Expert advice on building a relationship with yourself.
by Brittany Leitner
The idea of being alone is not always seen as a good thing. Too often, being alone is associated with the word lonely, but the two ideas are not mutually exclusive. Getting to the point where you enjoy being alone—and dare I say, are happy alone—is a powerful place to be, and one that can be very grounding and rewarding once you’re comfortable in that.
In order to feel happy alone, you must first build a relationship with yourself. “Building a relationship with yourself involves actually getting to know yourself, as you would anyone else you wanted to build a relationship with,” explains Nancy Colier, psychotherapist and author of The Emotionally Exhausted Woman.
Colier adds that “while you may think you already know yourself, maybe more than you want to know, most of what you know is probably about who you should be and shouldn’t be, as opposed to who you really are.”
In that sense, getting to know yourself unapologetically is the first step to learning how to love yourself and be happy alone. Here are a few more expert-led ways to find happiness alone.
How to Be Your Own Best Friend
First of all, be mindful of judgments that might arise when spending time focusing on yourself, and remind yourself that putting yourself first is a healthy move. “As women, we’re taught to be selfless, to take care of others’ needs over our own, and if possible, to have no needs of our own,” says Colier. “If we put ourselves on the list of people who matter; if we choose to spend time with ourselves, we’re often labeled selfish and entitled.”
Colier says it might be helpful to acknowledge the loss up until this point of not having experienced true love for yourself or even happiness in solitude. You can even do a small ritual like burning a candle or journaling to signify the start of your personal journey to loving yourself and appreciating being alone. “Journaling can be a wonderful way to discover new things about ourselves and gain deeper insights into who we are,” says Kristin Wilson, a counselor and chief experience officer at Newport Healthcare. “Writing in a journal can provide an emotional release and offer a place for us to be completely honest and authentic with ourselves,” she adds.
How to Feel Less Lonely
Loneliness can be harmful to both our physical and mental health, so it is important to tackle feelings of loneliness as they arise. But ending loneliness doesn’t necessarily mean adding more people into your life.
“When we feel lonely, we immediately set out to expand our circle of people, convinced that more intimacy with others is the answer to our emptiness,” says Colier. “While this approach can be helpful, the most profound form of loneliness we experience comes from our disconnection with ourselves.”
To get closer to yourself, start by getting curious about who you are, your truth, what you really feel in certain situations, and what you truthfully want out of life, says Colier. “When you start paying attention to and relating to yourself with curiosity and kindness, as a destination and someone worth knowing, a new kind of intimacy forms, an intimacy with yourself, which in fact is the most reliable remedy for loneliness,” she says.
How to Enjoy the Solo Life
Wilson says you should be mindful about spending your alone time focused on technology. “Take a step back from social media so that you’re not focused on what others are doing or feel that you are missing out on something,” says Wilson. “Mindless scrolling can often leave us feeling sad and lonely.”
If you’re feeling stuck, try unpacking “your narratives and core beliefs about what it means to spend time with yourself,” adds Colier. Think about what’s in the way of enjoying that time.
A few things that could be getting in the way: “Do you think it makes you a bad person to want to be in ‘just’ your own company? Does time with yourself mean that you cannot spend time with others, that it’s either-or?” says Colier.
“Enjoying time with yourself, fundamentally, requires evolving your idea of yourself, from someone whose purpose is to pay attention to and serve others, to someone who’s deserving of your own attention—for the simple reason that you want and need it,” she says.
When spending time alone, keep the focus on “What do I want?” Colier says that so much of how we spend our time is based around the question “What should I do?” Instead, “when you allow yourself to live from want, time with yourself has the possibility of being joyful and genuinely nourishing,” she says.
Article originally published on OprahDaily.com.