to it
It’s time to adopt a growth mindset.
Mastering any art or skill takes dedication and focus. This means you must give it time and attention and be ready to practice (and fail) every day. Mastering the art of being alone will not be any different.
The next time you feel lonely or dread being on your own, decide to do a fun activity with yourself and put your focus on that rather than beating yourself up and wallowing in self-pity.
If you keep whining “I’m so alone! I’m so lonely! I don’t have any friends!” every time you are alone, or if you keep your focus on the “absence of” (in this case, other people), you will never be comfortable with yourself (or it will be a very, very long road).
Want to master the art of solitude? Then decide, and commit to learning how to.
Related post: 8 Reasons why you never reach your goals
3. Understand and accept that it will be uncomfortable at first
When you first start doing things by yourself, you might feel a lot of discomfort, especially if you’ve always believed that you need to be with other people to be happy.
But remember, just because something feels uncomfortable or unnatural in the beginning, does not mean it will always feel like that.
The most accomplished virtuoso probably sucked big time the first time he or she touched a violin; same goes for any artist or professional on the planet.
Being alone with yourself is the same thing. It will probably start as an uncomfortable, messy experience, especially if you are not used to being on your own. But it’s only the beginning and it’s okay. Keep honing your skills and perfecting them. It’s a never-ending process.
4. Get comfortable with your pain
This means: get to know your pain.
Yep! Embracing solitude means no more running away from yourself. And do you know what happens when you stop running away? Your feelings, worries, insecurities catch up with you.
To be fair, your pain catches up with you no matter what, even when you try to escape from it; especially when you try to escape from it.
You just pretend not to see it and ignore it by diverting your attention.
But if you are going to be comfortable with yourself and start enjoying being alone, then you must learn to face your emotions, face yourself bravely. This means, let the emotions, feelings and pain come, observe them, feel them. Understand them and get to know them… like a new friend.
I know it will hurt at first but here’s the thing: once you stop running away from your pain, it loses its power over you. It’s truly liberating, and you eventually become more and more at ease with yourself and stop fearing solitude.
5. Find ways to express yourself (poetry, journaling, blogging, painting, drawing…)
Learning to express myself has been a big step in helping me figuring out who I am and becoming more comfortable with myself. And I’ve learned to express myself through creativity.
Being alone is the perfect time to start exploring your creativity, especially if you feel like you have none.
And if you think you have zero creativity in you, it’s likely because you’ve never dedicated time or attention to creative endeavors, such as writing poetry, painting, drawing, cooking, tap dancing, interior decorating, etc.
It’s not that you are not good at it. It’s just that you haven’t practiced it.
Related article: 4 Easy Creativity Exercises for the Non-Creative.
Start something, anything, but try.
Sign up for a workshop, take an online class, sign up for Skillshare, go on YouTube, rent books at your local library (or buy them) on a topic that might interest you or not. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone.
Pick something and work at it consistently for at least 4 to 6 weeks before considering giving up.
6. Learn a new skill
Finding occupations and activities you enjoy are a key way to becoming more comfortable with being alone.
If you dread or fear being alone, it’s probably because you are bored out of your mind when it happens, and you don’t know what to with yourself besides watching Netflix.
One way to get over that boredome and discomfort with yourself is to open yourself up to new activities and learning new things.
It doesn’t matter if you cannot yet see the “value” in learning Japanese, how to code in Python, or how to build a greenhouse when you are a bank teller in Michigan. After a couple of years, you might.
Just do it.
Pick something that sounds a little crazy, or seems a little beyond your reach, and that you can learn or practice when you are alone.
You might enjoy it. You might get good at it. It might even change your life. And it will definitely do wonders for your imagination and self-esteem. And you will have something to look forward to next time you have some alone time coming up.
Related post: How to turn your life around in your 30’s
7. Consistency: commit for at least 4-6 months
If you decide to master the art of being alone, then commit to doing just that for at least 4 to 6 months. Only once you commit to something over a long enough period, will you see the result of your efforts.
If you try being alone with yourself for 5 minutes then give up and go scroll on social media for 3 hours, or if you start learning how to sew only to give up after 5 days, or if you decide to keep a journal but stop after 3 sentences, you will never get anywhere.
And if you are someone who cannot commit to anything, then this is a perfect opportunity for you to practice, and improve.
What better way to learn consistency and commitment, than by committing to yourself? It certainly puts less pressure on your shoulders than if you were to commit to someone else, don’t you think?
Use those moments of solitude to focus on specifIc “alone-time” projects for a minimum of 4 months, and see what happens.
Spoiler alert: progress and being proud of yourself is what happens, and it’s magic for your heart.
Mastering the art of solitude is about mastering yourself.
And what better way to learn to master yourself than through physical exercise?
You know you should exercise more. I know you know.
The question is not whether you should or shouldn’t exercise. The question is: why aren’t you exercising when you are alone, are feeling lonely, and don’t know what to do with yourself?
Oh… because you don’t feel like it??
