when you want to cry, laugh instead
the magic christmas: lessons from my holiday tradition

the best ways to embrace solitude




"I love to be alone. I never found the companion
that was so companionable as solitude."

Henry David Thoreau

 


Personally, I enjoy being alone. I take great pleasure in a lot of things that involve spending time by myself, such as reading and writing. However, for some people being alone can actually be really tough (especially around this time of year when everyone gets all couple-y and spends tons of time with friends and family...). Some people feel as if they need to be with other people all the time. This is hard for me to understand since there are only a few people I actually like to spend a lot of time with, but I know that anything in an extreme form -- being alone all the time or needing to be with others all the time -- is likely to have a negative impact on one's life.


Since I try my hardest to push myself out of my usually preferred state of isolation and I know how hard that can be at times, I thought it might be a good idea to think about it from the other side, to understand how hard it can be for those who prefer to spend their time with other people surrounding them to break out of their comfort zones and embrace some alone time. Thinking about it, I began to wonder what it would be like to fear being alone, what it would be like to always feel as if someone else had to be around. I'm pretty sure it's a common thing; after all, people are meant to be social creatures. There's nothing wrong with being social -- in fact, there are many, many benefits to it -- but it's also important to embrace times of solitude as well. 


So, how do you go about embracing solitude if you prefer to be around people? And, even more importantly, how do you go about embracing solitude if you have a lifestyle that requires you to be around a lot of people (such as, say, your kids)? Is it even possible for some people to have solitude in their lives? All of these questions aren't easy ones to answer and I'm not even going to attempt to claim that I know the answers because, for one, I'm not any sort of social interaction expert and, two, I think the answers to these questions depend a lot on the person and his or her lifestyle. All I can do is offer my advice, as someone who likes being alone, on how to enjoy time spent without the noise and distraction of other people around you.



How To Be Alone -- And Like It


  • Learn to love yourself. Yes, this is a huge, HUGE request for some people. It's not always easy to be accepting and loving of ourselves, but when you're hanging out one-on-one with yourself, you better like who you're hanging out with. I find that the reason a lot of people don't want to be alone is because they don't like themselves, they don't find joy in spending time inside their own mind. If you want to be okay with being alone, you have to be okay with yourself. Do whatever you can do to get to a place where you love who you are, and then you'll have a great time when you're hanging out with just you!

  • Be fully present with others. When you do have a chance to spend time with others, remind yourself to really, truly enjoy it. If you enjoy the time you're spending with other people, you'll be able to be more open to the idea of spending time alone because you will know that you have not squandered the time you did have with others. It's often easy to get distracted and not really engage fully in social interactions, but I've found that when I but 100% into the time I'm spending with others, I'm a lot happier during the time I'm by myself.

  • Find alone-time activities. Most people don't like to be alone because they have no idea what to do with themselves when they're alone, but, believe me, there are tons of activities you can get involved in that will make your time alone worthwhile. One thing I'd suggest first and foremost is this: don't limit yourself. Okay, you might think you're not a good writer or artist, but when was the last time you actually tried to do those things? Or what about going for a walk or a run? You might not think you're athletic, but that's only in your mind. Try to be open-minded about ideas and, if you really can't think of anything you could do, ask other people what they do when they find themselves alone.

  • Embrace your thoughts. One of the most intimidating things about alone time is that you're alone... with your thoughts. Doing things and keeping busy all of the time is a great way to avoid thinking about things (especially things that might be bothering you!), but it really is a great feeling when you pause and listen to your thoughts without distractions. When you embrace what you are thinking and feeling, you can work towards accepting it and dealing with it. While this might not seem like the most fun thing in the whole world, it's really important to take some time to yourself to think about what's going on in your life and how it's affecting you.

  • Don't judge your solitude. Often when we're alone we think of it as a bad thing. We feel lonely or left out. But, remember, no one is judging your solitude other than you. If you think about it, you'll realize that you have the power to place any label on your alone time that you want to. Want it to be a sad, negative experience? It will be. Want it to be a useful, positive experience? It will be. Whatever you want it to be, it will be. The choice is yours to make your alone time something that makes you happy, more productive, and more fulfilled as a person.



