Being alone is not the same as being lonely. To illustrate this, we have prepared a little thought experiment.
Imagine you're spending a Sunday all alone: You get up in the morning, make yourself a coffee, and pick up fresh rolls from the bakery for a delicious breakfast. The sun is shining, so you sit down on your balcony and listen to your favorite radio station. Then you go for a walk to the park near you, take an exciting book with you and read for a while. On the way, you might pass by a market and buy a bunch of fresh flowers for your apartment.
When you get back home, do an hour of yoga, water your plants in peace and tidy up a bit. After a short nap, you continue with your painting/homemaking project or practice an instrument you play. For your evening program, you've already picked out one of your favorite movies and before that you cook yourself a real meal with appetizer, main course and dessert. After the movie you take a short relaxing bath and light some candles. Then you go to your freshly made bed, which feels really good and still smells nice, and fall asleep. The whole day you were alone, but not lonely for a second. Because you spent the time just as you wanted and gave yourself lots of little pleasures.
How bad is it to be alone?
Many people feel lonely when they are alone. But as described in the example, this does not always have to be the case. Time alone and periods of rest can also be sources of energy. But when does being alone feel bad? The crucial point is: are you alone by choice? If you choose to be alone voluntarily, you are acting in a self-determined way. Unlike when you want to be in contact with others, but aren't able to do so. Unlike loneliness, being alone consciously is a self-chosen state.
Being alone unwillingly, is usually accompanied by feelings of loneliness. It can makes us sad and can also have a negative impact on our health. How quickly we feel lonely and how well we can be alone is determined by our inner life. And that is both our general state and the life situation in which we find ourselves at the moment.
Why can it be good to be alone?
Spending time alone by choice can have many benefits. Time alone can help you
- get to know and appreciate yourself better
- feel more comfortable in your own company
- become less dependent on the feedback of those around you
- get better access to one's feelings and needs
Because, in everyday life, we often act according to what others expect from us. Be it at work, with regards to expectations from our family members or friends. Being alone can make us more aware of what we ourselves think, feel and need. So being alone can strengthen you in the long run.
I feel like I cannot be alone
Quite a few people not only have the feeling that they dislike to be alone, but that they really can't stand it. The first step towards being happily alone should therefore be to accept that everyone needs a good balance of contacts and me-time.
If you have the feeling that you can't stand being alone at all, you can start asking yourself if you want to distract yourself from certain topics. Often, however, being alone feels simply unfamiliar at the beginning. It therefore helps to be aware that, as with many new activities, you first have to get accustomed it.
4 steps with which you can learn to be alone
1. Love yourself
The most important step on the way to the ability to be alone is self-love. Learn to value yourself as you would your best friend. Spending time with ourselves without really knowing how can often lead to boredom and loneliness. When being with other people, we know much more quickly what is a good activity to do right now to lift our spirits. Loving ourselves more first means taking time to get to know ourselves by noticing our wants and needs. Next, it also means that we make the effort to fulfill those wants and needs.
Spending time with ourselves without really knowing how can often lead to boredom and loneliness.
So what brings you joy and how can you bring it to yourself? If it's not that cup of coffee in the morning, maybe it's that fresh shower? Only you can know and that's what it's all about: get to know yourself as you are and take good care of yourself. Give yourself as much care as you would give other people you love. If you can do that, you will notice that the loneliness will gradually disappear. For loneliness is not usually caused by the absence of other people, but by the things we say to ourselves, e.g. that others are not interested in us, that we are a burden or that we are not so important.
When you start loving yourself, you will no longer say these things to yourself. Because self-love means that you are interested in yourself, that you see your needs not as a burden but as a guide for your actions, and that you take yourself as important as others. You can start doing this today by giving yourself a first small pleasure. And then another and another. Step by step, you will develop a better sense of what is good for you and take it for granted to give yourself these things.
2. Consciously spend time alone with yourself
Set regular periods of time where you take time for yourself. Because time alone with you doesn't have to be something you fear or try to avoid. Instead, think of it as something good, your own private retreat that helps you relax and recharge. Time alone is like an appointment with yourself that you don't want to put off for others.
