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32 Ways To Be Happy Alone & Enjoy Your Own Company

Kelly Gonsalves
Author:
January 4, 2023
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
January 4, 2023
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If you're someone who thrives on the company of others, alone time can sometimes feel impossible to truly enjoy. But being alone is a natural part of the human experience; we'll all be alone at least sometimes, whether by choice or by circumstance.

Moreover, our relationship with ourselves is the only one we're guaranteed to have for the entirety of our lives—and so it's worth nurturing it so we're able to enjoy our own company as much as we do that of our friends and lovers.

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Ahead, we dive into the psychology of being happy alone and advice from experts on how to get there.

The psychology of being happy alone.

All people require some amount of alone time. It's when we are alone that we're able to fully hear our own thoughts and feelings, to process the events and experiences from the day, and to assess our current needs and tend to them. Alone time gives us the space to identify what is our own, separate from what is coming from our environment and from others.

This self-awareness and self-tending are vital to our daily functioning, as being disconnected from our own feelings and needs often comes at the cost of our health and well-being. It's how people can go months being exhausted and stressed at work before realizing they're suffering from burnout or how a person in a toxic relationship will continuously abandon their own needs in pursuit of pleasing a partner who's objectively not good for them. It's why therapists say even the healthiest couples need alone time away from each other.

According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., some people may be more predisposed to enjoying solitude. "Personality factors, such as a tendency toward extroversion, may surely contribute to a person's ability to feel happy when they're alone," she tells mbg. That is, people high in extroversion (one of the so-called "Big Five personality traits") may be more likely to struggle with alone time than introverts.

That said, being able to enjoy being alone is a skill that all people benefit from. All relationships inevitably come and go, and so when we attach our happiness to other people, we relinquish power over our sense of contentment to something external and temporary.

According to licensed therapist Alyssa Mancao, LCSW, the idea that our happiness depends on something outside of us is known as emotional dependence. "It is when our feelings and self-worth are based on external factors such as how another person feels about us," she writes at mbg.

The opposite side of the coin—and the goal, according to Mancao—is emotional independence. "People who possess emotional independence are able to cultivate a sense of happiness and peace despite what may be happening in their lives and relationships. This is not to say that they are never affected by things that happen outside of them, but they still have a sense of who they are and can fulfill their own needs internally," she explains.

Being alone without friends.

Being alone simply means you are physically by yourself—but it doesn't necessarily mean you are lonely, which refers to a specific type of distress caused by the feeling that you're lacking the friendships and relationships you crave.

While it's important to be able to enjoy being alone, we still need to have meaningful relationships in our lives—including friends, family members, a larger community, co-workers, and/or romantic partners. "Even true introverts tend to thrive when they've a special someone (or two) to connect with," says Manly.

Humans are social creatures. We're naturally drawn to community and seek interpersonal connection, in part because it's necessary for our health and survival. "Loneliness and isolation can worsen physical pain, depression, and immunity," psychiatrist Nina Vasan, M.D., MBA, previously told mbg. "It increases the risk of diseases1 like infections, heart disease, high blood pressure, and dementia."

In other words, our well-being stems from a healthy balance of both togetherness and solitude—interdependence, as it's sometimes called. So, if you're feeling lonely because you're legitimately lacking meaningful connection, learning how to be happy alone could help, but forging new friendships may be just as important.

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Being alone without a partner.

Many of us live in a culture that hyper-focuses on romantic relationships as the main and most important way to connect with others, and in that context, being single can feel like a curse wherein you're doomed to be lonely and miserable until you can find yourself a partner.

In reality, there are so many ways to enjoy connection, intimacy, care, and affection with others outside of just romantic relationships. Deep friendship, family relationships, professional and creative partnerships, and engaging with a larger community can all be sources of meaningful connection with others if we open our hearts to it.

There are also many benefits to being single that are less accessible within the context of a relationship. "When you are single, you are empowered to make your own choices and hold yourself accountable for those choices," psychoanalyst and relationship expert Babita Spinelli, L.P., previously told mbg. "You learn to forge your own way, and that elevates inner confidence and resilience."

Being single can truly be a powerful catalyst for personal growth if we're willing to truly engage with our solitude rather than constantly trying to escape from it.

Being alone at home.

If you're living alone or in a period of time when you're home alone often, you may find yourself feeling lonely more often or in a particularly pronounced way—perhaps in a way that surprises you. In fact, some research suggests people who live alone may be more likely to deal with mental health issues2, primarily stemming from loneliness.

No matter how independent you are, being alone at home will make most people feel a bit lonely at least occasionally, and it's OK to recognize these feelings. According to holistic therapist Rikki Clark McCoy, LCSW, the key is figuring out how to reframe the way you're thinking about your alone time at home.

