Some people love spending time alone while others would much rather be around someone else at all times. Although it is nice to socialize with others, sometimes it's necessary to spend time alone. If you're someone who struggles to be by yourself, you might be looking for some hacks to feel less lonely when you're alone. It can be difficult to really take time in solitude, but the right mental tricks and attitude, you can make spending time alone much easier — and who knows? You might even start to enjoy it.
"People may have difficulty spending time with themselves for several reasons," Jennifer Sweeton, Psy.D., M.S., M.A. tells Bustle. "This can include concerns about missing out (sometimes 'fear or missing out,' or 'FOMO'), being extraverted, or suffering from a mental health condition (such as depression or anxiety). However, it can be beneficial to go solo sometimes, as it provides a break from external influences and allows an individual to reconnect with their values and goals."
Although human connection is important, there are some inevitable times when we will by ourselves, and it's best to embrace it. If you struggling being alone, try these seven expert-backed hacks to help you spend time alone without being lonely.
1. Get Off Social Media
It might sound counterintuitive, but unplugging can help get rid of that feeling of loneliness. "Research has shown that people who passively consume a lot of social media tend to feel more lonely than those who do not," says Sweeton. "This is because social media, such as Facebook, tends to portray people at their best, usually when on vacation or spending time with family and friends. This can give the illusion that everyone else is having fun but you, and that everyone else has a ton of friends they are hanging out with."
2. Spend Time In Nature
There's a reason so many great artists and writers spent their time isolating themselves somewhere in the great outdoors. "Go outside and notice the smells, sensations (such as wind), and sights all around you," says Sweeton. "Allowing your senses to become flooded with what is around you is a fantastic way to stay in the present moment. Being in the here and now reduces loneliness, because loneliness draws your mind out of the present moment and either into the past ... or into the future (which can create anxiety if you are worried about being alone)."
3. Do Something New
Find something to do in your free time that will help keep you on your toes and distract you. "If being alone leaves you feeling bored out of your mind, it's time to do some exploring and discover new hobbies and interests that can be done alone," Crystal I. Lee, Psy.D. tells Bustle. "You may find you love knitting, gardening, painting, or meditating. Once you find that new interest that totally excites you, you might even look forward to being alone."
4. Challenge Your Thoughts
Challenging any scary, unsupportive, or self-critical thoughts that arise can help make the process of being alone feel easier. "If potentially painful or challenging thoughts arise such as, 'I'm alone because nobody wants to spend time with me,' or 'What if I actually do end up alone,' try challenging these thoughts with other more moderate and supportive thoughts," therapist Annie Wright, LMFT tells Bustle. "For example, 'I spent time with my best friend the other weekend and I have a baby shower to attend at the end of the month. It's not true that no one wants to spend with me when I have things like this lined up,' or 'I'm alone because I'm choosing to spend time alone for my own self-care, not because I don't have other options.'"
5. Imagine You're Dating Yourself
Try imagining that you are dating yourself, and be deeply interested in and curious about cultivating positive experiences for yourself when you're alone. "Take yourself to the nice restaurant, go on a little adventure, follow your impulses and desires, and design a nourishing, spontaneous day or afternoon for yourself," says Wright. "By giving yourself attention, time, and nice treatment, you may find that you don't feel lonely even while you're alone."
6. Investigate The Source Of Your Discomfort
"So often when we are alone we itch to turn to our phones or turn on the TV or radio for noise, company, and distraction," says Wright. "Although this may not necessarily be bad, it can also prevent you from feeling your actual feelings that are surfacing now that you're alone." Instead of following your impulse to text someone or stream something, pause, notice how you're actually feeling, and try breathing into any uncomfortable feelings that may be arising. "If you feel emotional discomfort when you're alone, that's a clue that some important feeling is trying to get your attention," says Wright. "Pay attention to it with gentle and compassionate awareness."
7. See A Therapist
"If you can't stand being alone with your thoughts, considering seeing a therapist," says Lee. "Therapy is not just for people with mental health struggles. Therapy is safe space to begin untangling that mess of thoughts you've been avoiding at all cost. Avoidance isn't doing you any good. So instead of struggling to handle those difficult thoughts and feelings by yourself, do it in the safety of a therapeutic relationship."
Engaging in these habits can help make being alone a lot more bearable.