Back Button
a woman lies on a rock alone
by
Satya Chheda
,
April 7, 2022

The Perks of Being Alone

I’m at the point in my life where my time feels precious and every day needs to count.

I have learned that doing things by myself, even social activities without the safety net of a friend or a group of friends has helped me be more open to others and create more opportunities for personal growth.

Five years ago I got divorced. My sixteen year marriage lasted longer than it should have due to a number of reasons, but I’d say it was mostly because I was afraid to be alone. My younger self thought that once I found a partner, my life would be complete, and I didn’t think it was possible to be happy without a partner. I was so wrong.

My marriage, even during the early happy times, left me feeling more alone than when I was on my own. Looking back now, I realize that I had a lot of inner work to do, and unfortunately I needed to go through the pain of my divorce to realize this. I’m grateful now for where I’ve  landed in my life, and I no longer have intense pangs of loneliness. I’ve found a new focus, which is my career, my health/wellness, my friendships/family, and creating a nurturing home environment for my son. I also now have more time to spend on exploring outside interests like writing, food, and art. Friends who are moms have told me that they are envious of my regular alone time. I’ve learned to embrace that time now.

I spent most of the holidays this year alone, by choice. Previously, I couldn’t have imagined being by myself during the festive holiday season, but due to Omicron, it felt okay to be isolated. I’ve entered a new phase in my life which feels similar to when I started to travel alone after my divorce. I had traveled to London for a week by myself which included a day trip to Paris for my birthday and spent the entire day alone getting lost in the beautiful Parisian streets. Traveling solo helped me heal and realize that there is so much to look forward to in life even after a marriage ends.

The Research on Loneliness

A study on social isolation in the U.S. from the American Sociological Association showed that 1 out of 4 people feel like they have no one to talk to about their personal struggles. Similarly, a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shared that 22% of U.S. adults “say they often or always feel lonely, feel that they lack companionship, feel left out, or feel isolated from others.” This impacts many areas of life but especially mental and physical health.

Loneliness is one of the main reasons people seek therapy. A study from a medical journal showed that loneliness is linked with mortality rate. Being alone and feeling lonely are two very different things. Being alone is a physical state while feeling lonely is a psychological state. Many people experienced being alone during the pandemic. Some people embraced this time to pursue interests or work on themselves while others struggled mentally with the social isolation and found themselves feeling depressed.

Adam Grant recently wrote about people experiencing a sense of stagnation and emptiness during most of 2021 in a NY Times article, There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing. He describes this feeling as the “void between depression and flourishing.” I can relate to being in this state of mind over the past few months which had led me to slowly isolate myself more than I ever have in my entire adult life. The only thing that has kept me from being too lonely has been my work relationships at a fully remote company. I can’t imagine what this past year would have been without having work as an anchor to others.

What Loneliness Feels Like

In the dictionary, loneliness is defined as “sad from being aloneand “producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation”. Loneliness is an uncomfortable feeling that many of us want to avoid. It feels like being off balance and without any direction. It seems like everyone else is having fun and being connected to others while we are missing out. It makes us feel like we are not whole and that something is wrong with us.

I mentioned earlier that I felt alone in my marriage often. It’s hard to describe the loneliness I felt in my marriage and to pinpoint what was the exact cause of it. I questioned if it was coming from being in a codependent relationship or if it was due to a common situation of what happens to some couples over time or after having children. I now realize that my partner and I were not great communicators with each other but there were many other factors that I didn’t realize until going through therapy. Through the past few years of self work and adjusting to a new life in the pandemic, I have learned to be alone but not lonely.

The Perks of Being Alone

A Psychology Today article, Why You Want to Be Alone and Why That Matters, shares why it’s important to spend some time being alone. Here are four benefits to being alone:

  • It helps you become more self aware and reconnect with who you really are and what is most important to you.
  • You have more control over what you do and what you experience in life.
  • It allows you to be more creative and explore new ideas.
  • It can help you get things accomplished without distractions.

I have learned that doing things by myself, even social activities without the safety net of a friend or a group of friends has helped me be more open to others and create more opportunities for personal growth. Sometimes being alone can lead to boredom which then can lead to creativity. Once I’ve allowed myself to feel bored and not distract myself with social media or television, I’ve found myself to step into my “creator” mode. When my son was younger and complained about being bored, I ignored him and within a few minutes he would start building something using his imagination with legos or start drawing in his sketchbook.

