The Difference Between Being Alone & Being Lonely
When is the last time you were alone?
I don’t mean sitting on the train, watching everyone’s Instagram Stories. I mean phoneless. I mean sans technology. I mean just you.
In a time where access to the masses is available at the touch of a button, it’s harder than ever to truly “turn off” your connection to the world. Every moment must be documented, filtered, and shared with others for approval and discourse. As someone who has lived alone for the past three years, I still find it difficult at times to truly be alone, even when I’m the only person in the room.
But in that time, I’ve not only learned the joys of living alone, I’ve learned the necessity of it. The necessity for me to grow as a person, to form solid thoughts and beliefs, and to process challenging situations.
As a creative, being alone is my favorite way to brainstorm; I can let my thoughts run wild without interruption.
As an introvert, being alone is the best way for me to recharge; after spending time with friends, it’s vital that I regroup and have some “me time”.
“Don’t you get lonely?” I’m often asked.
No. Want to know why?
Because being alone does not mean being lonely. Sure, it can be easy to equate the two when you’re first starting out. Aloneness is a strange concept and one that is often stigmatized. But you can be the most popular person at a party, surrounded by friends, and still feel lonely. You can be with someone who loves you unconditionally and worships the ground you walk on...and still feel lonely. Lonely is a state of mind. Alone is a state of being.
And the best part is you don’t have to live alone to find satisfying solo time! Carving out just a few extra minutes or hours of your day for solitude can have lasting benefits on your health and wellbeing. For those ready to experience the benefits of being alone, here are a few great ways to get started:
Take Yourself to the Movies
Fed up because no one else wants to see that French film with no subtitles? Spend a solo afternoon at the theater and enjoy the experience of being completely immersed in a movie. Don’t worry, it’s dark in there and people paid too much money for one ticket to pay attention to the fact that you’re by yourself. Chances are that you’ll be surrounded by people whose friends also didn’t want to join them. Go figure.
Get Coffee at a New Café
If you’re nervous about seeing someone you know, head to a different side of town and check out an unfamiliar coffee spot. Try something new on the menu. Grab a newspaper: it doesn’t have to be anything highbrow, you can head straight to the comics section! Spend the afternoon with the Peanuts gang. The low buzzing atmosphere of the café will keep you stimulated without being constantly distracted.
Wake Up a Little Earlier and Enjoy Your Morning Alone
Even if you have roommates or an SO, waking up a little earlier and finding time to reflect on the day ahead can improve your mood and sense of self. Make some tea and peruse a few pages of that summer read you still haven’t finished. Take a moment to meditate on how you’d like to spend your day. Enjoy the sunrise.
Start Small So It Doesn't Feel So Scary
Everyone will have different limits for how they spend their alone time. My best advice? Start small so it doesn’t feel so scary. Be proud of yourself for doing something on your own; it’s important to celebrate accomplishments of all sizes. When you’re ready, try going to dinner or to a bar by yourself (if you feel safe). You’ll be surprised by the different and exciting feelings elicited by experiencing alone-ness at different times during the day.
With a little practice, who knows what will happen? You might one day find yourself in a far off city. You’ll wander through the streets, taking in everything wonderful and exciting your eyes will allow. You’ll stumble into a delightful hole-in-the-wall restaurant with even more delightful smells. With a sly smile and without hesitation, you’ll saunter up to the host stand and proudly make your request:
“Table for one, please.”