“Sometimes you need to take a break from everyone and spend time alone to experience, appreciate, and love yourself.” – Robert Tew
Loneliness is something that everyone struggles with time and again, whether they have loads of friends, or not. Everyone, at some point, finds themselves alone, looking aimlessly out a window or at a wall, encased in darkness, surrounded by silence. And everyone surely knows the feeling of picking up your phone, expecting to see a message, only to see an empty lock screen. While being alone can be a comforting time of solitude, it can quickly turn on it’s head and fill your chest with a vast emptiness. At least, for me.
Just the other night, I was alone in my dorm doing homework when a wave of loneliness washed over me. It didn’t make sense—I had just been on a week-long trip with my friends, and earlier than day I was hanging out at my boyfriend’s house with his parents, and then we visited my parents, and then my boyfriend and I hung out even more. Basically, I had been preoccupied with people that I loved dearly for over a week; it wasn’t like I had been alone for an extended amount of time and needed someone to talk to. But, I felt lonely anyways, and that’s when I began asking myself “why”—the greatest question to ask yourself in those moments, in my opinion.
It’s quite annoying, really, how common loneliness is. According to Fortune.com, 56% of 20,000 Americans interviewed feel that no one really understands them, and 40% feel that they have no friends, or that their relationships aren’t meaningful. Young people, too, have a more likely chance of feeling lonely.
This needs to change.
There’s a quote I like that goes, “If you enjoy the person you’re with when you’re alone, how can you ever be lonely?” The key to conquering loneliness, I believe, is learning how to first love yourself, but not just your outward appearance or your place in the world, but all of your quirks. You must love all of the things that make you, you.
When you are alone, your size doesn’t matter, and neither does the amount of friends you have. What matters is who you are when you’re alone. What do you like to do? What thoughts race through your head? Who are you, truly? It may sound quite morbid, but I believe we are always truly alone, so if we can’t accept those lapses in time when the space around us is quiet and absent of any voice but out own, what are really doing here?
Of course, just loving yourself and instantly feeling okay isn’t really a thing—anyone experiencing loneliness knows this. It takes time and practice to fully appreciate who you are. So, here are some things that you can do to help you feel a little more okay with being alone.
1. Stop fearing along time
I don’t know about you, but the thought of being alone terrifies me. I wake up in the morning and think to myself, I’m going to be alone tonight, and my body tenses. I do everything in my power to ensure that I’m not alone, like inviting people to dinner to attending campus events. While it’s good to be involved and to go out with people, it’s also important to realize that being alone can be (or is) a great thing.
A friend told me once that to really make your alone time more exciting, you should do things that make you happy and also strengthen you as a person. That way, alone time isn’t just pointless YouTube watching or moping around, which leads me to my next tip…
2. Begin a personal project
Write a book, paint a picture, photoshop things, begin a business (marketing, editing, etc.), make things to sell on Etsy, finally read that book, start a blog, plan out your future, start a challenge… anything that excites you or immerses you, really. Do things that strengthen you as a person, and do them only when you’re completely alone. And play your favorite music while you’re at it. This way, time alone turns into a good thing, something you might even look forward to.
Time alone, in theory, is the absolute best way time to get things done you’ve been putting off, anyway.
3. Start exercising, or get up and moving
This may sound repetitive, or at least, I’m sure you hear this a lot. But, it’s true; exercise is great for you, and will help get your positive juices flowing. In fact, according to the book Train Your Brain, Change Your Mind by Sharon Begly, voluntary exercise creates new brain cells, and exercise has elevated moods of individuals with Depression. Running has been looked at as a “miracle drug” by many doctors. So, you get the idea—exercise is not just wonderful for our bodies, but excellent for our minds.
Whether it’s just a little bit of yoga at night, or a run in the afternoon, or some intense weight-lifting every day, or even just a morning stroll at various times… getting up and moving will help you feel happier, healthier, and you won’t have much time to sit around and reflect on loneliness. In fact, try to workout (it doesn’t matter how) just three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, and simply feel the difference in your mental health. It’ll amaze you.
4. Call your mom, or someone you love
The truth is, we don’t call our moms enough, or anyone else, really. We rely on texting, and I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my phone aimlessly texting many different people all at once for hours, it gets stressful and feels a little bland, maybe a bit boring. So, start calling people, randomly, spontaneously, and ask them how they are, make them feel good. Your mom will appreciate it, at least, and you too will feel a whole lot better. And, hey! Now you have someone to speak with!
Gratitude has helped me tremendously with loneliness. By simply looking around and noticing all the things or people you do have in your life (yes, your cats count), you can stop focusing on the lack as much. Why the lack may be helpful to focus on sometimes, as it may guide you through your feelings and assist you in finding a reason or possibly a solution, most of the times focusing on the lack will only dig you into a deeper hole. So when the feelings of loneliness appear while you’re studying alone in your room, feel grateful for the cat on your lap, the warm cup of tea at your side, the soft music playing, and the cozy, safe space you’re in. There are so many wonderful things to feel grateful for, so many in fact that loneliness may subside into the background without your knowledge.
6. Treat yourself to a date
Whether it’s going to your favorite coffee shop and buying your favorite drink, or going to a bookstore and buying yourself a book, etc., taking yourself out can be a magical thing. Oftentimes, we want to do things, but we wait until someone is available. But, really? Just go now. I mean, what are you really waiting for? A bit of small talk with someone you hardly know? Good company, maybe? The fact is, you are already in the best company now, with yourself.
You don’t need anyone else to make you happy. All you need is you. (no, really, we don’t need human interaction as much as we think we do) But, if you’re like “Brittney, no, I need human interaction! I hate being alone!”, then, well…
7. It’s time to change your thoughts/patterns by standing firm in yourself
We have the power to rise up out of difficult, weighing thoughts. Of course, sometimes we need to simply allow the waves to carry us, dipping down and rising up in time, but sometimes we can prevent the dip by standing tall, and firm, and embracing the chaos, the change in emotions, the fear of being alone. When you pick up your phone, only to see an empty lock screen, set down your phone and look around. As I mentioned before, feel grateful for this moment, tap into your inner confidence and self-worth, and know that you can do this, because you can.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that it really up to us to dig ourselves out of the pit of loneliness. While being around people may momentarily create a feeling of wholeness and love, it’s not as sustainable of finding your power and standing firm in it, so firm that the waves barely cause you to tilt. It may be uncomfortable, uneasy, and even a bit lonely, but once you find that power, you will rise. It will take time, but you will.
The journey starts from within.