- Five Surprising ways running changed my life
- How do you make yourself do the things you don’t want to do but know you should do?
9. Tame the mean voice in your head
Mastering the art of being alone is about learning to be at peace with yourself. And being at peace with yourself implies taming that mean voice in your head.
You know, that same voice that is constantly bullying you and perpetually torturing you? Yeah, that one. You can tame it. With practice, intention and time.
Again, this is not something that happens overnight. Learning to be kinder with ourselves, in our actions and our thoughts is a skill that is acquired through practice.
It’s about learning how to become a loving parent to ourselves, being patient and forgiving, and understanding the things that trigger our pain, and the ones that motivate us.
Related article: Don’t beat yourself up, do this instead.
Changing the way you speak to yourself is probably one of the best gifts you can do to yourself, and it will make solitude much more enjoyable.
10. Learn to sit still
Practice awareness and being present. Don’t just sleep-walk through the days. Experience life: observe, listen, feel, taste, smell, hear, see…
And for god’s sake, practice sitting still in a comfortable place, not doing anything. No phone, or laptop, or music. Try to simply be with yourself.
Related post: How do you heal an exhausted mind?
11. Don’t spend your days consuming content
If you are to become good at being alone and at ease on your own, then you need to stop mindlessly consuming content.
When you keep consuming content and giving your attention away to things that are not worth it, it doesn’t leave space for you to figure out what’s happening inside of you.
All that content is not information; it’s 90% trash.
It’s not making you smarter or more informed. It is mostly noise that is crowding your mind, taking up all the mental space you actually need to create things, to do meaningful work, to self-reflect, to express yourself, and to be a happier more grounded individual.
12. Do spend as much time outside as possible
Do you have a lot of alone time in your hands? Great, it’s an opportunity to go jogging, walking, hiking, read a book or eat your lunch in a park nearby.
People these days seem to think that being outside is only reserved for the occasional BBQs in the summer or vacation at the beach.
We actually need to be in contact with nature, and if you start doing it consistently, you will see why.
Don’t just take my word for it. There is a whole body of research demonstrating the value of nature on mental health. This article by the American Psychological Association has linked exposure to nature to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even an uptick in empathy and cooperation.
And this article links to a bunch of other scientific studies demonstrating how various types of “nature experience” are associated with mental health benefits.
Again, it might feel uncomfortable at first. But if you keep doing it a few times, you might start enjoying it and becoming a more calm and peaceful individual.
13. Practice self-care
Learn to take care of yourself as if you were someone you deeply cared for, like a child or a spouse.
Do you provide yourself with all the things you need to be a thriving individual? Do you have a routine? Feed yourself properly? Keep your home clean and clutter-free? Maintain basic hygiene? Make your bed every day? Sleep enough?
- 16 Pillars of self-care for when you’ve been neglecting yourself
- 9 Steps to pull yourself out of a downward spiral
- Are you depressed? Here are 45 reasons why a routine might be just what you need.
These things might seem futile to you, but I assure you, they are not.
14. Talk to strangers
No, mastering the art of solitude does not mean you should start avoiding people and become a hermit.
Mastering the art of solitude means becoming very good at being with yourself, which, in my opinion, can actually make you a much more agreeable person to be around.
The moment I finally started to be more at ease with myself, I became more at ease with others.
It makes sense. I no longer had to pretend to be things I wasn’t. I knew myself better, understood myself better and also respected myself more, which made being around other people way less stressful and anxiety-inducing.
So, those days when you are alone are an opportunity to notice the people around: be friendly or kind to strangers in the park, on the street, or at the bus station. It can actually brighten your day and theirs.
Related post: How to become a more attractive person?
15. Determine whether or not you want more people in your life, and act accordingly
Being comfortable alone does not mean you start hating other human beings and avoiding them.
If you want more people in your life, more friends, or a bigger social circle, then understand that it’s likely that your life is the way it is because you’ve made it that way, and get to work to fix it.
The point of this is not to blame yourself for everything. The point is to take ownership of what is yours and adjust your behavior accordingly. Change what you can, learn new behaviors that serve your objectives, and be intentional about it.
Take up a new group hobby, join Meet up groups in your area around your interests, start a book club, volunteer on Sundays, etc.
- 8 Reasons why you have no friends
- How do you make new friends as an adult?
- How do you build more meaningful relationships?
If you don’t want more people in your life and want to be alone, then acknowledge it, understand why you are making that choice, and learn to accept it.
There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. If you are alone by choice, then stop enduring the situation and start making the best of it.
16. You will still feel lonely at times, and it’s okay
Just because you become a master at being alone does not mean that you will NEVER feel lonely again.
No matter how comfortable you become with being alone, you will probably still experience (at least some degree of) loneliness from time to time, and it’s ok!
There will be times when you will be sad or sick, and will wish there was someone to take care of you.
It’s normal. Nothing is ever just good or just bad.
You survive days like that by accepting that your feelings are like the weather, they come and they go.
There’s no need to fall apart because of one day of sadness.