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How to Be Good at Being Alone

How an Extrovert Learned to Love Being Alone

Like all extroverts, I get energy from being around people. It's how I feel both relaxed and comforted. Conversely, introverts need to be alone to recharge, but when I'm alone, I find it draining and sad, which is why I'm usually blasting podcasts or have reruns of Will and Grace playing for "background noise" when I'm by myself. I'm also a natural entertainer personality type, meaning being with people also gives me purpose.

So when I wound up living almost 2,000 miles away from my friends and family, working from home, and with a husband in the army who goes on month-long training exercises during which time he can't be contacted, I had no choice but to learn how to get that comfort and purpose from within.

I should say I am totally aware that not wanting to be alone is not a sign of great well-being. The 2018 brand of health, happiness, and self-care dictates being in tune with your body and mind and knowing yourself inside and out. Cutting away the noise, distraction, and preoccupation of others is the best way to learn all that stuff about yourself, which is why we endeavor to complete unplugged weekends and pay to sit in a silent room and just "be". But in all honesty, it's not my natural state.

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It is something I wanted to get comfortable with, though. A personal goal of sorts. Because while my husband will come back from his training and I will make new friends and eventually move back to the city, I was told once that the only guarantee in life is that you'll be spending it with yourself, so you better like it. I may or may not be paraphrasing RuPaul. Here's the plan.

Make an Alone-Time Bucket List

Feeling like you're wasting time is an anxiety trigger for many, myself included (it even has a name: chronophobia). So it's important that when you begin to have alone time (whether by choice or not) that you do something during this time. It doesn't have to be something prolific, either. If you want to do your taxes, go for it, but rewatching your favorite movie and feeling like you've had some real downtime can often be enough to make you feel satisfied. And in my experience, a sense of achievement is the antidote to feeling lonely.

Because I have the advantage of knowing when I'm going to be all on my lonesome, and for how long, I now make bucket lists of everything I want to do, see, watch and read when it's just me.

Get Out and About

Being alone in a big city is one thing — hell, in London, it's often the norm — but being alone somewhere more regional or suburban is another. But it's important that when you're going to be just me, myself, and I for a while that you get out of the house.

These are good baby-step trips:

  • Take yourself to the movies.
  • Do a grocery shop sans phone.
  • Go to a museum or art gallery.

Capitalize on the Things Best Done Alone

When accepting his Nobel Prize, Ernest Hemingway spoke about the necessity of solitude for creativity. And as Sara Maitland, author of How to Be Alone, writes, solitude is "one of the most clearly established methods of developing that creativity." While writers, painters, and inventors often seek solitude to let their creativity flow, having solitude thrust upon us is an optimal opportunity to get creative.

I realize this looks like I've filled my alone time with to-do lists, but when you're in your own company, you only have to entertain yourself, and being able to do as you please is possibly the biggest attraction and comfort of solitude. And if it helps turn loneliness into quality alone time, I'm all for it.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kathryna Hancock
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