A year or so ago, I read a poem that really resonated with me: “Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.” This one-liner, which is written by Rupi Kaur and featured in her best-selling book Milk and Honey, sums up the importance of spending time with yourself. While we often mistake loneliness for needing time with and attention from others, it’s actually the perfect indication that we could benefit from focusing inward.
But the thing is that so many of us don’t like to do that. Time alone makes us feel sad or weak or “lonely.” We’d rather go out with friends, grab lunch with coworkers, catch up with family—all of which can also benefit us. But amid COVID-19, much of that just isn’t possible right now. Some of us are lucky enough to have the company of family members or roommates while we self-isolate at home. Others, though, are completely alone. This can prove challenging, but it IS possible to spend time alone without feeling lonely. And we’re going to help you do it.
Reap the Rewards of Spending Time Alone
As I mentioned above, some of us don’t feel all that comfortable spending time alone. Instead, we prefer the company of good friends or family. But the thing is that me-time is incredibly beneficial. And it doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or commitment for you to reap the following rewards explained by Licensed Professional Counselor Lakiesha Russell:
- Boost in confidence. “Being able to enjoy your own company helps you to be comfortable in who you are and acknowledge those things that may not be so great but makes us unique,” Russell explains.
- Increased self-awareness. You’ll also discover more about who you are, Russell says: “Spending time by yourself allows you to feel comfortable to examine you as a person. You’re able to reflect on your thoughts and behaviors in situations which can increase your awareness of why you think and do the things you do.”
- Improved self-value. And lastly, you’ll learn to value yourself and your standards. “Being comfortable spending time alone increases your ability to understand that you don’t need to be with someone for validation and that you won’t cheat yourself when pursuing dating or marriage,” Russell explains.
3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Me-Time
Now let’s talk about how you can make the most out of your me-time. First and foremost, you have to believe in the value of spending time alone (which we just discussed) and cast those initial judgments aside. “Alone time has gotten a bad rap,” Eileen Purdy, an anxiety therapist, explains. “FOMO quickly sets in for most and alone time turns into feelings of loneliness or feeling left out. And since we haven’t taught ourselves how to counteract those associations, we fall for it hook, line and sinker.”
“In order to avoid being bummed out by me-time, it’s important to first buy into the idea that time alone serves a vital purpose,” she says. “If a person doesn’t believe that, alone time will always be avoided or fraught with discomfort when it happens. Probably the most compelling reason to spend time by oneself is that it builds our capacity to find comfort within ourselves. It stops us from constantly looking outside ourselves for others to take care of us, help us feel good, or feel accepted. It really helps us become fully confident and at peace with ourselves.” She goes on to offer a few simple pointers for making the most of your time alone:
1) Turn your devices off. Purdy recommends you put your devices at a distance so you won’t be tempted to check them. We can all benefit from logging off for a while, and the perfect time to do this is when you’re spending valuable time with yourself. Now, of course, you can FaceTime your friends and family and stay connected during this time. But also challenge yourself to really soak up this alone time for part of your day.
2) Do something worthwhile. “This isn’t necessarily a break, especially in the beginning,” Purdy explains. “Although it would be ideal to combine your alone time with some sort of relaxation or creative time, at first use this time to get work done, do a project, or take care of business.”
3) Track your progress. Purdy’s last tip is to notice and analyze your feelings. “When you’re alone, if you start feeling anxious or uneasy, make a mental note of it before breaking your me-time,” she says. “Noticing your unease will help you see your progress as you continue to practice time alone. It is not an indication that you can’t handle it or that it won’t work for you. Feeling uncomfortable at first can be expected and will slowly diminish over time. The key is to keep taking baby steps.”