Everyone feels lonely sometimes. Varying lifestyles can make it difficult to spend quality time with your loved ones – perhaps you work evenings and weekends when your friends or family are most likely to be free, or maybe you and your partner have opposite schedules. Sometimes, though, we feel lonely despite being surrounded by people. You could be swimming in opportunities to socialize but still left feeling disconnected. But what if we could learn how to spend time alone, without necessarily feeling lonely? The good news is that we can! Building and maintaining rich social support is an incredibly important part of living a healthy and happy life, and feeling connected to others is a large part of what makes us human. Nevertheless, it’s not always possible to prevent loneliness from creeping in. When it does, below are a few tips for coping and making the best of your alone time.
Keep yourself busy
As social creatures, we spend a lot of time creating meaning in our lives through our relationships with others. However, our social circles and statuses are just one part of our greater identity as a whole – your interests, passions, values, and beliefs also make you, you. Alone time is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in an area or activity that piques your interest and truly excites you. If you’re unsure what these things are, dedicate some of your alone time to trying new things. You might just find a new passion! You may also want to join a group or taking a class related to one of these interests. The prospect of joining a book club or a recreational sports team on your own might feel out of your comfort zone, but oftentimes enduring a little bit of temporary discomfort can yield a huge payoff.
Make an effort to connect and stay open
Though it sounds like stating the obvious, one way to combat loneliness is by making a greater effort to connect with the people in your life and to keep an open mind about your social life in general. If someone reaches out to you who you never thought of connecting with, stay open to their friendship and try it out! Negative feelings like loneliness can spark a cycle of cynicism and negative self-talk, which can tempt us to isolate ourselves even more. When you’re feeling down it can be really difficult to reach out, but if you either don’t make the effort to connect with others or try to shut them out, there will be no one to combat these negative thoughts and give you the reality check you might need. If you’ve been feeling lonely, try to reflect on how much effort you’ve been putting in to connect with the people around you lately. Reaching out to someone you care about with something as simple as a quick phone call or text to ask them about their day can do wonders to lift your spirits.
Be kind to yourself
Remember that feeling lonely is completely normal and that there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way from time to time. Truthfully, even the most social and outgoing people feel lonely underneath it all sometimes. Even if you’re feeling lonely, unfulfilled, or disconnected, you are still worthy of happiness and connection. Alone time can be the perfect opportunity to practice self-care, focus in on what it is your life might be missing, and consider what you can do to make positive change.
Lastly, remember that even the happiest of us feel lonely despite full, vibrant social lives. The quality of your relationships is much more important than the quantity – make sure the relationships you put effort into to maintain are good for you – not constantly draining and leaving you feeling worse than before. Relationships are bidirectional – and if only one person seems to benefit form one, it might be time to reevaluate it. Loneliness can be hard to deal with, but remember that like all feelings, it is temporary and will pass. Adjusting your mindset to view your alone time as more of an opportunity for self-exploration can help you figure out what you might want to spend more of your life doing.