Being alone, especially at certain times or in certain situations, can me tough. I'm not going to, for one second, act like it doesn't suck sometimes to be alone. It definitely can be a rotten feeling. But it is one of those things that can be turned from a negative into a positive with the right attitude. I'm sure there are some of you out there reading this and thinking, "Man, I would kill to have some alone time!" It's important to remember how valuable (and, for some, how rare!) being alone can be. When we have the opportunity to spend time by ourselves, we should embrace it and realize that sometimes solitude is a true gift, an awesome occasion to learn more about ourselves and what we're really all about.

 

Do you like to be alone or do you prefer to be with others?
How to you make use of (or deal with) your alone time
?

Comments

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Awesome post! And I completely agree with you. I am an introvert as well and enjoy being alone a big part of the day. I think it has a lot to do with your personality type whether you prefer to be with others or be alone. Go with the flow I guess and practice acceptance is always something you can do if you're bored :-)

I especially love what you said about not judging your alone time! I crave my time and then I'll judge it. Wonderful post, especially at this time of year when I need to coccoon to regroup for holiday events and gatherings!

Henri - Thank you! I'm definitely an introvert so being alone is easy for me, but I know it can be so hard for others, which is why I decided to write this post. You've brought up a great point about acceptance. If we all work to accept ourselves and our situations, we'll find ourselves a lot happier!

Eden - Thanks! It's hard sometimes not to judge that alone time, but it's really important to remember that there's nothing wrong with being alone.

So many people are afraid of being alone. And it' something I don't understand. On the other hand, you're right, being alone sucks at times. But I've come to realise it's when I need to go within instead of without.

If I couldn't have my alone time everyday though, I would die! Melodramatic it may sound but I feel I really would. I love the sound of silence.

I have a room in my house that is off-limits to all and when that door is closed, it's do not disturb unless the house is burning down.

When I decide to talk, I'm loud, righteous and some people say funny. And then I could go on for hours on subjects I'm passionate about.

I'm also one of those who hates small talk - either we're having a fun convo or we're talking about stuff that matters but kill the weather and other inane topics. I don't mind not speaking. Sure it makes people uncomfortable but that's their problem.

Maybe it's because I'm a people watcher. I love to observe the human.

Good post my dear - very on time for the holidays.

I so enjoy my alone time, I am never bored. Thanks for putting into words what I find so hard to explain. I'll be forwarding your blog to a few friends who don't "get" it ... or me, sometimes!

Really enjoyed this - I know people who need alone time and can't get it, I really wish I could help them find a way. I would not be sane without "me" time. I think your #1 and #3 suggestions are very important - the people I know who have trouble with taking alone time either struggle with loving themselves or just don't know what to do when they're alone. I like your idea of getting present when with people - to fully experience that in the present might help one let go of needing it (social interaction) when alone. Thanks!

Catherine - I agree that so many people have a hard time being alone. I'm like you in that, when I want to, I can be very outgoing and have a lot to say on things I feel passionate about, but there are times when I really just enjoy being alone. It's important that I have people in my life who are able to understand this. I'm so glad you liked the post!

Lee - I'm not often bored either. When I'm alone I can always think of a million things to do. I'm glad this post helped you and I hope, by forwarding it, some of those who don't get it will finally understand.

Linda - Thank you! I also feel bad for those who can't find time to be alone. It's such an important part of my life that I cannot imagine what I would do without my alone time. I really do believe that if you're present when you're around others, you're going to be a lot less likely to "need" to be around people when you're alone. Glad you liked that part!

Great post. I'v been lurking on your site for months and was compelled to join this conversation. I'm with you. I love to be alone, partly because I'm a writer. However, forced solitude is very difficult to accept.

