In the age of online meetings, social media and virtual dating, it’s more important than ever to enjoy our time alone because we’re categorically spending more time solo than ever before. From avid solo daters and hot girl walkers to the alone time adverse, embracing moments of solitude is something we can all get better at. So why not try?
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But like anything, it’s something I need to get better at.
Whether I’m travelling the world or simply hanging around at home, for me, being alone has never been a difficulty. Although I’m an extremely extroverted person and I love making new pals, I relish my time alone even more than when surrounded by company.
To me, solitary moments are luxurious. I love going on solo dates, solo shopping trips, solo gallery visits and solo movies sessions – it’s when I put all my guards down and treat myself with whatever I please without having to worry about anyone else.
Sounds selfish, right? Well, I don’t see it that way and neither does psychotherapist and director of Rough Patch Affordable Counselling Amber Rules.
“Getting to know yourself - what you like, how you think, what happens in your inner world is a fulfilling, joyful, sometimes confronting experience," said Amber. "The more you know and understand yourself, the more connected and present you can be in your relationships."
Although the solo life comes naturally to me – partly due to my middle child status – I need to be more proactive with my alone time, rather than forcing my body to tell me when it’s exhausted.
Amber explains that this balance between our “alone time and togetherness is a dance that will change depending on what’s going on in our lives, the level of stress we’re currently experiencing, our physical and mental health status”.
No matter what’s going on in your life though, one thing is for certain: being alone is inevitable. So, according to Amber, it’s important to practice being solo especially if you find it difficult.
“Simply doing it and managing whatever feelings arise with compassion is a great way to practice,” she said. “If you find you struggle with it, ask yourself questions such as...
“What emotions am I feeling right now?”
“What am I telling myself about what it means to be alone, and is that really true?”
“What are my core values about aloneness, and would I like to change them?””
The idea of ‘girl gangs’, strong family units and soulmates have forever been championed as the things that bring meaning to life. Spending time solo doesn’t necessarily fit into this archetype, and so, it’s understandable doing so can elicit feelings of inadequacy.
“We might have some vicious core values about aloneness, such as “Only losers spend time alone” or “Only unlovable people spend time alone”,” said Amber. “You can learn a great deal about why aloneness might be painful for you by examining the values you hold or were taught around aloneness.”
Although I covet my alone time, I’m not immune to societal pressures that make me feel less than for not coupling up in a romantic sense. Amber explains that the idea that we “need to be in a relationship to be happy is toxic and patently untrue…[and] the idea that being alone is lonely, unfulfilling or something to be pitied is outdated and silly.”
Whether you’re single or in committed relationships, taking time to yourself can strengthen not only your relationship with yourself, but also with your current or potential partner. “Spending time alone allows you space to think, be imaginative and creative, work through ideas and problems, do enjoyable things like hobbies, and give you an opportunity to miss your partner,” said Amber.
Content creator and advocate for a child-free life Danielle Duncan engages in online discussions around spending time alone, stating that “loneliness isn’t the same as being alone”. However, this is something she used to really struggle to grasp.
“I loved being around people and thought there was something wrong with me in the times where I wouldn’t be out with friends. I used to always say I was lonely and felt this deep sense of unrest when at home on my own,” she said.
“I was married, in an emotionally abusive relationship, and over time isolated from friends and family. I learnt how to be by myself. At first it was horrible, but I think relying on myself taught me that I could not only survive it but also enjoy it.”
Amber said that people who have experience relational or attachment trauma can struggle with alone time.
“This might manifest as feeling abandoned or rejected, and some people experience extreme anxiety when they spend time alone,” said Amber. “If this is the case for you, it can be helpful to discuss with a psychotherapist so you can better understand why you experience this and ways to cope.”
Now, Danni said she sees her alone time as essential to her thriving.
“Loneliness still sometimes comes, when I feel a lack of connection, but I’m very happy to spend time by myself,” she said.
Whether due to genetic or situational factors, if you’re the kind of person who can’t think of anything worse than taking yourself out on a solo date, a good way to start appreciating your alone time is through small actions.
“Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Maybe it’s just starting with an hour or two,” Danni said.
Although she is content simply pottering around the house, Danni said for those who may need an activity to keep them busy that it can be helpful to plan your alone time around a set task without the use of screens. The main thing is to not “distract yourself from yourself,” she said.
“You develop a deep sense of self when you’re alone. It gives you the time and capacity to explore your thoughts, interests, beliefs. I’ve become a far better version of myself since embracing being alone.”