"Living alone, especially if it's for the first time or even after a transition, can be a very emotional experience," she previously told mbg. "There may be feelings of sadness or loneliness, but living alone can also be a time of learning to love yourself."

Know that many people choose to live alone on purpose because they earnestly enjoy their solitude, and with time and a bit of a perspective shift, you can come to feel less lonely in your situation too—and even learn to love it.

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11 steps to be happy alone:

1.

Don't force it.

First and foremost, go easy on yourself here. Everyone experiences loneliness from time to time, and that feeling—like all feelings—is completely valid.

"Humans are naturally gregarious creatures, so it's important to remember that you're not 'broken' if you tend to feel a little blue when you're alone," says Manly.

Some people are also more drawn to companionship than others are, she points out, so be compassionate with yourself if you're someone that simply craves the company of others more often than not.

"You're less likely to be plunged into sadness if you don't expect yourself to have a high happiness set point when you're alone," she says. "By normalizing that many people feel less happy when they're alone, you take the pressure off yourself to make yourself be happy."

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2.

Keep yourself occupied.

When we're sitting around doing nothing, we tend to feel loneliness more acutely. "Time has a way of slowing down when we don't have plans," Manly adds, "so you're far more likely to feel happy when you don't have long stretches of empty time."

She recommends planning for alone time in advance, whether you know you have a solo weekend coming up, you just went through a breakup, or you're moving to a new place by yourself.

"Make advance plans to fill the time in enjoyable ways," she says. "It's often wonderful to create a list filled with a blend of to-do tasks and self-care time. This approach makes solo days feel like a nourishing balance of 'must-do's' and 'want-do-to-do's.'"

3.

Fill your time with activities you legitimately enjoy.

Alone time becomes a lot more appealing when we associate it with getting to do things we genuinely love and want to do. For example, if you've always wanted to read more, integrate a daily reading practice into your windows of alone time. If you're a skin care lover, treat yourself to a long, luxurious, and indulgent evening skin care routine.

When you fill your time with activities that actually bring you pleasure, you transform alone time from a moment of lack that you're needing to suffer through into a moment of opportunity that you're actually excited to seize.

"Strive to see solo time as the perfect chance to enjoy catching up on self-work, meditating, or sorting through stacks of unread magazines," says Manly. "When we reframe solo time in positive ways, the body, mind, and spirit naturally begin to feel more upbeat."

(We've got a whole list of fun activities to do alone at the bottom of this article.)

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4.

Start a project.

In addition to pleasure pastimes, consider delving into projects you've been wanting to start—such as decorating the house, starting a community initiative, or finally starting that YouTube channel. Projects are great ways to spend your time alone because they give you a goal to work toward and a way to fill your time that feels meaningful.

"I have found, with myself and my clients, that becoming deeply involved in a creative endeavor can go a long way toward ameliorating loneliness," psychology expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D., writes at mbg. "There is something about becoming deeply involved in the creative process that fills the heart and soul with joy—even when we are creating alone."

(No idea what kind of project would speak to you? Here's our full guide on how to find your passion.)

5.

Take a social media break.

While social media can help us connect with others, research shows that spending extended time on social media can actually exacerbate feelings of loneliness3 as well as lower self-esteem4. That's in part because social media often leads to unhealthy comparison, wherein we compare ourselves to what others are doing, what others have, and the social lives of others. So, try not to spend too much of your time alone scrolling through the apps, as it's likely to make you feel worse.

6.

Reach out to friends.

Remember, being happy alone does not mean forgoing all social connections—to the contrary, feeling close to others is vital to our well-being, and if you're experiencing loneliness in your life in general, it can actually be harder to enjoy your alone time.

"Although we want to be comfortable with our solitude, it is still healthy to connect with your support system," McCoy tells mbg. "Stay connected with people who bring you joy and support you."

The surest way to feel less lonely is, in fact, to connect with others and nurture those relationships. That might mean calling up your mom more often and deepening your connection with her, or asking an old friend if they'd like to get dinner. Or, perhaps it's time for you to look into making new friends.

7.

Engage with your community.

An oft-overlooked way to connect with others is through community. Think book clubs, yoga classes, local advocacy groups, running groups, church groups, and other community spaces. Not only can these be places for you to invest in new hobbies and projects, but they're places where you can do so with other people and create a sense of shared belonging.

8.

Establish routines.

"It's common that loneliness peaks in the morning and at night when we don't have much going on," McCoy explains. So, focus on developing a solid morning and evening routine that helps you flow through these parts of your day with more ease.

"This can be a 10- to 15-minute activity such as meditation, prayer, stretching, or a yoga flow," she says. "Getting dressed can also boost your mood and help create a positive head space to tackle the day."