Liz - Thanks so much for joining the conversation! I'm so happy you read the blog and can relate to this post as a fellow writer. It's not always easy to embrace forced solitude, I agree, but it can be made a lot easier if you are happy being alone (as us writers often are!).

Agreeing with many of the comments already here, I loved this post Dani. The advice you offer for getting the most out of time spent alone is spot on. I also really treasures time spent by myself and would go mad without it, but the key you and others here touch upon, is the ability to accept, value, and be 100% present to both time spent alone and time spent with other people. Remembering that alone isn't the same as lonely. To me, it's important to learn to be happy and fulfilled in your own company, simply because you never know what circumstances life will bring you - you might find yourself living alone (even with plenty of good friends, family, a loving partner around), or travelling alone, and it's great to be able to say to yourself, 'it's okay, I can accept this and find happiness in it.' Something else for people who find it hard to make alone time, or find it scary, is to start small and build up - even ten minutes a day is a beginning.

Great post Dani. Like you, I like being alone but like Liz commented forced solitude is hard and I think maybe that's a big part of the difference in how people deal with solitude - the feeling of control they have over being alone and whether its chosen or not.

I actually love alone time, but that's because I'm an introvert and I would imagine you are as well. It's not that I am not a social person or am overly shy...it's more that I'd rather spend time with myself than with a huge group of people (more often than not). It allows me to 'recharge' and 'refocus.' The one thing I don't do or recommend (nor do I think you recommend here) is be someone you're not. There are plenty of people who love being in social situations all the time and that's fine. And, like me, there are people who prefer time alone or with a small group of very close friends. Either is fine. Just try to make sure you live in harmony with who you really are as a person.

Hi Dani,

This is so true, and your list is right on. I love my alone time, too. Just reading this gave me a sense of peace. Thanks for sharing it! :)

-Miche

Catherine - Thanks so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed this one! It's so important to be present when we are with others AND to remember that alone doesn't necessarily equal lonely. I also find it very important to be happy and fulfilled when I'm by myself. I agree that, for those who don't like to be alone, it's something that would be great to build upon instead of just diving into tons of alone time.

Jen - Thanks! Forced solitude is definitely different than the kind we choose, but it's something most of us have to deal with at some point and it's important that we be comfortable with who we are in order to make the most of that time spent alone.

Nate - Yes, I'm definitely an introvert! Like you, I like to spend time with a small group or with one person, but I can also be very social if need be. I absolutely agree that you should never try to be someone you're not. If you like being around people, it's great to spend most of your time around others, but I do think it's very important for everyone to be comfortable being alone, at least for a little while.

Miche - I'm glad this post rings true for you. I also feel very peaceful when I'm reading, which I suppose is why it's one of my most favorite things to do!

For me, alone time is bubble bath time. It completely mystifies my husband but he understands that a happy Hayden is a Hayden with a bathtub!

Hayden - Bubble baths are great! They're a great way to take a little break from the world and just relax. Your husband doesn't have to understand why you need your alone time, just as long as he lets you have it! :)

Lovely post!! Solitude is a wonderful experience; and I especially like your point on 'embracing your thoughts'. You're so right; being alone allows you to reconnect with your inner self and gives time and space to your feelings and thoughts!! For me, my favourite alone time is spent gardening, or reading, or going for quiet and lonely walks...

What can I say, I love snow scenes.

I like being alone and I like spending time with others. When I want my alone time, it's funny how tough it can be to find it. Sometimes I like to be alone, but in public places or in a nice setting outside, but of, there's the chance somebody you know comes by. That's why I really enjoy those quiet moments here and there, and sitting on the bench in the snow looks like a perfect moment to me.

Solitude can be great but many times I prefer to share things with the ones that I love. I have felt sad when I wasn't with those who I love the most. I believe that is the codie in me. Difficult to get away from but necessary to work at being satisfied to be by myself.

