How to Be Alone Without Being Lonely

Here at Arner Adventures, mental wellness plays an important role, in not only this space, but in our daily lives. It is something we work on every moment, and as we move through 2021, we would like to provide a platform to discuss methods that have helped us and are continuing to provide guidance towards positive wellness overall. We welcome your discussion and contribution as we maneuver through this together.

A few years ago, I (Shannon) was in a therapy session, and while I was in a period of my life where I had been struggling to be as outgoing, and social as I had been, due to a period of grief, I was also admittedly enjoying the time of being able to be away from commitments, being able to step away from obligations, and frankly, being away from people. My therapist told me that as an extrovert, there is a time where you need the solitude to recharge. While I was actually needing the time to heal, recover, and work on myself, I also needed to realize that moving forward, I needed to take the time to be alone to take care of myself, and to continue to be a better person, to be social, and to support others, as I had been doing for most of my life. 

This reminds me of the past year, the year of covid. As we are coming up on a year of being in quarantine, I am reminded of how, for the most part, I have spent most of the year, alone. Well, Gerry has been with me a great deal of it, but he works in and out of our home, so for many hours of the day, I am at home, working, alone, with Betty White providing me comfort, of course. Even though I am alone, I am not lonely. How can that be? How can someone who is social, an extrovert, someone who, while growing up, constantly had notes sent home from teachers to my mom saying how I “simply will not stop talking,”, or was voted “most talkative” in high school, feel really good about spending a year, with so many hours alone? I have contemplated the answer to that question over the past few days, as the covid-year anniversary is upon us. The answer, at least I think the answer, is that I have used the year as one of self-reflection, and really getting to know, Shannon. For the first time, maybe ever, I feel as though I know the true Shannon, and really enjoy her company.  And that, dear readers, (that is my Lady Whistledown moment) is why I have not been lonely.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how grateful I am to have the company of Betty White during my work days. She often enjoys the sun shining through the window near my desk.

I do realize that for some, it is very difficult to be alone, and not be lonely, and I don’t want to ignore that. For some, they have had no one to return to their home at night. I think about the days when I have been able to interact with Betty White during the day, and some people don’t have the comfort of pets, and then Gerry comes home, and poor guy, I talk his ear off with the events that have transpired. What if I didn’t have that outlet? I have some friends who live alone, and am mindful of that, and reach out often, to make sure that they have the outlet to have Google Meets, or Zoom calls. There is a lot of disdain these days for social media, but I think this is a great time to be grateful for it to keep us linked to one another, especially to friends and family when we cannot be close, or see each other. 

I have noticed that in the past year of being alone, there is a strong fondness for that time. I now look forward to it. I have talked about the importance of my mornings and that ritual, that time to myself. Most of the hours of being at home alone is filled with work, so I am occupied, but the time before work, and a small amount of time after that is the time that I really enjoy, and have learned to get to know who I am. 

Here are some ways to make the most of your time of being alone so that you can find solace in that period. 

  • Meditation– I still surprise myself when I type that, or mention it to someone. Though my meditation time is still short, it is a practice, but in this past year, I have really learned to enjoy this. I have a mantra that I use, and I yearn for that time that I spend with myself, and miss it when I don’t have it. 
  • Practice positive self-talk. A few years ago, while travelling, I discovered a podcast, The Melissa Ambrosini Show. I highly recommend it, by the way. She talks about holistic health and wellness, but she also discusses mindfulness, and the way we talk to ourselves, our ongoing dialog. She even wrote a book about it. This past year, I learned so much about retraining the way I talk to myself. I couldn’t believe how many times I would call myself “stupid” or “OMG, why did you do that?” or worse. If you wouldn’t allow someone you love to be talked to that way, why would you do it to yourself? I immediately became more aware of the way I talk, treat, and look at myself, and there was a shift. Note- do not be afraid to stand in front of the mirror and actually say kind things to yourself. I learned from Hunter McGrady that doing that is a great way to have a healthy mindset for your day, and a fantastic way to create positive self-esteem. 
  • Set boundaries. I am still working on this, but the alone time, especially over the past year, and in relation to the way that I want to treat myself better, has allowed me to refocus on opting out. As Jay Shetty says, “When a connection starts to fade, learn how to let it go. When a person starts to mistreat you, learn how to move on. Don’t waste your energy trying to force something that isn’t meant to be.” When you learn to value yourself, you begin to understand that your life means more than allowing negative energy, negative people into it, taking up valuable space, where someone else, or something else should be. Having the alone time to focus on yourself, allows you to set those boundaries, and learn how to be more firm in them. 
  • Enjoy your own hobbies. If someone asked me what my favorite hobbies were pre-covid, the answer was usually, organizing things. I really didn’t feel like I had a hobby. I mean, I knew there were things I enjoyed, but I didn’t have a hobby per say. Now? Gosh, my hobbies are reading, not just for self-help (though, I do still love that, I make sure I find a fun book to read), I love learning more about my plants and propagating them, I enjoy riding my beach cruiser everywhere. I have plenty of hobbies I enjoy with Gerry, and Betty White, it is important to create your own hobbies that you have on your own. 

Even post-covid, you may find that it is still uncomfortable being alone, and it is still something to work on. I am the person who used to be uncomfortable eating alone in a restaurant. I cannot tell you how many work trips I was on, in a different city, calling Gerry telling him how excited I was to be in a restaurant I always wanted to try, but really bummed and uncomfortable to be dining alone. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It may feel strange at first, but once you begin to realize that you can get through it with your own strength and confidence, you realize that you will always have your self. Guess what? At the end of the day, once you are comfortable with yourself, and being alone, loving that person you are alone with, you then realize that no one has your back the way that you do, and that is a pretty great feeling. You cannot be lonely if you love the person you are alone with.

If you, or someone you know, needs help or is in a mental health crisis, call 1-800-273-8255.

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