Have you ever experienced the deep desperation that comes with loneliness? You’re excited to finally get home after work, but as soon as you walk in the door and plop down on the couch, a darkness looms. Or maybe you’ve spent the past few days fulfilling one social obligation after another, and now you finally get a few hours to yourself—but you can’t enjoy them because immediately you feel empty. And you crave the company of others again.
I’ve been here more than a few times. It’s always a bewildering experience, as I’m a rather introverted individual and thoroughly enjoy my solitude. But sometimes, that darkness does loom and that emptiness fills me in a strange way. The only difference between the first time this happened and the last, is that now I understand the cause and the solution: the dire need for introspection and time alone.
Turn Inward, Not Outward
It might sound like a strange solution to feelings of loneliness or isolation, but spending time alone is oftentimes the perfect remedy. In fact, these feelings often signify that we’re in desperate need of that time alone. “People who are chronically lonely are disconnected,” Laura Carr, licensed marriage and family therapist, explains. “They believe that they are flawed in some way. They are looking for connection outside of themselves, but others will ALWAYS fail them because no one can meet that need. It is unmeetable by others.”
She goes on to say that “they need to learn how to be there for themselves… how to be their own best friend. They have to learn how to see their own inherent goodness; goodness that is not based in behavior, awards, looks, size, money, etc., but that just is. This is a mighty task for many that can take a lifetime and best done with someone (a good therapist, mentor, coach, clergy, spiritual teacher, etc.) who can assist them in turning inward, not outward. From the lens of loneliness, a person looks for others to treat them how they won’t treat themselves.”
Tips for Spending Quality Time With Yourself
“Everyone needs some time alone—some more than others. The benefits of spending time alone are that you can attend to your needs, self-care, and personal renewal,” explains Connie Habash, licensed marriage and family therapist. “When we’re busy in the rush-rush of life, between work, social obligations, or school, our own needs can be put on the backburner. Alone time will be most nourishing for you if it is intentional time that you set aside for your relationship with yourself. Binge-watching TV, although it can be fun, won’t nourish you. When you spend time with yourself, just as you would with a good friend, give yourself your full attention. You’ll feel more fulfilled from your alone time.”
Now, to determine how you can get the most out of your alone time, Habash says to ask yourself what you’re looking to get from others. Then, pick an activity that will help to fulfill that void. Here are a few examples:
- In need of peace and quiet? “Arrange for a special evening alone with a book in a cozy chair with a cup of tea, or a few minutes on a bench at a quiet park,” Habash recommends.
- Is it rest? “Besides getting more sleep, how about spending 20 minutes just lying on the grass or sitting under a tree?”
- Maybe you want to spend some time self-reflecting: “Get out your journal and ponder some questions, like what is most meaningful to you in your life, or what goals you want to set for the next year,” says Habash.
- Or perhaps you’re yearning to activate those creative juices. Habash says, “there’s nothing like getting out some paint, pencils, or pastels and giving yourself an afternoon to simply draw for the fun of it.”
Ultimately, the best part about being alone is that you can do whatever you want. Or, whatever your soul needs. “You can let your creativity run wild, without worrying about what anyone else things; you can listen to any music you want to; dance your pants off, or sing at the top of your lungs! Let yourself loose and have fun,” Habash advises.