Hi Dani - I was drawn in by the title of this post. Like you, I enjoy spending time alone, and for as long as I can remember I always have. However, I do have to be very conscious of my social time - as in, remembering that I need it ;) Being alone too much can start to make me feel a little restless. I spend my time alone reading, writing, reflecting, meditation, and, frankly, sometimes just staring out the window. Wonderful post!

Being alone is where I definitely get my best ideas. great insights Dani !

A.Simplicity - Thank you! It really can be a wonderful experience, though some don't think of it that way. Being alone definitely provides me with many opportunities (like exploring my thoughts) that I wouldn't necessarily have if I were surrounded by others. It sounds like you have some great alone time acitivities!

J.D. - Hahaha, snow scenes are awesome! I know what you mean about how, when you want to be alone, it can be a hard thing to find. I agree that the image above looks like a lovely bit of alone time (though, to be honest, I prefer summer and sand and heat! haha).

Syd - When I'm experiencing something great, I also love to be with the ones I love. And even when I experience something great alone, I can't wait to tell someone close to me about it. It's definitely important to be happy with yourself and to enjoy being alone, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to share life's experiences with loved ones!

Amanda - Like you, I have to remember that social time is important too. If I had it my way, I'd probably spend most of my time alone, which isn't always healthy. These days I make sure to have a mix of social and solitary activities in my life.

Rocky - Me too! I always come up with great ideas when I'm alone. Glad you liked the post! :)

I'm very social, but I love to be alone as well. Funny thing is, when I'm alone, most of the time it doesn't "feel" like I'm alone. Instead, it feels as if I'm tied into something bigger, as long as I'm present in the "aloneness," if that makes any sense.

Great post.

Lovely post. The only time you are really yourself is when you are alone.

Christopher - That's great that you like to be social and to be alone. I think that's the best way to be because you get a balance of both. I really like what you said about being present in the aloneness. That's a great way of putting it!

Steven - I feel that's so true. No matter how comfortable you are with someone else, I feel like you really are your truest self when you're alone (which is why it's not great when people don't like to be alone!).

Hi Dani,

You have given us some great things to think about! I often share this quote by Shakespeare with my clients: "Know thyself and to thine own self be true." Love that! The only way we can be true to ourselves is to 'know' our Selves...and that comes from, yep--"being" with our Selves; and inviting, allowing, and welcoming the silence and the solitude to unfold.

Thanks so much for your lovely blog and best wishes to you for a fantastic holiday season!

i completely agree with you! i also enjoy being alone. i only ever feel awkward about being alone when i'm out & surrounded by couples & groups of friends. & like catherine (which coincidentally is my second name!) i feel that i'd die if i didn't have my alone time every day.

Michelle - I'm so glad that this post gave you some things to think about! That makes me happy! I love that Shakespeare quote and think it's SUCH an important one. It's so important that we are ourselves and know who we are. Knowing and being ourselves makes us all much better people to be around!

Maraluce - I'm with you -- if I didn't have alone time at some point every day, I wouldn't be able to handle it. I do like being with others at times, but it's really great to be comfortable being alone.

Hi Dani!

I love to be around people, but I find my yoga mat the best place for me to find the solitude and peace to recharge and reclaim me. It is in the practice of asana and pranyama where I reconnect with my energy and spirit. I love this alone time. And the people who love me understand that how important this time is to not just me, but them as well.

Peggy - I've never tried yoga but it seems like it would be a great way to spend time alone relaxing. I agree that your alone time is not only important for you, but for those around you as well. Great comment!

Great tips Dani. I actually prefer to be alone. This however, has changed throughout the years. I used to prefer to be around other people but as I've gotten older, I prefer solitude.

My favourite form of solitude is sitting on a beach. It's not always easy as the beaches tend to be pretty popular but there's still a sense of solitude even when there are others around. I like to get there early in the day before the crowds. I'll either just sit there and contemplate life, read or write, then finish off with a swim (if it's summer).

Sami - I LOVE the beach too. I used to love it when I lived in California and there were some beaches that I could drive to that no one would be on. It was one of my favorite places to go and read and write. Someday I'll move back there because the beach really is a great place to enjoy alone time.

As much as I love my family and friends I really need my alone time to stay sane. Reading, blogging, yoga are my favorite ways to be alone. But even if I'm cleaning the house and it's quiet and no one is around to distract me - I enjoy THAT kind of alone time, too.

I am so focused when I am with other people or involved in other activities...I so value the moments of solitude, which include being rather than doing...

I like your picture and the message...important to keep the spirits in balance especially as the days get shorter and darker..
Thank you

I'm like you -- I enjoy solitude and activities such as reading and writing. At the same time, I understand why some people never want to be alone. And I agree that either extreme is unhealthy. I'm glad you shared your ideas. This post is timely during the holidays.

Joy - Like you, I definitely need that alone time to keep my sanity. When I enjoy the company of someone, I really do need to spend time with him or her, but it's also great to recharge when I'm by myself. I also find cleaning is a great alone time activity!

Patricia - That's so great that you can be focused both when you are social AND when you are alone. It's a great balance. I'm so glad you liked the picture and the message of the post!

Melissa - Reading and writing are definitely two of my favorite solo outlets. I cannot imagine my life without them. As you said, either extreme is very unhealthy and it's important to have a balance of time spent with others and time spent alone.

It is considered by a lot of people that "loneliness" is dire and a wan prospect of living by it. But, to define loneliness, theoretically, it is when an individual is insular to social interactions, which irrevocably changes the state of the environment. A person is detached from the outside life, and is able to practically immerse on the quietude surrounding that person. This article is simplified and very interesting to these latter conditions.

I'm really fond of your 5th point "Don't judge your solitude". It's easy to be skeptical whereas negative thoughts bicker people, and relatives are not around, and no one can read other's thoughts.

We got to see that independence can be highly valued by solitude. We grow up and personally change in this route.

Felicity - Thank you so much for your comment. You've raised some excellent points and really made me think! Independence is definitely something that can (and should!) be valued and it's important to realize that solitude does not have to be a negative thing.

I love having time to myself whether I'm cleaning, watching a movie, studying, or just sitting quietly thinking. My husband laughs when the women he works with just don't understand how his wife can go to the movies without him on my day off. I don't mind being alone, matter of fact if I don't spend some time by myself I tend to go a little stir crazy, and I'm not about to drag him to a movie or event I'm interested in and he's not.

Elizabeth - That's great that you enjoy time to yourself. It's such an important thing and some people don't realize how great it can be to spend some quality time alone. And good for you for going to movies solo! I love that! You raised a great point about doing things alone when someone else doesn't want to do them with you. It's never a good idea to drag someone to something and, if you're okay doing things solo, you never have to worry about needing someone with you!

I love having time alone. Some would even say moreso than spending it with others lol.

I love the time with family and friends very much but there is something very powerful about being in solitude that if you've never spent quality time alone you would never ever get to know.

I like what you said about don't judge solitude because sometimes friends and family can make you feel as if you're an outcast or weird for loving your own company so much ;-)

Marvin - I'm with you on that one! I really enjoy being alone and I agree that there's something very powerful about spending time with yourself.

I think you seriously just read my mind. I have been confused on solitude for awhile. I often have a hard time determining I like it or do I dislike it, but I realized that I am indeed a Loner and I want to learn to embrace it. I can certainly enjoy solitude,and I want to love it. I agree very much so that solitude can be rough sometimes, but like you said...With positive thinking,you can turn it all around. I have noticed that when I get bored, I feel lonely. If I keep myself occupied, then I don't feel lonely. Solitude sure is a gift. I'm trying to look at the beauty of solitude now, rather than looking at it as if it's some sort of disease. I do love being a Loner. I can actually get things done without worrying about who's going to back-stab me next or who's going to reject/break up with me next.

Great posting,and I really like that picture!!

Tyler - So glad you enjoyed this post! Solitude can be a tough concept to grapple with in relation to positive thinking, but it really can be a positive thing. Thanks for reading!

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