There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely, yet while I searched the internet for studies on the benefits of solitude, I kept getting results for loneliness. It seems we have confused the two. Obviously, we now know that time spent alone is healthy, provides balance, and allows us to cultivate an important relationship: one with ourselves. Whether you're alone by choice or tragedy, time alone allows us to build a compassionate and honest relationship.
I agree with Einstein who said, “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.” As our adolescent need for constant interaction gives way to introspection, there grows a confidence rooted in our own acceptance, and we're given chances to test our meddle and exercise our independence. Want to be your new BFF? Here's 20 experiences you should have, at least once, all by your lonesome.
20 Window-Shop Your City
This doesn't have to be an all-day spree. It doesn't even have to cost you anything. The idea is to slow down in surroundings that stimulate you. It's a walk-around date for you to enjoy your own company. Stop into a cafe and order something you've never tried. Maybe a coffee blend with something flaky and drizzled from the bakery case. Linger in a local park and people-watch from a bench. You may find an intriguing boutique, a rock climbing gym, Pilates studio, or artisan working in their shop.
Exploring your city could lead to finding a new interest, pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, and creating new relationships in your community. See what your town has to offer, whether it's a beautiful meal or an experience. You'll be surprised at what you discover. While you walk, keep your self-talk positive. You're not alone, you're independent...and next you should hit the local farmers' market.
19 Hike A Trail
First off, if you can't read a compass don't go wandering into a large wilderness, even if you've packed for it and you've seen Wild like eight hundred times. With the disclaimer out of the way, there's a lot to be said for the beauty of nature and its effect on your psyche. Researchers at Harvard University have found that walking heightens creativity. Obviously, this leads to ideas, but also bolsters problem solving. If you're not outdoorsy, the good news is that the study concluded that walking was just as effective when done indoors.
If you choose to hit the trails but need help finding some, Map My Hike and Backpacker can plan your route. And if you won't be hiking often, don't bother buying expensive gear. Pick a short trail and grab a backpack along with something to eat, water, sunscreen, some Kleenex, and your phone for taking pictures. Wear comfortable shoes and let your mind wander as you do. Bonus: Being alone means not having to worry about nature literally calling you.
18 Celebrate Your Birthday
I do this every year. No, I don't mean that I stay holed up the entire day. Chances are the protest from friends and family would put the kay-bosh on that anyway. What I do each birthday is make a date with myself to evaluate the year, any changes, and my progress toward reaching my annual goals. It doesn't necessarily have to be on your birthday special day.
If you're a goal oriented person, you may already be doing this on a different date. If you're not, there's a good chance you wing it at New Year's and that's that. But if you've ever looked back on a year in your life and marveled at the difference, you can understand the power of how little time it takes for everything to change. Why not direct some of that change with intention? Granted, it won't work if you write down your goals and don't see them again until your next birthday. Decide what small actions you can take to move toward these big changes and post your list somewhere you will see it.
17 Visit A Library Or Bookstore
You don't have to be a bibliophile to enjoy either of these places. Even if you don't like to read (in which case I'm really proud of myself right now) you're welcome to peruse the magazines and wander the music collections. Ideally, you should meander each and every aisle because you're stimulating your curiosity. There will be subjects you have little to no interest in. Simply take note. But what else? Where could you spend all day? Find at least one non-fiction subject that you don't have much knowledge about but want to learn more. Are there any books that would further your professional development? Is there a hobby or the beginnings of a passion you'd like to explore?
Wander through the fiction as well. What stories interest you? Maybe you're a fan of the female FBI agent who is called home in lieu of some tragedy and has to solve a crime while making amends with family and the love she left behind in her hometown. I swear that's a genre. And don't forget that if you're borrowing from the library, they usually have an astounding collection of movies and documentaries on disc. While you're there, look for future events, readings, and workshops you'd enjoy attending.
