A few days back I was talking to my best friend Rain and she was telling me about a problem she’s been facing for several years now - she doesn’t know how to find happiness alone.
She told me how it makes her rely on her boyfriend for happiness, and it’s really something that is troubling her. I’m sure that all of us have at some point in our lives been how Rain is.
We could’ve come out of a relationship that left us clueless about how to enjoy being alone. Or, we’re not with anyone and not sure how to be happy single, thinking that going into a relationship might solve the problem.
It’s a real struggle and I want you to know that it’s okay that you feel this way. There is nothing wrong with you.
Learning to be alone and happily so is not an innate skill in a lot of us, which is okay. We can learn and develop it over time.
I too am currently at a point in my life where I have the time to be with myself more and I am going through the same thoughts about how to be okay with being alone.
It’s not that I don’t have people around me but relying on anyone other than myself for my happiness is not a good place to be in. I feel really grateful for this moment of discomfort because it’s inspiring me to rekindle my relationship with myself and with time so I can not only help myself but you too.
Note: As you must’ve heard before, loneliness and being alone are two different experiences, although they may coincide. Without going too deeply into definitions, being alone refers to not being around other people, while loneliness is a graver situation.
In loneliness, we feel as if we have been separated from the world and are left alone. It has a strong sense of sadness and abandonment associated with it and therefore requires a lot more effort to heal.
I strongly suggest taking therapy in this case because only there will the nuances of your life and the reasons behind your feelings be fully explored.
Now coming back to our topic at hand, here are my tips for you on how you can find happiness alone:
- Lower expectations
- Reduce screen time
- Discover interests
- Understand yourself
- Express gratitude
- Be patient
- Prioritize mental health
How to find happiness alone
1. Lower expectations
One of the key meddlers with happiness is not living up to our own expectations. These can be expectations of how much we should have achieved, how our lives should have turned out to be by now, how we should look in society, what we should be doing with our time, how much we should earn, and so on and so forth.
But why? Why do we have all these expectations from a single human life? What is the basis for these expectations?
Similarly, when we are alone, we have expectations of what we should be doing at that time. There should be something to fill up that time, whether it be reading a classic novel, learning about personal finance, or listening to a podcast.
These are all great things but even if we don’t do any of them sometimes, it’s okay. Boring isn’t bad.
We see other people on YouTube and Instagram all happy and productive and it makes us question ourselves. I, for one, have chosen the path of insignificance. I do not have a big dream for my life, no big goals, no mammoth career.
What I only think about is how I can be more in tune with my body and nature so that I can connect with the wisdom that already exists within myself.
This wisdom is what I see a lot in animals, particularly my dog brother Alex. He has really basic requirements to be happy and he thrives being alone, and I really respect that.
So, I hope you get what I mean. Lower the expectations that you have from yourself and your life. Take things slowly, and leave yourself time to be alive, and nothing else.
The one expectation I have from myself though is whether I am listening to my body and my health. I expect to let myself be a human being. It’s such a rudimentary thought but that’s the thing about humans, we don’t know how to let ourselves be just human beings.
2. Reduce screen time
Now, from a very feeling-based tip, I come to a super action-based one. Chuck your phone or laptop away as much as you can. It is remarkable how “smart” devices make us do things unconsciously.
The doom scroll and constant urge to look something up are not healthy for us. One of the main proponents of this is social media. Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.^
Think about the times you mindlessly picked up your phone to check if there was something and then minutes passed by and you were still using it doing something you didn’t really set out to do. It’s really become so ingrained in our behavior.
I recently disabled my Instagram account and it’s only been a couple of days but I can see how it is making me feel disconnected. And, I didn’t even use it much in the first place. But, being someone who has struggled with self-esteem and body image, even a little bit can do a lot of harm.
And, it’s not just Instagram. The Internet is an infinitely valuable resource, and if we let it control us, we overload our minds with information we really don’t need.
Simplify your life, there is no need for there to be so much around us or in our heads all the time! All of our answers are within ourselves, we just need to connect to them. And, that takes time and stillness. The Internet is not going to give us that.
To help yourself do this, keep your phone at a distance where you have to stand and walk to get it. This will create a gap between the mindless urge to check it and the effort it takes to reach it.
In this time, you’ll have to question whether you really need to use it or not. You can also put in timers on your phone whenever you are using an app so that it won’t take you through an endless maze, leaving you oblivious about where the time went.
