Some people are naturally happy alone. But for others, being solo is a challenge. If you fall into the latter group, there are ways to become more comfortable with being alone. Regardless of how you feel about being alone, building a good relationship with yourself is a worthy investment.

Being alone isn’t the same as being lonely

Before getting into the different ways to find happiness in being alone, it’s important to untangle these two concepts: being alone and being lonely. While there’s some overlap between them, they’re completely different concepts. Maybe you’re a person who absolutely basks in solitude. You’re not antisocial, friendless, or loveless. You’re just quite content with alone time. In fact, you look forward to it. That’s simply being alone, not being lonely. On the other hand, maybe you’re surrounded by family and friends but not really relating beyond a surface level, which has you feeling rather empty and disconnected. Or maybe being alone just leaves you sad and longing for company. That’s loneliness. Being alone doesn’t have to mean you’re lonely. Sure, you can be alone and feel lonely, but the two don’t always have to go hand in hand.

Twenty tips to get you started
These tips are aimed at helping you get the ball rolling. They might not transform your life overnight, but they can help you get more comfortable with being alone. Some of them may be exactly what you needed to hear. Others may not make sense for you. Use them as stepping-stones. Add to them and shape them along the way to suit your own lifestyle and personality.

1. Avoid comparing yourself to others
This is easier said than done, but try to avoid comparing your social life to anyone else’s. It’s not the number of friends you have or the frequency of your social outings that matters. It’s what works for you. Remember, you really have no way of knowing if someone with a bunch of friends and a stuffed social calendar is actually happy.

2. Take a step back from social media
Social media isn’t inherently bad or problematic, but if scrolling through your feeds makes you feel left out and stressed, take a few steps back. That feed doesn’t tell the whole story. Not by a long shot. You have no idea if those people are truly happy or just giving the impression that they are. Perform a test run and ban yourself from social media for 48 hours. If that makes a difference, try giving yourself a daily limit of 10 to 15 minutes and stick to it.

3. Take a phone break
Noticing a theme here? Cell phones and social media have undoubtedly changed the concept of being alone. Is anybody really alone when they can pick up their phone and text or call just about anyone?  That’s not to say that technology isn’t an incredibly helpful tool for building community and feeling close to loved ones who might be far away. But it’s easy to rely on devices as a way to avoid being alone with your own thoughts. Next time you’re alone, turn your phone off and stash it away for one hour. Use this time to reconnect with yourself and explore what it feels like to be truly alone. Not sure how to pass the time? Grab a pen and notepad, and jot down things you might enjoy doing the next time you find yourself alone.

4. Carve out time to let your mind wander
Does the thought of doing absolutely nothing unsettle you? That’s probably because it’s been a long time since you’ve allowed yourself to just be. Experiment by setting a timer for 5 minutes with no: television, music, internet, podcasts or books. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes, darken the room, or stare out the window if you prefer. If that’s too sedentary, try a repetitive task, such as knitting, dribbling a basketball, or washing dishes. Let your mind wander — truly wander — and see where it takes you. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t take you very far at first. With time, your mind will get used to this new freedom.

5. Take yourself on a date
They might sound cliche, but self-dates can be a powerful tool for learning how to be happy alone. Not sure what to do? Imagine you’re trying to impress an actual date and show them a good time. Where would you take them? What would you want them to see or experience? Now, take yourself on that date. It might feel a bit odd at first, but chances are, you’ll see at least a few other folks dining solo or purchasing a movie ticket for one. Sounds too daunting? Start small by sitting in a coffee shop for just 10 minutes. Be observant and soak in your surroundings. Once you’re comfortable with that, going out alone won’t seem so unusual anymore.

6. Get physical
Exercise helps release endorphins, those neurotransmitters in your brain that can make you feel happier. If you’re new to exercise, start with just a few minutes a day, then increase your activity by a minute or two each day. If you’re still uneasy about going out on your own, going the gym alone can be a great starting point.

7. Spend time with nature
Yes, another cliche. But seriously, get outside. Lounge in the backyard, take a walk in the park, or hang out by the water. Absorb the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Feel the breeze on your face. Thirty minutes or more a week spent in nature can improve symptoms of depression and lower blood pressure.

8. Lean into the perks of being alone
Some people find it especially difficult to be happy while living alone. Sure, it might be a little quiet, and there’s no one there to listen to you vent after work or remind you to turn off the stove. But living solo also has its perks. Try to take advantage of the physical and mental space that comes with living alone:

  • Take up all the space. Spend the day taking up the entire kitchen to cook a tasty meal you can munch on for the next week.
  • Spread out. Trying to get back into an old hobby? Get all your materials and spread them out across the floor and decide what you want to use for your next project. Not done deciding in a single day? No problem. Leave it out until you’re done, even if it’s a week from now.
  • Have a dance party. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Put on your favourite music, and dance like no one’s watching, because, well… they aren’t.

