Alone time can be all types of things — scary, lonely, boring. But it can also be awesome, if you know what to do with it. This is especially true if you find yourself with an evening alone and don't want to watch TV. When this mood strikes, it's truly a rare and magical opportunity to do something different, and maybe even get a few things done.
Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a Netflix marathon, or a night spent scrolling your cable channels. We all need to occasionally zone out, sink into the couch, and partake in a few (or many) snacks. But sometimes it's nice to use this time to your advantage in other ways.
As licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney, LMFT, says in an email to Bustle, "TV is relaxing in its way, but it's passive." An evening alone — away from friends, social media, and TV — can be the perfect opportunity to try out other pursuits that "may be less exciting but can be every bit as satisfying." (Think along the lines of those hobbies you've been meaning to get into.)
TV-less alone time can also be the perfect time to work on yourself. "Spending time alone is a healthy thing to do, and it's an opportunity to cultivate and enhance [yourself]," teletherapist Natasha Sandy, M.A., Couns. Psych, tells Bustle. "For those with a confused or not-yet-formed self-identity, having alone time is a good way to explore your interests, discover your talents, and generally build confidence in yourself." Sounds pretty good, right? Then read on for some interesting things to try tonight.
1. Get Involved In A Cause
Take this evening to figure out your next charitable move. "Ask yourself if there are any social or political causes that might interest you," says licensed psychotherapist Dr. Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, FAPA, in an email to Bustle. If you can't think of anything, recall a time when something really made your blood boil. Do you hate it when people litter? Are you horrified by global warming? That's probably a good place to start.
2. Take The Time To Meditate
When else are you ever completely alone? Pretty much never. So use this quiet time to do some meditating, sans all the distractions. Spiritual teacher and author Heather Kristian Strang tells me it's even possible to make an evening out of it. Light some candles and incense, get comfy in your yoga pants, and find a few guided meditations online. It'll have you feeling centered in no time.
3. Practice A New Hobby
If you've been meaning to learn how to knit for forever, then this is your evening. "Having time on your hands means you can learn practically anything you want via books or the Internet — French, playing the piano, tap dancing, painting, or how to refinish furniture," psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW, tells Bustle. The world of crafts and hobbies is your oyster, so have at it.
4. Make Yourself A Nice Dinner
Go ahead and get takeout if it's your heart's desire. But might I suggest making a real, homemade dinner? Not only will you save money, but the process of cooking can be your whole evening. Get into it with a new recipe, or use some interesting ingredients. "Once you're finished, take out the good plates and sit down [to] savor each bite," Strang says. (I promise real plates will make your cooking taste so much better.)
5. Organize Your Life
Depending on what you consider "interesting," cleaning may not be at the top of your list. But it just may be worth it for the accomplished feeling you'll have afterward. "Choose one drawer, shelf, or closet that's a mess and tackle it," Whitney says. "You'll go to bed feeling satisfied and proud."
6. Work On Your Resilience
Spending an evening alone can be kinda, well, lonely. When that happens, it helps to view the night as an exercise in resilience. "There are many resilience and positive thinking skills that one can develop, specifically using time alone to exercise and develop these skills," says author and speaker Benjamin Halpern, in an email. Pick up a self-help book, or check out some resources online, and see what you can learn.
7. Send Out Some Handwritten Letters
One of the sweetest — and most unexpected — things you can do is send someone a handwritten note. I die when my friends send me postcards (because yay, real mail!). So go ahead and do this for someone else. "Tell them how much they mean to you and how your life is better with them in it," Strang says. Bonus points if you use cute stationary.
8. Get Started On That Book Pile
Not everyone needs a reminder to read, but some of us have stacks of dusty books lying around that are totally unread. An evening alone is the perfect opportunity to crack one open, and can even help get you back in the habit. "If you haven't picked up a book since you were in school, you may find that you really like reading now that you're doing it by choice rather than because someone told you to," Whitney says.
9. Plan Your Next Vacation
Pop online and start planning your next vacation — even if you won't be going for awhile. "If you can't afford the trip right now, the process is still fun," Whitney says. So go ahead and check flight prices, scroll through some cool hotels, or look up European backpacking tips. Just see what you can see.
10. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Sure, you could stay home in you sweatpants and call it night. Or, you could venture forth into the world. Go to a class, see a movie by yourself, or hit up an gallery all by your lonesome. "This type of experience does more than rejuvenate you the way a nap or a massage would," says relationship and etiquette expert April Masini, in an email to Bustle. "It expands your experiences and your intelligence." And what could be better than that?
12. Take A College Course
You aren't going to learn all there is to know about political philosophy in one night, but you sure can get started. "Take some college courses to get a degree or just learn more," Koenig suggests. Or try iTunes U to listen in on some courses you'd probably never take in real life. Then consider yourself smarter for the experience.
13. Follow One Of Your Role Models
Do you have a favorite author? Koenig suggests reading everything he or she has written. Or what about a director? Have yourself a movie night and watch a few of their films. You can do this for pretty much anyone you admire — artist or otherwise. Look them up, research their life, and soak up as much of their work as you can.
14. Do A Quick DIY Project
Yes, you can decoupage an entire dresser tonight. But if you only have the evening, why not work on something a bit more manageable? "I always try to find a small project that will not add stress in trying to complete it," therapist Querida Lugo tells me. "One evening I taught myself crochet [by] watching YouTube videos." How relaxing is that?
15. Fix Something In Your Apartment
If you can't be bothered with anything else on this list, then I suggest fixing something. As therapist Mendi Baron, LCSW, tells me, there is always something that can be done around the house. Think along the lines of de-sticking an old window, or painting an ugly bookshelf. Getting that little thing done (because hey, you have the time) can make you feel quite accomplished.
In fact, anything on this list will make you feel accomplished. Choose one or two and you'll be all set to survive (and even enjoy) your time spent alone.
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