16 Picnic In The Park Or Hit The Beach
I'm grouping these together because they both involve laying on a blanket, by yourself, in public. Of course, you're welcome to bring your phone for pictures and tunes but no spending all day fingering it. It's not constructive and we both know it. Instead, bring the novel that caught your eye at the bookstore or library and a blank notebook or journal and a pen. Pack yourself a lunch and whatever other essentials you'll need and stake your blanket (or towel).
Give yourself permission to decompress and once you're relaxed, open your new journal and begin the first entry: Everything is amazing now that... Let yourself dream big. Have you left your current job to work in a different field? Have you moved? Healed an injured relationship? Regained your health? You can't have direction unless you define it. You could also describe your ideal day in your notebook, chronicling your activities from the time you wake up. Did your alarm go off later? Mine usually does. In this ideal day, what are you looking forward to? What do you do all day? Where do you work? Who do you spend your time with? These journal exercises will help you create a wish list for your future.
15 Eat At A Restaurant
I know it's cliché but I still recommend it. If you know you'll resort to distracting yourself with your phone, choose an eatery with televisions or eat at the bar. The trick is to treat yourself while trying something new. Your meal doesn't have to contain exotic ingredients (it could be an amazing salad) but it must be something out of your norm. Find a new restaurant by asking your friends for recommendations or you can let the meal picking slot machine at Urban Spoon decide, maybe you noticed a mouth-watering smell while you were downtown. The only rules are that you can't 'get your regular' (it has to be somewhere new) and you can't play with your phone. You're on a me-date.
So what are you supposed to do while you're sitting there waiting for your food? You can bring something to read or your journal but really, the only awkward part of eating alone is the time between ordering and your food arriving. Take in the atmosphere of the restaurant. Ask your server what dishes are house favorites. Order tea and sake with your sushi. Sip a glass of the house white with the lobster ravioli. Indulge yourself in the experience. Once your food does arrive, pause to appreciate its presentation and take the time to taste the experience.
14 Explore A Museum
This can be an opportune chance to further explore the interests you discovered at the library. There are museums dedicated to the collection of just about everything. If you're intrigued enough to plan a pilgrimage to a specific museum, by all means, go, but popular exhibits travel and tour many museums, offering visitors something new to see and explore. Keep an eye on your local museum's newsletter or connect with them on social media. Not to brag but that's how I discovered the Led Zeppelin laser light show (for three bucks!) at my downtown museum.
Museums foster an appreciation for beauty, history, exploration, and stories. In the spirit of this, you could instead visit a zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, or hall of fame. While you're on your adventure, be open to moments of awe. It might be a painting, or a sculpture, or a tree, a shark, a guitar, or the ruby-red slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Or you could visit a planetarium and marvel at the vast mysteries of our universe.
13 See A Movie
This is a great starter outing if you're uncomfortable spending time alone in public. You don't have to go during rush hours, either. And matinees often offered at a reduced price. Keep an eye on current reviews and find something that you either can't wait to see or that was made for the big-screen, high-def experience. If you check your local theater's website, you might be surprised to find documentaries and special screenings on the schedule as well. Maybe there's something you want to see that no one else is interested in. Don't miss out on it.
If you're worried about the alone factor, rest assured your mind will be distracted and it will be dark. Get butter on the popcorn, splurge on Junior Mints, and be whisked away by Hollywood. When the film is over sit through some of the credits to let your mind absorb the story. If you were anxious about being alone, you've overcome a hurdle. Walk out of that theater like a boss.
12 Put Together A Piece Of Furniture
Nothing tests your wiles like assembling a bookshelf. It's not so much about the bookshelf. It's a matter of feeling competent, capable, and accomplished; plus you get a bookshelf. If you've ever assembled a piece of furniture, you already know it's a test in patience but there's also satisfaction once you step back to admire your new addition. You did that without the help of anyone else!
If you've already mastered the art of putting together furniture (without throwing things) why not explore other avenues of creativity? Trying new things leads to growth. Learn to cook, up-cycle used furniture, grow tomatoes on your balcony, bead necklaces, paint. Creation and self-expression go hand in hand and enhance this time alone, even if you never share your masterpieces with the world. The benefits of creation are in the act of creation, not in what is created. No judgment if you don't share the tomatoes.
11 Explore A New City
Make this as big or as small as you like. If your dream is to visit San Francisco but you live in Ohio, start planning and saving. Likewise, you might be thrilled to visit a tourist town an hour from your home. At some point in your life, you may stumble into this situation or will choose it through a shift of occupation or circumstance. This can be scary to do on your own, whether you find yourself permanently relocated or purposely alone for a weekend on foreign land. Focus on the excitement of discovery and new experiences and take in all the city has to offer.
If you run, get your blood pumping while you get the lay of the land. Depending on the length of your visit, you may have destinations scheduled. Ideally, you'll have enough time that you're not rushing. If possible, stay at least two days and spend the first evening exploring the city by foot. Obviously, you'll want to steer clear of dangerous areas so you'll want a map, but try wandering by feel. Get acquainted with the city's personality and duck into any spots that look interesting. Have a delicious meal. breathe the native air, and know you're in good company.
10 Schedule A Spa Day
Whether you make a full day appointment at a spa or treat yourself to a day of pampering at home is up to you. Make it indulgent, though. Prepare hors d'oeurves and cut fresh fruit the night before. Find a relaxing music station and light some scented candles. Moisturize your hair, apply a facial masque, paint your toes, shave, exfoliate, add caramel highlights, use a new lotion. If you're visiting a spa, don't pass up the massage. You can't get that at home alone.
If your ideal spa includes a jacuzzi, pool, or sauna check with local hotels about purchasing a day pass. Many offer these at a reduced rate if you're not a guest of the hotel. This time alone pampering yourself reinforces your self-worth and relieves stress. If you can, schedule an entire day and end it by relaxing in a fresh pair of pajamas, reading or writing in your journal.
9 Take A Road Trip
The iconic road trip. I can't guarantee taking one alone will offer much conversation but it will bring introspection. If you find yourself working through something or you feel lost, hitting the road can help you reconnect and make decisions. Plus road trips are just plain fun. Even by yourself. Of course, since no one's riding shotgun you'll want to take certain precautions. Invest in or borrow a GPS, in case your phone loses service. Enroll in roadside assistance protection, get your vehicle tuned up and pack some form of protection. You can buy pepper spray at most outdoor supply stores.
This might be your chance to explore that new city or maybe you want to see where the road takes you. The choice is yours. Create a cruising playlist, pack a cooler, some road snacks, and your sense of adventure. Since you're riding solo, you won't be able to drive non-stop. If your getaway has a final destination, be sure to pull over and rest if you feel drowsy.
8 See A Live Performance
In your effort to learn more about yourself and try new things, attending a live show can be both intimidating and exhilarating. Concerts, large and small, count toward expanding your horizons and should be experienced at least once on your own. Going stag doesn't mean you can't interact with people but choosing the venue without anyone else's influence means you'll be sure to choose something for you. This could be a sold out stadium or a free performance at a local park. You could also attend a play, a book reading, a poetry slam, an opera, or a comedy show. There are any number of opportunities to see the world perform live and you're almost certain to have a profound personal experience attending alone.
Usually after a show, we discuss our favorite parts with the people who accompanied us. You'll probably feel a pang of isolation once the curtain closes because you'll want to talk about the performance with someone. Take this opportunity to write about your experience in your journal. In addition to your description of the performance, record your feelings about going alone, both good and bad.
