“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity”
– Albert Einstein
Isn’t it so interesting how much we crave the company of others (over being alone) when we are young? Surely influenced by our dependency on others for survival, love, and a sense of belonging, it was hard to imagine ever feeling really happy in the company of ourselves.
Personally, I (Jason speaking) always had to be playing with a friend, participating in sports, present at school, or with my parents to feel comfortable. I hated being alone. I felt lonely.
Also in part due to a lack of “passions” (outside of sports), I never valued my alone time. I didn’t realize the power of reflection, introspection, and “goal-setting” how we might frame it as an adult. I just pressed go and never stopped. It’s interesting to see this play out as an adult.
Making Time for Ourselves
Albert nailed it on the head; “delicious”, as he described it. Isn’t that how you feel when you (finally) get to stay in on a Friday night and just relax? Maybe knock a few things off your to-do list and get to bed early? What a turn from your teens and early 20’s. If you’re in your early 20’s reading this, I’m sure you look forward to the Wednesday night when you don’t go out to rest and recover.
We also take our “off” days and alone time for granted. Usually, we only get this alone time when we opt out of social commitments due to a lack of energy. It lacks purpose, in that we don’t intentionally make time for ourselves to spend alone, free from the distraction of someone else dictating our time or energy.
This is not to say there won’t ever be feelings of loneliness. Some feel this often, which should be considered outside of what we’re discussing here. You are never alone; this thought can provide comfort when we feel like we’re bearing the weight of the world. Sometimes we just need to ask for help, whether from a friend, peer, family, or professional. There is always someone to help.
One key thought is to make time alone a positive experience. After all, we should be happy with ourselves before we expect anyone else to make us happy. But, how do we do that if you aren’t introverted or haven’t experienced quality time alone?
Quality Alone Time Ideas
Here are a few quick ideas on creating quality time with yourself:
1) Take an extended break in nature.
We recommend not bringing anything electronic to pull you away from nature. If you’re in a city, find green space or water. If you’re in the mountains or by the ocean, you’ve got it easy. Find a vast space and go explore. This can be incredibly powerful if you go first thing in the morning.
2) Schedule time alone when you know you’ll have energy (i.e. not after a long week of work).
Stack up a few books, leave a blank journal with some prompts, set a goal for something you want to work on, exercise, and eat something fulfilling. A key here is to not schedule work or anything that will weigh on your mind afterwards; your thoughts will inevitably drift to this task list and away from quality time spent on your own. In other words, take a half day (or a full day) off work.
3) Write a few gratitude letters.
The best way to get out of your own head is to help someone else. One way to do this is to simply express thanks to people in your life you are grateful for, and we recommend writing a hand-written letter. The novelty and power of this act will stand out amongst emails and texts, making the time spent doing it and the reaction all that much more beautiful.
Being alone is not lonely, it is simply learning to enjoy the company.
“Sometimes, you just need a break. In a beautiful place. Alone. To figure everything out.”