It's important to reconnect with yourself and feel how you're doing and what you need. If you feel lonely, you may need attention and care. Give this to yourself by saying loving things to yourself and responding to your needs. Although it may seem at first glance that only other people can meet your needs for closeness or security, this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes it helps a lot if you, for example, create a nice environment for yourself, put on some cozy clothes, light some candles, take a hot water bottle to bed with you and listen to your favorite music.
A lot of things that you would normally do with another person, you can do just for yourself. You can get creative and try out new things. And when you're ready, how about taking your first short vacation just for yourself? Choose your favorite destination and think about what you would like to do. An exciting city trip, a hiking vacation in secluded nature or would you prefer to relax in a wellness hotel? Get inspired by researching on the internet and start making plans for your time just with you!
3. Meditation and yoga
We usually think of meditation as sitting quietly and trying not to think about anything. But meditation is much more exciting than that. It is a spiritual practice that can help us find ourselves and enter a state of calmness. There are many different forms of meditation. Some are practiced in silence, for example, so-called mindfulness exercises. They help you to perceive your inner self by being open and attentive to yourself. There are also active forms of meditation, such as yoga.
You perform physical exercises in a conscious and concentrated way in order to become more in tune with yourself. Yoga also helps to reduce stress and improve your health. Meditation and yoga can help you to experience yourself more as part of a whole. Your body and your mind can unite in a unique way and give you a new attitude towards life. Anyone can practice meditation and yoga because it's not about achieving any great success by being particularly athletic or disciplined.
It's rather about becoming more balanced and self-confident. The beneficial effects usually appear right at the beginning. If you try meditation and yoga, or even just one of them, they can become an important source of strength for you over time! If you would like to try meditation, you can find numerous instructions on YouTube or on the Internet. It can also be helpful if you simply install an app. Here is a small selection:
- Headspace: English, daily 10 minutes meditation for free, subscription: ca. 10€/month (72€/year)
- Calm: English, 3 free meditations, subscription: ca. 10€/month (40€/year)
- 7Mind: German, 7-minute meditations, 7 days of basic meditation and stress meditation for free, subscription: approx. 9€/month or individual course prices
- Stop, Breathe & Think: English, lots of free up to 10-minute meditations, individual courses between approx. 1-3€, non-commercial app
If you would like to try yoga, you can look for yoga classes in your area. This is the best option because you will have a teacher on site who will be able to respond to you individually and help you to do the exercises correctly and at your own pace. If you prefer to do yoga at home, we recommend Youtube or the following free apps, which sometimes even combine yoga and meditation:
- Daily Yoga: 500 exercises and 200 classes, modern design, paid premium features.
- Keep Yoga: 400 exercises and 40 sessions, detailed descriptions (English), collecting calorie coins for premium features
- Yoga Vidya: large selection, no registration, download and filter function, information on yoga seminars in Germany incl. a map
4. Look for activities and goals
If you get to know yourself better, you can use this as an opportunity to look for new tasks and goals. Because the more you shape your life according to your ideas, the happier it will make you and the more satisfied you will be with yourself. The most important thing here is that you don't follow other people's ideas or expectations, but only your own. You yourself know best what you want and where your strengths or weaknesses lie. And only you can and will find fulfillment in what you do.
So also admit to yourself that not everything has to be fun or successful. Instead, ask yourself what really inspires and drives you. If you're very creative, a drawing class or a new instrument might be exciting for you. If you enjoy socializing, you could get involved politically or socially. Start with small steps and set yourself so-called micro-goals, i.e. daily goals. As you achieve these small goals, you will develop a sense of self-efficacy and gain new self-confidence through a sense of accomplishment. Try new things, too, as you may discover new interests. Achieving daily goals will help you set long-term goals for your life as well. You'll notice: The better you get to know and value yourself, the easier it will be for you to realize yourself and consequently be happy with yourself. The exchange with people who understand you can be a great help.