Life,  Medium

How to Be Happy Alone

It might seem impossible, but you can be happy with yourself, even when you’re all alone.

I’ve never considered myself a loner, per se, but I am by most definitions someone who would fall into that category. I spend much of my time by myself — I am currently single and, at present, I work from home every day. To some that might sound like a sad existence, but let me assure you that it’s not. I’m often happy even when I’m alone, and you can be too.

So what have I learned about being happy all by my lonesome? I’ve learned that the first step is to find a sense of peace with who you are as a person. I’ve seen this quote from Diane Von Furstenberg before, and it rings true no matter who you are or what your relationship status is:

The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.

Whether or not you’ve had long relationships in your past — romantic or otherwise — those relationships will never be as important as the one you have with yourself. So use alone time to cement your relationship with yourself into a positive one that will bring you happiness no matter who you’re with.

Spend Time Figuring Out Who You Are

We all encounter times in our life that put our beliefs in ourselves and in others to the test. While these times are undoubtedly hard, they also help us figure out who we are, and knowing who you are is key to being happy when you’re alone. You can establish your own identity and also identify the things that are intrinsically a part of you and shape you are as a person.

So take stock of who you are when you’re not in the midst of the hard times. Meg Selig on Psychology Today writes that knowing yourself is reliant on knowing your VITALS —values, interests, temperament, around-the-clock, life mission and goals, and strengths/skills. Identifying what you value in life, like family security, or creativity is crucial to knowing who you are. Just like understanding your interests and your temperament can help shape your knowledge of yourself, and your “around-the-clock” daily rhythms that come up day in and day out can affect who you are as a person.

Each person’s individual experiences and the work they’ve done on their understanding of self affects how they look at the world. It also shapes how they approach time alone — whether that time is an evening spent alone or a lifetime spent navigating singledom.

Spend Time Doing the Things You Love

After figuring out who you are as a person, the next step is to figure out what makes you happy. Take time to try out different activities — challenge yourself with something new and reward yourself for the effort by doing something tried and true that you know will lighten your heart.

When I first moved out from home, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. I’d gone from having hours a day with my family — a built-in loneliness blocker — to having more time with myself than I knew what to do with. It took a concerted effort for me to start trying new things and figuring out ways to happily spend time with myself. I tried new classes and activities all by myself, and I went to thrift stores and coffee shops alone to spend time doing things that I knew would make me happy. Soon I wasn’t having to overcome the anxiety of being alone out in the world — it came naturally and was something I looked forward to.

For many of us, the pandemic has changed our alone time from being voluntary to being necessary per state guidelines and lockdowns, but that doesn’t mean it stole away our happiness in being alone! Sometimes being forced to be alone can also force the development of new joys and experiences that don’t need another person involved to be fulfilling.

Spend Time Investing in Others

Just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you need to be alone — you get me? Solitude can be a beautiful thing, but it’s not healthy to be alone all the time. Even though I’m alone a good chunk of the time I still touch base with those I love, whether that’s in person, over text, or over the phone. Sometimes I even write letters and reach out that way — while you can be happy alone, it’ll lead to unhappiness if you are always by yourself.

If you’re wanting to make meaningful connections with those you love but are still feeling isolated, try sending them pictures of your life. Think of vloggers and bloggers who are popular online — they created a following because people like to see what they’re up to. Your friends and family probably feel the same way about you! So shoot them a text with a picture from your daily stroll, or a video of your pet doing something ridiculous.

Set up a regular time to get in touch and talk to old friends. My best college friends and I have semi-regular Skype dates. Even though we’re all alone in our respective houses (or rooms) it’s a way to stay connected and laugh, cry, or chat with each other.

You can be happy while you are alone and still make an effort to have relationships with those you love. Even if you’re single and the relationships you’re fostering aren’t romantic ones, they’re important. Don’t forget that.

Spend Time Watering Your Garden

But what if you don’t have an actual garden? Good news — I’m not talking about a vegetable garden or the rose bush you’re constantly trying to keep pruned into submission in the backyard. Think of your life as a garden, and keep watering it.

Relentlessly discover who you are, and then change your mind on a few things and discover who you are all over again. Experiment with every wacky hobby you can imagine, and then decide that only half of them are worth pursuing. Make a list of all the important people in your life and call one of them a day, even if your conversations are brief. Take time to water the garden of your life, and you’ll start to see beautiful fruit grow. That growth takes time, but it will lead to a happy and fulfilling life — even if you’re alone.

Previously published in The Shadow

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