While too much isolation can have a negative effect on mental health, being alone at least some of the time can offer an enriching, liberating experience. It can help us learn more about who we are, trust our own instincts, and develop a greater sense of independence.
How happy and comfortable we are spending time alone can also impact the quality of our relationships with ourselves and others.
If you enjoy your own company, chances are you’ll have higher self-esteem, feel more capable and in control, and see yourself in a more positive light. In turn, this can help you form healthier, more loving connections that are underpinned by boundary-setting and mutual respect.
While finding joy in your own company may sound easier said than done, it’s something that can be worked on over time – and the rewards are definitely worth it.
Below, we’ve put together a list of eight tips that can hopefully help you on your journey.
1. Try not to avoid spending time alone
If the idea of spending time alone leaves you feeling nervous or uncomfortable, then it might seem easier to avoid it altogether. For example, by making plans with others whenever you know you’re due to be alone, or getting straight back on the dating scene the minute a relationship ends.
Though, while it might sound obvious, the best way to get comfortable with being by yourself is to make time to be alone.
Often, the reason that people don’t initially enjoy doing so is because they don’t like being confronted by difficult thoughts and feelings that they might have otherwise squashed down and ignored. However, in order to move past these strong emotions, it’s important to acknowledge and accept them.
Some people find it useful to offload uncomfortable thoughts and feelings into a journal during moments alone, to help them more clearly see them for what they are and put things into perspective.
Learning to accept and observe your emotions is a powerful first step in your journey to enjoying your own company – and although it can be challenging and requires courage, studies have shown that doing so can lead to improved mental health and help to eventually bring you some peace.
2. Allow yourself to be present
In the same way that it’s important to allow yourself time alone if you want to start enjoying your company, another key step is to work on being more present (or mindful) – and not simply fill time alone with distractions that don’t give you space to think or feel.
Being truly present is about steering your mind away from the present and future, and instead paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, or surroundings at that particular time.
In today’s world, this may mean unplugging from technology, including smartphones and social media. Spending too much time on social media can increase feelings of loneliness by convincing us that we’re missing out – and technology in general can be distracting and place us in a state of high alert, making it difficult to relax.
Like being alone, being more mindful can also be tricky to start with because it encourages us to sit with thoughts and feelings that may feel uncomfortable – but embracing this discomfort can provide us with the clarity needed to begin to heal, break away from unhealthy patterns, and begin to live more authentically by engaging with activities we actually enjoy.
Our introduction to mindfulness and our article, 10 everyday activities that can help you stay in the present moment, offer some useful tips on getting started.
3. Practise gratitude and optimism
If you struggle with negative thoughts when you’re alone – particularly self-limiting ones – then it can be useful to find ways to reframe them.
There are a couple of skills that can help with this: gratitude and optimism. Both feed into one another but gratitude is about focusing on the good things in our life, no matter how small (such as the sight of the sunrise out your bedroom window each morning), while optimism is about learning how we can use every situation to our advantage.
For example, if you didn’t get the job you were going for, then rather than telling yourself that it’s because you’re not good enough, instead, you could remind yourself that it obviously wasn’t the right opportunity for you. Plus, now you have plenty more time and space to focus on finding something even better.
If we can learn to appreciate the little things and see life through a more positive lens, then time spent alone can feel less daunting and more opportunistic – and, in contrast, time spent with others can become even more precious.
4. Make time to learn more about who you are and what you enjoy
It’s possible at any stage of life to face the realisation that you don’t know who you are – for example, what you’re passionate about, what you enjoy, or what’s most important to you. And while this can be unsettling, it can also be incredibly exciting, as it can lend way to a beautiful journey of self-exploration.
Spending time with ourselves can be much more fun and enjoyable when we have a clearer idea about how we’d like to use it. For example, if you’re creative, you could pick up a hobby like painting, writing, or crochet. Or if you’re passionate about helping others, you could explore ways to give back to your community, such as through volunteering.
Learning more about who you are can also help you build a lifestyle that’s more compatible with your core values and beliefs. It could be the catalyst for a big move to the countryside or coast, or give you the nudge you need to start prioritising the things that matter most to you such as diet and exercise, and spending time with family.
Once we start living in a way that’s truer to who we are, things (across all areas of life) tend to start falling into place, and time to ourselves can often become something we relish, rather than something we dread.
