SparkNotes Blog

How to Be Alone Without Being Lonely

Truth: If given the choice between eating at a restaurant alone and casually prancing into the hellscape of their nightmares, I’m going to guess 80% of society would choose the hellscape.

The taboo on doing things all by our lonesome makes me sad, guys. I partially blame the outcast/loner character trope, but I mostly blame the forever alone meme. And that’s why I’ve taken to the keyboard today to explain how life can be ONE THOUSAND TIMES BETTER if you just power down the tiny person in your brain who has a conniption every time you read the word “alone.”

Don’t get me wrong—hanging out with acquaintances, partners, frenemies, etc. = all GREAT. But relying only on others to make you happy isn’t actually that great in the long run. Because first thing’s first: The most important relationship you’ll ever have is the one you have with yourself, and you actually need to build and strengthen it just as you would in a relationship with any other human being.

I’ve had a hard time finding someone who sums it up more simply or beautifully than Canadian poet Rupi Kaur in her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey:

in love
with your solitude

It’s NOT easy to go from being anxious about doing things alone to falling in love with your solitude. If you’re not used to it, it won’t be cake at first. It’ll be a little weird. But I’m tellin’ you: Spending time alone can be one of the best things you’ll EVER do for yourself, besides keeping ice cream stocked in your freezer at all times. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Figure out what you want to do. Key words: what you want. Because when you’re alone, you’re not forced to compromise. Watch a movie in bed! Listen to an entire album on full volume! Do the crossword with a strong cup of coffee, if you’re my grandpa! The key is making the conscious decision to dedicate a chunk of your day to doing something that makes you—and only you—happy.

Step 1.1: If you want to take alone time to the next level, go on a solitary field trip (hiiiiighly recommended). An obvious starting point is the movies, imo. What better activity to experience alone than sitting in a pitch-dark, oversized movie cave and escaping reality for two-plus hours? The first time I saw a movie alone, I lied and said I was going with friends because of society’s whole “alone = sad” thing. It was awesome, and I don’t lie about it anymore. There’s no one there to worry about but yourself and your Raisinets.

Next, try heading to a café with a book, or something to draw on, or nothing at all if you’re feeling really adventurous, and take your sweet, sweet time to ingest something bready or caffeinated.

Another recommendation: alone time at museums! I have a friend who likes to go to them and make anthropological observations about people looking at the art. I call it gaze-ception. Respect.

Step 2: Check in with yourself. Whatever you end up doing by yourself, make sure you’re mindful of how you’re feeling. You’re allowed to feel anxious, but ask yourself why. Is it because you’re not used to being in public spaces by yourself? You’ll love it with practice. Remind yourself that it takes practice. Are you feeling awesome? GREAT. Keep doing it.

Having no one else to worry about means you can devote every second of this time to your own feelings in the name of #selfluv.

Step 3: Figure out that you’re cool to hang out with. THAT’S RIGHT. And the moment you start to realize that no one actually knows you better than you know yourself, you, my friend, have won the game.

Step 4: Repeat steps one to three whenever you want for the rest of eternity, for the following reasons:

You’ll get to figure out who you are. Hear me out if you haven’t already barfed all over that cliché. Relationships with other people will teach you a LOT about yourself (e.g., how much patience you really have, how willing you are to compromise on which shape of pasta to cook for dinner)—but spending time with yourself will probably teach you more. You’ll be able to figure out what you like and don’t like without fear of judgement, expectations, standards, or someone eating all your Raisinets.

You’ll be more confident when you do hang out with other people. The more you know who you are and what you like, the more comfortable you are with yourself. Which means you’ll be more comfortable around everyone else. 🔑🔑🔑

I remember the first time I spent an entire day with myself, and it was the best day I’d had in a long time. I made coffee and french toast for breakfast, read a little bit of a book, got a haircut, and then saw a movie. That day made me feel like the lovechild of Tom Haverford treating himself and JGL in this dance sequence.

In the words of Rupi Kaur, again:

are your own
soul mate.

(Idk Rupi, you might be my soulmate.) Really, though, the concept of searching for a “better half” has always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. You are a whole person all by yourself, and being cool with hanging out alone is a huge deal. Enjoy your own company, lovely people. I promise it’ll make all the difference.

Do you loooove alone time? Do you avoid it like the plague? Drop your own advice in the comments!