9. Volunteer
There are so many ways to volunteer your time in service of others. You can volunteer in person or help out remotely from home. Either way, helping others can make you feel good. Plus, it can help you feel connected to others while still getting in some quality alone time. Research volunteer opportunities in your neighbourhood. It’s important to find something that feels right to you. Make sure their needs are a good fit with what you’re willing and able to do. If the first thing you try doesn’t work out, it’s perfectly reasonable to move on and look for something else. Perform a random act of kindness whenever the opportunity presents itself.

10. Acknowledge things you’re grateful for
Gratefulness can boost feelings of happiness and hopefulness. It’s easy to take things for granted as you go about your day. Devote some time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. They don’t have to be spectacular, mind-blowing things. They can be as simple as that first cup of coffee in the morning or song you play over and over because it calms your nerves. Make a list — mental or physical — of the things in your life that you appreciate. The next time you’re alone and feeling down, whip out this list to remind yourself of everything you have going for you.

11. Give yourself a break
Self-reflection is a good thing. Harsh self-judgement is not. It eats away at your self-confidence and happiness. When that negative inner critic comes to call, turn toward that more positive voice that resides in your head. Don’t judge yourself more harshly than you’d judge anyone else. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t keep beating yourself up over them. Remember the many good qualities you possess.

12. Serve yourself a top-notch meal
No dinner companion? Eating alone doesn’t have to mean eating pre-packaged food in front of the TV. Prepare a fabulous meal for one. Set the table, use a cloth napkin, light a candle, and do whatever you would do if you were throwing a dinner party. You’re worth it all by yourself.

13. Find a creative outlet
What have you always dreamed of doing, but have put off? Don’t worry if you’re not good at it. The point is to try something new and different, to take a step outside your comfort zone. Take on a home improvement project. Learn to play an instrument, paint a landscape, or write a short story. Do it on your own or enrol in a class. Give yourself ample time to see if it’s worth pursuing. If you don’t like it, you can at least cross it off your list and move on to something else.

14. Make plans for solo outings
Find interesting things to do and put them on your calendar. Give yourself something to look forward to. After all, anticipation is half the fun. Plus, seeing it on your calendar might also help you follow through. Visit a nearby town and stay in a bed and breakfast. Attend a local festival or farmers market. Buy a ticket to a concert or that amazing art exhibit everyone’s talking about. Plan for something you’re really interested in and make it happen.

15. Shake up your routine
Even a routine that works well can eventually morph into a rut, leaving you uninspired. Think about your day-to-day routine and immediate surroundings. What’s still working for you, and what’s become dull? If you’re not sure, take a shot at it. Freshen things up. Rearrange your furniture or paint a wall. Start a garden, clean and declutter, or find a new coffee shop. See if there’s something you can change to pull yourself out of that rut.

16. Strengthen your coping skills
Life has its stressors, and bad things happen. There’s no point in ignoring this reality. But remember that time something bad happened and you figured out how to deal with it? That’s a skill worth continuing to develop. Consider how you coped then and why that worked. Think about how you can use that same mindset to cope with events that are happening now. This is also a good time to give yourself some credit. You’re probably a lot stronger and more resilient than you realize.

17. Nurture relationships
As you become more comfortable being alone, you might find yourself spending less time socializing. There’s nothing wrong with that, but close social connections are still important. Arrange to visit with someone in your family, a friend, or go hang out with the team after work. Call someone you haven’t heard from in a long time and have a meaningful conversation.

18. Practice forgiveness
What does forgiveness have to do with your happiness? A lot, as it turns out. Among other health benefits, the act of forgiveness may reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Forgiveness can take a load off your mind. While you’re at it, don’t forget to forgive yourself, too.

19. Take care of your health
Emotional health can affect physical health and vice versa. Taking care of your physical health may help boost your overall happiness. Plus, it’s a good way to foster a good relationship with yourself. Make eating a balanced diet, regular exercise and getting adequate sleep part of what you do with your alone time.

20. Make plans for the future
Where do you want to be in 5 years or in 10 years, both personally and professionally? What do you need to do to accomplish those goals? Writing this down can be helpful in guiding your decisions. Revisit this exercise annually to see if you’re on track or if goals should be revised. Having plans for tomorrow might help you feel more hopeful and optimistic today.