Sometimes the world feels lonely.
I remember this feeling striking me as particularly unusual and heavy when my husband and I lived outside of Philadelphia. I was far from my family—yet not as far away as when I had lived in New Mexico—but the crowded city streets seemed to highlight my loneliness rather than alleviate it.
Recently my husband and I relocated again, and it’s brought back this sense of not belonging. I think anytime a new and unfamiliar area has to be called “home,” it heightens this sense of having too few people to turn to.
Really, in the end, though, only I am responsible for my happiness—and for my feelings of loneliness.
It’s not right, for example, that my poor husband gets an unfair share of these feelings when they arise—and I have to be conscious not to depend on him too much. (After all, he is only one person and I am supposed to be a big girl.) So what should we do when we feel alone and there’s no easy or obvious solution? Try these ten things.
1. Take a bath. You’ve got to trust me on this one: taking a bath is a great way to enjoy your alone time rather than wallow in it. Being alone can be luxurious and wonderful (take it from a mom who almost always has to bathe with her toddler these days). Take the time to treat yourself to a nice, long bubble bath (and if you do it my way, make sure there’s a plate with dark chocolate and a glass of wine beside your tub).
2. Take a walk. Being out in nature is extremely cleansing and uplifting—and it can be a great way to enjoy your solitude. One of my favorite meditations is a walking meditation; where you focus on the sensations of your feet lifting up from and stepping onto the ground. It’s very earthy and calming—and a healthy usage of alone time.
3. Go to a movie. Yes, I’m one of those weirdos that likes seeing movies alone (not that I don’t enjoy company). When I lived in New Mexico, my work schedule was often the exact opposite of my husband’s, so I’d pop into that teeny, tiny theater off the plaza and watch a film alone. I also frequented movies by myself when we lived in PA and I traveled with my husband for his job. Give it a shot, or if it’s not your style at all, watch a movie on Netflix.
4. Go to a yoga class. If you tend to be a home practitioner, but find yourself feeling lonely as of late, then head to your local studio. You can zone out and get all the benefits of your yoga practice, but having people on mats next to you can be a comfort when you’re feeling overly isolated.
5. Read. Reading a great novel is something we generally tend to prefer doing alone anyways. For me, getting lost in a book is one of my favorite passions—and a great thing to do when you’re feeling lonely.
6. Get coffee. It might seem silly, but one of my favorite places to head during some of our more isolated locals was my small-town coffee shop.
7. Go to the library. Libraries, especially these days, are underrated. You just might discover your new favorite book while perusing the shelves, and there’s almost always a soft, cozy chair to sit in for a little while.
8. Branch out. Do you feel lonely a lot? Think about why. If it’s because you’re not making friends easily then look for different places where you can meet people with similar values—say, the yoga studio for example.
9. Get a haircut. This suggestion might be unexpected, but I have a history of doing things to my hair when I feel lonely or in a rut. It’s just hair, it grows back, and you should be having fun with it anyway. For me, a haircut is such a cathartic experience—and it’s almost always invigorating and renewing if you’re feeling down.
10. Become your own best friend. If you’re not already, you should definitely consider becoming your own best friend. For one, life is a lot more fun when you enjoy your own company. Secondly, we tend to meet healthy friends and partners when we like ourselves first; and lastly, it alleviates a lot of feelings of loneliness if you like being with yourself.
I’ve always needed alone time, but my first big, adult move out west with my husband was surprisingly enlightening.
I learned a lot of things about myself by being forced to spend more time alone than I would have previously chosen to do. These tips and suggestions are things that have really helped me throughout the years when I felt isolated and alone—and I hope they help you if you’re in a similar place in your own life right now.
Remember, though, that life should be a social, fun experience, so if you’re feeling lonely a lot, don’t ignore it. Talk to someone you trust.
Having said that, I love The Verve song On Your Own that says “you come in on your own and you leave on your own.” It’s a reminder that we’re supposed to experience moments of solitude; we are solitary—and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta