How to Be Happy Even when Alone


We all have trouble being alone from time to time. Whether we are single, live alone, or simply have difficulty tolerating being by ourselves, it can be a challenge to maintain happiness when unaccompanied. Often we may look to others to fill the void. However, there are ways to be happy even when you are alone including: becoming self-sufficient, increasing your positive outlook, and becoming more self-aware.

Part 1
Becoming Self-Sufficient

Becoming Self-Sufficient on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Individuals, especially extroverts (social butterflies who get their energy from being around people), may sometimes rely on others to help them feel happy or content. However, in order to be happy when we are alone we first need to become less dependent on others to make us happy, and more self-reliant. If you are an extrovert, you may benefit from doing things alone so that you can practice developing social energy with strangers instead of close friends. Fortunately, you can continue to be extroverted and social even when alone. Focus on developing your confidence by practicing and engaging in activities associated with being alone and delving into uncharted territory.[1] For example, if you always wanted to learn how to play an instrument you could start now. There are many tutorials online that you could use to start the learning process. Try doing activities on your own on purpose. Before asking for help or wanting someone to come along, try it on your own. For example, if you usually like your partner to accompany you to the grocery store, try going alone. Keep in mind that this will be uncomfortable at first and it may take a while for it to feel comfortable, but it will get better over time.

Becoming Self-Sufficient on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Understand the things that you enjoy and try completing them alone. Try doing things that you have never done before in order to build up your interests. If you are an extrovert you may have difficulty with this because you desire to be around people, especially when engaging in your interests. However, the more you practice engaging in your interests alone, the easier it will be. Keep busy. There are so many options for activities to explore including: art, dancing, writing, reading, playing an instrument, hiking, camping, taking care of a pet, traveling, and cooking. Use a planner to keep track of what you have going on for the week and schedule something in if there is too much empty time. Attempt activities while alone that make you feel social. The extrovert may like to engage in activities that resemble being social while being alone such as texting, chatting on the phone, or going on social networking sites. This can help you feel happier and more socially connected when alone.

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You might be used to spending a lot of time with others. But don't worry, you can easily adjust to being by yourself. You can use your alone time to explore a new activity that you've always wanted to do.[2] Maybe you've been dying to try yoga, but you've been too nervous to go to a class. Buy a DVD or download some videos, and you can find your zen while enjoying your own company. Try gardening. This is a solitary activity that can be very rewarding. You will find a new way to spend your time, and also get some beautiful flowers or yummy veggies as a reward. Consider an arts and craft project. You could try your hand at mosaic tiles, watercolors, or even just enjoy relaxing with an adult coloring book. You could plan or create something for your loved ones. This way, you are focusing on cultivating your relationships while you are alone.

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You can find lots of ways to get to know yourself better. For example, spend some time thinking about your greatest desires. The more activities you do alone, the more comfortable you may feel with being unaccompanied. Facing your fear of being alone may help it feel less scary and more like a normal occurrence.[3] Start out with short periods of time alone and work up to longer ones. For starters, try activities like going for walks, going out to eat, and shopping. Avoid drinking alcohol or using other substances to cope with being alone.[4] Know that being alone and being lonely are different.[5] You can be alone without feeling lonely.

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" Maybe you just moved into your first apartment by yourself. Whether you're missing family, a roommate, or an ex, living alone can be an adjustment. It's important to remember that there are a lot of perks to having your own space.[6] Did you get tired of your roommate constantly eating your food? Guess what? Now you get to eat everything you buy and cook. Maybe your ex irritated you by constantly leaving shoes all around the house. Now your home can be as clutter free as you like it. Or maybe you're constantly cold and used to live with people who hated cranking the heat up. No need to worry about that anymore. Set the thermostat to the temperature that makes you the most comfortable.

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Self-soothing is a prominent coping skill when learning how to tolerate being unaccompanied. If you are feeling a negative emotion (angry, sad, lonely), it is important to learn how to calm yourself.[7] Extroverts may benefit from soothing themselves because being completely alone can be especially uncomfortable for the social butterfly. Validate yourself. Instead of relying on others to validate us, we need to work on validating ourselves. For example, if you are feeling like you aren’t doing a good job at work or school, try telling yourself something that a friend might, such as, “Are you serious? You are great at your job!" The extrovert may rely more heavily on social approval for validation and would benefit from learning how to build yourself up. Remind yourself that it's okay to be alone! It is also okay to be alone while in public. Focus on your positive qualities and what you like about yourself. Understand your shortcomings also, but do not let them drag you down. Try journaling about your feelings. Writing about how you are feeling may help you to feel better and put things into perspective.

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Take some time to celebrate your good qualities. Reflect on your best traits. You can even add these to your gratitude journal.[8] For example, you could say, "I do an awesome job at work. I'm a valued member of the team." Or just look at yourself in the mirror and say, "You have kind eyes."

Part 2
Increasing Positivity

Increasing Positivity on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Sounds silly, but it's true! Introverts (those who get their energy from being alone) and individuals who have anxiety about social situations can improve their ability to be happy when alone by thinking more positively about relationships and the idea of being alone. Research suggests that people who are lonely may tend to think negatively by expecting a negative outcome in social relationships and thinking that they are already doing all they can to maintain social attachments.[9] Changing your thinking may help to decrease loneliness and increase your feelings of contentment while being alone. Think about all of the reasons why being alone can be a positive thing. For example, you can do what you want without interference and you can focus on yourself. Being sad or lonely is a mindset. Think about all the great things you have achieved in life and how many more things you can achieve.[10]

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If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts such as, "Nobody wants to spend time with me," change this thought to something more realistic like, "People that love me want to spend time with me but they are sometimes busy." Write a list of things in your life that you a grateful for such as: family, friends, food, housing, social support, etc.

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Self-acceptance and self-love is a crucial component to being happy while alone.[11] Think of yourself as a friend and focus on appreciating your positive aspects. If you are an introvert, remind yourself that this is your personality and is a completely natural and acceptable way to be! If you have social anxiety, accept that this is currently how you feel and that it is okay to feel this way; it is natural for people to sometimes feel anxious in certain social situations. Make a list of the things you like about yourself, what you are good at, and what other people seem to like about you. Keep this list in a safe space in case you get lonely while being alone. Ask friends and family to add to this list as well. You can also include a list of compliments and positive feedback you have received. Avoid comparing yourself to others, which can lead to feelings of disappointment, jealousy, and inadequacy. This occurs when we tend to see the good in others and idealize them.

Increasing Positivity on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Fostering healthy attachments can actually help you tolerate being alone and lead to an overall positive outlook.[12] If you feel secure about your connections, you may be less likely to feel unhappy when you are not with your loved ones. The introvert and the individual with social anxiety may seek a few close bonds (rather than many friends or acquaintances), so it is important that these relationships are strong and supportive (not abusive or dysfunctional). Make your interactions count with quality over quantity. When you do spend time with others make sure you focus on connecting and conversing rather than on disengaging activities such as watching television. Allow people into your life who respect you and treat you the way you want to be treated. Avoid individuals who make you feel insecure, threatened, or abandoned. Seek help if you are nervous about terminating those relationships. When you are alone, focus on the positive memories you have with the people you love. You could write down a positive memory and refer back to it.

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Understand what activities improve your mood. If you can’t think of any, begin by trying a new activity and seeing if it seems to make you feel better when you are alone. The introvert will likely already have activities that she enjoys alone, but may want to try activities that specifically lift the mood (such as exercise). Find out what activities people who are close to you enjoy and try these activities yourself. However, don’t worry if you don’t like something that a friend or family member enjoys. Try making a list of things that cheer you up. A list might look like: being in nature, listening to positive music, exploring new places, taking a bubble bath, going shopping, and reading an uplifting story. Play games. Try doing Sudoku or other brain teasers. These are challenging and really enjoyable. Play tourist. Explore your city with fresh eyes. On your own, you can walk at your own pace, pop in and out of shops at your leisure, and grab a snack whenever you feel the urge. Find a free concert in your area. Many communities and music schools put on free (or very cheap) performances. Go check one out and lose yourself in the music.

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Using stress-reducing mindfulness can help to reduce feelings of loneliness.[13] Mindfulness is about being in the here-and-now, or living in the present moment, appreciating it without dwelling too much in the past or worrying about the future.

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Use time alone to push yourself to do new things. Taking a step outside of your comfort zone can help you feel invigorated and make life exciting. Choose an activity that you wouldn't normally do and give it a try.[14] Maybe you've always wanted to learn to ride horses, but you've always been a little scared of their size. Sign up for beginner's lessons at a nearby stable. Have you always dreamed of being a writer? Start a blog. It can be about anything—your adventures riding horses, or new recipes that you've tried to cook.

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Studies indicate that lonely individuals may be less likely to use active forms of coping.[15] However, active coping such as exercise releases endorphins in your brain which makes you feel positive and happier. The introvert or the individual with social anxiety should practice exercising in public in order to be more comfortable in social environments (perhaps running on the beach, or lifting weights at the gym). Try engaging in fun exercise so it doesn’t seem like work. Such exercises include: walking, aerobic dancing, yoga, gardening, hiking, rock-climbing, biking, playing a sport (many you can practice on your own), jogging, swimming, skating, and martial arts.

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It's true that it can feel lonely if you're spending a lot of time at home by yourself. You can help change your mindset by changing up your location. You can make a simple change or a big move.[16] If you work from home, it's normal that you might feel isolated. Try working from a coffee shop for an afternoon. Or hit the library. Simply being around people might help your mood. Take a vacation. If you've been under a lot of stress lately, you might need more than just a visit to the local coffee shop. Start planning a trip. Lots of people travel alone. You can go on your own, or sign up to travel with a tour group. Start brainstorming locations.

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Research implies that individuals who are lonely or feel socially rejected may lose their sense of meaning and purpose in life.[17] People can be sensitive to social rejection or lacking a sense of meaning in life. We, as human beings, need meaning in order to make sense of our existence; this comes from having a purpose. Purpose can be many different things: a career, a family, religion, spirituality, helping others, giving to the needy, creating social change, healing others, and so on. Start by making a list of all of your personal values (such as those listed above). Then identify a goal or purpose for each value. For example, if one of your values is spirituality, perhaps your purpose would be to affect others in a positive and spiritual way. This could include becoming part of a spiritual community and spreading knowledge about your beliefs. Begin each day by looking at your list of values and goals, and finding a way to work toward. You could do something as small as smiling at a stranger in order to work toward your purpose.

Part 3
Learning Self-Awareness

Learning Self-Awareness on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Increasing your self-awareness can increase your ability to be happy when you are alone. The more you know about yourself and who you are, the more capable you will be at making yourself happy. Being self-aware begins by paying attention to yourself, your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Spend time checking in with yourself to see how you are doing. Ask yourself questions such as, "How am I feeling? What am I reacting to? What do I want to do?" You can also ask people who are close to you how they see you and what they think are your best qualities.

Learning Self-Awareness on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Writing down your thoughts and feelings on paper can help you get to know yourself through self-expression. You can also practice gratitude by keeping track of your thoughts in a gratitude journal. Take some time each day to write down something that you are thankful for. Make this a habit.[18] You could write, "I appreciate that my brother is only a phone call away." It could also be something as simple as, "I am thankful that awesome cupcake place opened up in my neighborhood."

Learning Self-Awareness on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Personality could definitely be a factor; some individuals are simply more extroverted than others. Being extroverted means you get your energy from being around others, while being introverted means you recharge by being alone. Loneliness can be a result of grief and loss, trauma, or self-esteem issues. Feeling lonely due to aging is common. Research indicates that people who feel lonely often tend to have more: anxiety, anger, pessimism, uncomfortable feelings, and insecurities.[19]

Learning Self-Awareness on How to Be Happy Even when Alone

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Feeling lonely can be a symptom of a larger issue such as depression. If you find yourself becoming increasing lonely or not being able to tolerate being alone, it may benefit you to seek professional assistance. Psychotherapy can be a useful way to understand yourself better. It can also assist you in coping with being alone. Contact your medical insurance provider for a list of approved psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists (for medication).