These mindless activities really bring in more and more feelings of dissatisfaction and let’s try and grow away from them. It will be difficult but it will be a valuable change.
3. Discover interests
This is the most obvious advice when it comes to finding happiness alone. And, I think it does really help but you need to have tackled the more important issues that I am mentioning in this post here.
Just finding a hobby will not necessarily help you find happiness alone. So, let me give you a few ideas on the interests you can nurture when you are alone:
- Learn a new instrument like guitar or piano
- Read fiction books. Here are some recommendations by Jack Edwards on YouTube.
- Learn calligraphy or hand-lettering.
- Learn a new dish every other day.
- Learn a new language
- Start a side hustle, like blogging, running an Etsy store, a YouTube channel, etc.
- Join an exercise club
- Learn dancing
- DIY home projects
- Gratitude journaling
These are a few ideas that you can try out. Pick one at a time, don’t overload yourself. Go first with the one that interested you the most.
4. Understand yourself
If you’ve been finding it difficult to be happy alone, it is a sign that there is something that you have to understand about yourself. Some feelings in your heart that want your attention. It is a place of discomfort and that’s normal.
“Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can't put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable, then you will never grow. You will never change. You'll never learn.”
― Jason Reynolds
There is another special thing about us humans - just because we know something doesn’t mean we feel it too. For example, I know that I am a human being and I deserve to be happy. My life is not something to be measured by achievements. I can write this down and know it in my mind but in my most vulnerable moments, it will show that I don’t really feel this to be true. I have become positive in my thought, but not in my feelings. This is something I learned in therapy.
So, why do you think you’re not happy alone? Is it really the reason? How do you feel when you are alone?
Answer these questions and focus on the feeling along with your thoughts. Go to those uncomfortable places to really understand yourself. The answer is within you.
5. Express gratitude
The feeling of gratitude is a boon to have. And, what is great about gratitude is that you can inculcate it. Even though you haven’t been feeling grateful lately, you can make yourself feel it. You can even make it a practice, then a habit, which then becomes a behavior.
How this helps in finding happiness alone is that you realize that there are already a lot of great things in you and your life that you have forgotten to appreciate. Instead of looking outward to find happiness, gratitude makes you find it within and that is supremely powerful.
And again, just saying that you are grateful for something doesn’t really mean that you really feel grateful for it. But don’t let this discourage you. It’s okay if the feeling of gratitude is not strong for you sometimes. What you can do is keep a gratitude journal, and try a technique called 8 To Go Deep. I learned this from Shealing:
“If you really want to be grateful, pick something and find at least 8 things to be grateful for about that one thing. And what I found is, the magic number is five.
The first four that you do, for instance: a home. I'm grateful for my home because it provides shelter because it provides this and it provides this, and it provides this.
But I find that once you get to the fifth entry, you find yourself going, what else am I grateful about this one thing? And the last three of your entries are the magic entries because they force you to go deep.
It's easy to find a bunch of things, but when you really need to find more, that's when you can feel gratitude.”
This technique will help you feel deep gratitude.
But, you ask, what do I feel grateful for in the first place? Here are gratitude prompts to help you here.
6. Be patient
Yes, another age-old piece of advice. And I know you know it, but do you feel it? Haha, I’m quite connected with the connection of feeling with thought now.
So, if you’re in a state of not feeling happy or comfortable with yourself alone, I really hope that the tips I gave you will help. Patience is going to be important.
I know we are inundated with videos and case studies of people achieving huge goals in a short amount of time, like earning from $0 to $1500 or losing 20 pounds in a month. And, they make us feel pressured and inadequate.
Just remember that small steps consistently create great results together. Slow is the fastest way. And, it’s okay if your progress is not quick. Learn from nature. Everything works in perfect balance, with no hurry, and still, there’s no power above it.
7. Prioritize mental health
And, just as a closing note, I wanted to validate that the experience of being alone and unhappy with it is not easy. It becomes the breeding ground for many unpleasant thoughts and feelings. So, I am really proud of you for wanting to make an effort to come out of this. You will get there, you will.
Take care of yourself. Put your health first. Sit with silence and nothingness. Treat yourself like a human being.
Being happy by yourself is one of the greatest joys I have experienced and I know that it is coming to you too.
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