9.

Get outside.

Remember that loneliness is a feeling that's often an extension of the emotion of sadness. That's why Manly recommends walking as a potential balm for loneliness. Walking comes with a host of mental health benefits (bonus if it's out in nature, but any walk will do!), with mood being one of them.

"Get outside for a bit of sunshine and exercise," she says. "Even if you take a short walk, research shows that there are plenty of mood-boosting benefits when we walk, soak up a bit of nature, or simply enjoy the sun's rays poking through the clouds."

10.

Mind your health.

By the same token, remember that our mood—that is, our emotional and mental health—is inextricably tied to our physical health. How we treat our bodies affects how we feel emotionally, and vice versa.

Manly notes that people who are dealing with loneliness can sometimes resort to unhealthy habits that only exacerbate the problem—for example, eating foods that make you feel sluggish, or missing out on valuable sleep that leads to irritability and lack of energy, or becoming overly sedentary.

"When we reframe solo time to envision it as the perfect opportunity to engage in amazing self-care—including loading up on yummy, nourishing food—we naturally feel happier and more balanced," she says.

11.

Work on your relationship to yourself.

Perhaps most importantly, learning how to be happy alone requires you to actually, legitimately love yourself.

That means you actually enjoy your own company, you care about your own personal development and growth, and you genuinely find value in investing time and energy into the things that nurture you—the same way you find value in investing in your connections with others.

If this isn't ringing true for you, start there. Maybe it's about learning how to build confidence in yourself. Maybe it's about releasing people-pleasing behavior. Maybe it's about releasing perfectionist tendencies that lead to self-hatred. Maybe it's about incorporating more positive affirmations into your life.

Or maybe it's simply about recognizing the ways in which your relationship with yourself can yield just as much pleasure, intimacy, affection, and support as your relationship with others. 

Mancao offers a thought-provoking way to begin to practice this self-validation: "The next time you are seeking validation from someone else, ask yourself, 'What is it that I would like to hear from this person?' Then practice saying those words to yourself."

Fun things to do alone:

  1. Establish an exercise routine you love and actually stick to it.
  2. Carve out a dedicated time for reading in your daily or weekly schedule.
  3. Start a garden (window gardens count!).
  4. Practice doing your makeup.
  5. Experiment with intricate hairstyles.
  6. Buy a gaming console and play some video games.
  7. Listen to podcasts while doing chores around the house.
  8. Learn a creative hobby, like painting, cross-stitch, or writing fiction.
  9. Get really good at something practical, like cooking, web design, or investing.
  10. Visit a museum or art gallery.
  11. Take walks (or hikes!) regularly.
  12. Play your favorite songs on repeat.
  13. Blast your favorite "guilty pleasure" tunes at top volume.
  14. Learn a TikTok dance.
  15. Explore your city (think farmers markets, shopping districts, or cultural sites).
  16. Create a vision board.
  17. Meditate daily.
  18. Get super knowledgeable about a niche topic, like horticulture, organizational psychology, the MBTI, or anything else you're weirdly interested in.
  19. Learn to cook some fancy dishes.
  20. Develop an extremely indulgent morning or evening routine.
  21. Foster a pet. 

FAQ

Can people be truly happy alone?

Yes, people can very much be happy alone, and it's, in fact, very important for people to be able to source happiness from within rather than relying solely on the presence of others to access happy feelings. Because all people, inevitably, will be alone sometimes.

That said, humans are naturally social creatures, and studies show interpersonal connection—whether in the form of friendships, family, professional and creative partnerships, community engagement, or romantic relationships—is vital to overall well-being. So, true happiness comes from a balance between enjoying your own company while also connecting with others in a way that feels nourishing.

How do I stop feeling so lonely?

Everyone will feel lonely from time to time, so it's important first to practice acceptance of these feelings when they come up. Once you can accept that loneliness is simply a temporary feeling, it can feel less dire—and you can start looking toward ways to feel more whole as well as more connected to others.

Alleviating feelings of loneliness starts with finding ways to truly enjoy your own company, whether that means developing peaceful morning and evening routines, embarking on a personal project or hobby that actually really excites you, or deepening your relationship with yourself and your own self-worth. Additionally, find ways to connect with others more regularly. Reach out to an old friend and make plans. Ask that co-worker to coffee. Join a community sports team or group. Start a book club.

The takeaway.

People can find deep, authentic happiness in their solitude. While we do need interpersonal connection in our lives in some form, it's very much possible to enjoy and even thrive living life as an independent individual rather than in a romantic partnership or living with others.

At core, learning how to be happy alone is about reframing how we think about our alone time—and how we think about ourselves. 

Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter