How I Got Comfortable With Spending Time Alone
I’ve never been very good at spending time alone. One of my friends who I lived with at uni would often complain about needing “me time”, and it was something that I could never understand. As a true extrovert I get my energy from being around other people, and up until the last year or so, anything more than a few hours alone would leave me feeling blue. Which sounds crazy doesn’t it? I’m a smart, independent adult, who can manage serious grown up things like leading sales pitches at work or remortgaging our house, but when faced with an evening in on my own, I’d feel myself starting to wobble.
Until recently, it’s something I’ve never really had any real practice at - I come from a big, close knit family, and have always spent lots of time with my friends and husband. But when I started a new job last year, I found myself travelling a lot more regularly and working from home three days a week. Suddenly, I had to get comfortable with spending time alone.
I won’t lie - it was tough at first, and I found myself relying on podcasts or making frequent trips to coffee shops to help with the loneliness. But now I genuinely cherish those days working from home alone, and I actually find it quite difficult to concentrate in a busy office. I find myself craving that elusive “me time” and I no longer feel uncomfortable asking for a table for one in a busy restaurant.
So today I thought I’d share some tips on how I got to this position. It’s something I get asked about a lot, and a year ago I would have found these tips really useful, so hopefully you will too!
1) Push yourself out of your comfort zone
It can be really daunting going to an event alone, or asking for a table for one in a restaurant, but for me, the alternative would often be eating alone in my hotel room which can be even lonelier. As uncomfortable as it may be the first few times you do it, putting yourself out there and just doing it isn't as scary as you might imagine. Plus, the more regularly you practice, the easier it gets - now I don’t think twice about taking myself out for dinner. In fact, I actually thoroughly enjoy it!
2) Be selfish
I’m the world’s biggest people pleaser, so one of the ways I’ve come to enjoy spending time alone is to see it as an opportunity to be selfish. I can watch whatever I want on TV, or eat whatever cuisine I fancy, or spend far too long faffing in a bookshop, without ever worrying about anybody else. Treating that time alone as time to do whatever I fancy makes it feel like such a luxury - how often do you get to do exactly what you like?
3) Get used to silence
When I first started working from home, I hated the silence. I’d find myself putting daytime TV on for background noise, or playing podcast after podcast. But the trouble with never having any quiet time is that you’re never alone with your own thoughts, which I think is quite unhealthy. Now I let myself listen to podcasts for an hour or so a day at home, usually while doing dull admin tasks, and the rest of the time it’s silent (apart from the little squarks that my cat emits, of course!).
4) Make a plan
If I know that I’m going to be away on my own for more than a couple of nights, or that I’ll be spending a big chunk of time alone, I like to try and make a bit of a plan. Knowing how I’ll fill that time makes me feel a little less anxious, and having a couple of activities to break up the blocks of time really help. It might be as simple as calling my Mum or heading out for a quick walk, but knowing that I won’t be cooped up inside on my own all day really helps.
5) Always carry a book
My last tip is one of my favourites - always carry a book! If I get stuck on a delayed train on my own, or plans get cancelled at the last minute, having a book with me means that I can dive right into somebody else’s world. I’m usually a big non-fiction reader, but recently I’ve been reaching for fiction much more regularly - there’s something so comforting about getting lost in characters and plot lines, and it always takes my mind off feeling lonely.
What are your top tips for spending time alone? Are you a natural, or do you struggle like me?