What Can You Do Alone:

There are times when I’ve felt at a loss on what to do when I find myself alone all of a sudden with no plans. Here are six solo activities that can bring some sense of joy or satisfaction:

  • Take yourself on a date. Think about what you would do on a fun date with someone and do that same thing by yourself. Dress up and go to a fancy restaurant. Spend a day exploring art galleries or museums. Go watch the latest blockbuster or indie flick at a movie theater. Buy tickets to go see a performance, comedy show, or your favorite music act. The good news is that it is now possible to return to some of these activities that we’ve had to avoid during the pandemic.
  • Engage in a creative project or learn something new. I’ve noticed that once I start any creative project, I just lose track of time. This has ranged from writing posts like this to working on arts & craft projects, to creating new things related to my work like designing a learning experience. If you need structure, join a class. I’m a huge fan of the free virtual “FieldTrips” offered by CreativeMornings.
  • Declutter or clean. It’s so hard to get started on this but once you complete it, the psychological effects are huge, which then lead to an overall increase in quality of life and well-being. I set a timer for 25 min using the Pomodoro Technique and tell myself I will just declutter or clean one tiny area in my home. This can be just one kitchen drawer or one section of your closet. Sometimes, I end up in a flow state and realize that 2 hours have passed by and that I’ve decluttered above and beyond my original goal.
  • Get physical. Exercise produces endorphins, the happy chemicals in our body. This can involve something simple as a neighborhood stroll or something more active like a sweat-inducing workout. I prefer to exercise alone these days over hitting a gym class with others while wearing a mask. Sometimes your health insurance offers free access to membership based exercise apps. For example, I’m currently getting free access for a year to the AppleFitness+ and the Peloton app through United Healthcare. I also recently discovered the FitOn app which has so many options for classes and there is no need to upgrade the membership because the “free” option provides a huge variety of fitness classes with or without equipment.
  • Spend time with nature. Being near trees, water, or anything in nature has a profound effect on my wellbeing. I am not a meditator but spending time in nature feels like meditation to me. I tend to immerse myself in the sounds, smells, colors, and sensations while forgetting about anything else. Right before the pandemic, I went on a solo trip to Mexico and was quite content to sit alone on the beach by the water soaking up the sun and listening to the waves.
  • Create an optimal experience at home. Due to the pandemic, my weekend night time habits have changed in that I don’t feel the need to be out and about in the city with friends anymore. After a long day of work, I look forward to sitting on my sofa on a Friday night reading a page turner or watching a movie that will provide a moment of escape. It also helps to light scented candles, brew a nice pot of tea, or play your favorite playlist of music.

Being Comfortable in Your Own Company

I’ve gained some perspective going from being completely single to having a partner to being married with a family to being single again but with a kid. Each of these life experiences had their own unique benefits and struggles. The hardest part was adjusting to being on my own again after 16 years. I can still vividly remember taking my son on a planned vacation by myself during his spring break just two weeks after my husband and I had decided to split. I made the mistake of going to a family resort full of happy couples with their children, which was quite painful since I had not even fully processed that my marriage was ending.

I am lucky to have friends who have included me in travel plans and holiday dinners, or who have just checked in on me when they knew my son was away for an extended amount of time. I’ve also created a new community and support system of people in a similar life situation as myself. We all understand what it feels like to experience loss and grief as a result of a marriage ending or losing a partner. In the beginning of the new single life, many of us rushed to find someone to fill the void. I’ve somehow filled it with other things but it definitely took some time to adopt this new mindset.

I was talking to a divorced friend recently who is deciding whether or not she wants to get into a relationship with someone that she’s been dating off and on for the past year. She admitted to me that she is afraid that she won’t find anyone better out there. My question to her was, “isn’t it better to be alone instead of being with someone you are not 100% excited about?” I’m at the point in my life where my time feels precious and every day needs to count as I get older. I do feel pangs of loneliness every once in awhile but it’s nothing like I felt when my marriage first ended. I do think going for therapy as my marriage fell apart, pushing myself to do things by myself, and living through this pandemic has helped me re-learn how to be happy with myself and in my own company.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional reading and listening resources if you want to go deeper into this topic:

Interested in writing for our blog, The Reveler?
Email [email protected] with your idea.