If you want to delve a little deeper into understanding your behaviours, talents, and everything in between, check out our article; 10 practises for self-exploration.
5. Arrange a date with yourself
Too often in life, we wait for other people to do things with – and if the opportunity never arises for that, we let opportunities pass us by. But this can lead to feelings of resentment about being alone, because we can start to see it as a limitation, rather than a strength.
Therefore, in order to reap the full benefits of spending time with ourselves, we may need to push beyond the limits of our comfort zone and find the courage to take on more solo ventures.
Many of us may do this in small ways already. For example, it’s not unusual for people to prefer going shopping alone so they can take their time and look at all the things they want to look at without influence from others. And if we’re prepared to take the leap and recognise the potential and value that time alone can bring, we can extend this feeling to many more experiences in life, such as hobbies, travel, and days out.
While sharing meaningful experiences with others is still important for our mental wellbeing, time alone can be a chance to do exactly what we want, when we want, without having to answer to anyone else. This can be incredibly empowering and liberating – plus, we tend to be proudest of the things that we achieve by ourselves!
If the idea of a solo holiday or day out feels overwhelming, why not start small by arranging a lunch or evening date for one? For example, you could commit to going to see a movie by yourself or heading for a bite to eat at your favourite cafe, armed with nothing but a good book for company. Once we let go of the view that we can (or should) only do these things with others, it’s amazing how quickly we can start looking forward to dates with ourselves.
For more solo ideas, you might want to take a look at these 41 exciting things to do by yourself from Virgin Experience Days.
6. Try not to worry about what other people think
Something that can sometimes hold us back from truly enjoying our own company – particularly in public – is the idea that people are judging us for being alone or that our self-worth is somehow less when we’re not with others.
Therefore, it’s important to try and let go of any worries about what other people might think of you stepping out on your own. Nine times out of ten, even though we may feel self-conscious about showing up for a movie alone, no one is looking at us, and if they are, it might not be for the reasons we think.
It’s not uncommon for people to look at people on their own with admiration and wish that they too had the confidence or the courage to do exciting things by themselves. So, who knows, you could even inspire someone to take on their own solo venture!
7. Practise self-care
Time alone can also be the perfect opportunity to practise self care and build a more compassionate relationship with yourself – especially if you have a less than positive view of yourself or find meeting your own needs difficult because you’re used to spending your time pleasing others.
Quality time with yourself can be a chance to unwind, recuperate, and do things exclusively for you; whether that be cooking your favourite meal, taking an undisturbed nap, making time for exercise, or indulging in your favourite hobby. It’s also important for keeping us happy, healthy, and resilient – so we can be better equipped to take on whatever life throws at us.
Self care is something that many of us overlook when the busyness of life gets in the way. But without it, we can end up stressed, anxious, and exhausted, so it’s important to get in tune with your body’s needs and to learn to recognise when you need some TLC.
If you struggle to prioritise self-care, then it can help to start small and build up gradually. For example, why not try to spend just 10-15 minutes each day doing something that makes you feel good – even if it’s just reading a chapter of your favourite book? For more inspiration, check out our list of 33 self-care ideas.
8. Reconnect with your goals – or set new ones
Last but certainly not least, using time alone to boost personal growth can make it feel like far more fulfilling experience.
Being on our own gives us space to focus, daydream, get creative, problem-solve, and be more productive, which can bring us closer to our goals. It can also allow us to learn and grow through practises like reading – just look at the popularity of self-development books, which has boomed in recent years.
If you aren’t sure what your goals are, time alone can also help you create some and work out what steps you need to take to achieve them. When it comes to matters of the heart, listening to and following our own inner voice is often easier when we’re free from the influence of others.
To explore your wants and desires, you could try creating an inspiring vision board, which can act as a daily reminder of your goals, and keep you motivated in moving towards them.
Sitting alone with our thoughts isn’t always easy – but it’s a necessary step in learning to enjoy our own company.
The aim of this article isn’t to suggest that time alone is better than time spent with others or that we don’t need meaningful relationships with other people, as these are important for our health and wellbeing too.
Instead, it’s to remind us that a healthy amount of alone time can give us time to relax and recharge, develop our independence, learn more about who we are, and reconnect to our goals. It can also provide opportunities for healing, empowerment, and enrichment, all of which can bring greater meaning and purpose to our lives.