"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?