7 Shop For Clothes
Now that you're an old pro at these solo dates, clothes shopping should be a delightful breeze. Give yourself at least a few hours for your excursion and treat yourself to a cocktail and appetizer during your outing. Whether you're browsing or looking for something specific, approach your shopping trip with the goal of slowing down and spending quality time alone. You have permission to wander and dawdle. This could be a chance to revisit the interesting shops you found downtown, scour the stores in the mall you're drawn to without having to worry about a waiting companion, or you could hit my favorite place: the local consignment shop, where oddities and unique (sometimes vintage) pieces abound. Stop for something decadent to sip while you try on outfits, and try on a few just for fun. You're probably not going to buy that satin gown but see how it looks and feels anyway. Make sure to spoil yourself at least a little...even if it's only a pair of lacy skivvies or a bra that makes your girls look fabulous.
6 Enjoy A Festival
You could schedule a meet up spot with friends, then arrive early for some time to explore independently or clear the entire day for some quality me-time. The idea is to fully experience what the festival has to offer your senses, so don't be tempted to check your phone every few minutes. You'll only cheat yourself, though of course, you'll probably want to take at least a few pictures. There are thousands of festivals held annually, from the Darwin Beer Can Regatta in Australia to Fantasy Fest in Key West, and the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Ireland. There are so many opportunities to meet new people who share the same taste in music as you! You can find bucket-list-worthy festivals at Fest300 or check your city's web page for upcoming celebrations near you. Of course, every great festival offers tempting food, local vendors, and live performances. Indulge your senses and treat yourself to a crispy funnel cake and at least one souvenir to commemorate your adventure.
5 While Away A Weekend
This mini-retreat is another good beginner-level solo challenge, and highly recommended if you've been feeling lost or disconnected. This is an exercise in reconnecting with yourself and you're welcome to spend the entire weekend puttering at home. While I won't say that television is off-limits for this experience, you won't get anything out of it if you spend Saturday and Sunday binge-watching Pretty Little Liars in your comfies. Instead, put on some music and write in your journal, take a stroll around the neighborhood, water your tomatoes, finish that juicy novel, bake something decadent, build a personal bonfire for toasting marshmallows, or create something.
If boredom strikes or you feel pangs of loneliness, draw yourself a lavender-mint Epsom salt bath and visualize your stress and worry being drawn through your pores into the water, then release your anxieties down the drain. If you have too much energy to sit still in the house by yourself, burn it off with a full-length exercise video from Fitness Blender.
4 Decorate A Room In Your Home
Whether you live in an apartment or have your own home will largely determine the extent of this project. If you have the freedom to paint your walls, take advantage of this opportunity. Social media pages, Pinterest, and sites like Dot & Bo are hotspots of inspiration and can be indispensable resources for choosing a paint color. If your solitude is the result of a break-up, I highly recommend redecorating your bedroom as it will symbolize a new beginning and help you reclaim your space from painful memories and associations. If your budget (or a lack of free time) won't allow for a major renovation, you can still give your room a fresh new feel by rearranging furniture, switching out curtains, replacing your comforter, and adding accent pieces like throw pillows, area rugs, and wall hangings. Once you've finished decorating, add a decorative wax warmer to enhance the ambiance with an inviting scent.
3 Complete Or Repair Something
The satisfaction and feelings of competence you'll gain by challenging yourself is paramount to building your confidence. You can flex this muscle intentionally by tackling a project or repair job, big or small. The intensity of your project can range from tearing apart and rebuilding an old motorcycle to fixing a running toilet. Start small by choosing something that poses a challenge but won't be so overwhelming that you give up. Coat your refrigerator in chalkboard paint, install a ceiling fan, hang twinkling lights around your patio, upgrade your shower head, or install a pedestal bathroom vanity. The improvement itself will be a mere side effect of your experience and the pride that comes with successfully meeting a challenge. The next time something malfunctions in your home, decide whether you can take it on yourself before contacting maintenance, your significant other, or a handyman. It may lead to strutting around like the bad-ass you are.
2 Dance Like No One Is Watching
This may or may not involve alcohol but it should bring you feelings of pure joy. You might be cleaning or washing dishes or celebrating something in your life or dancing on your bed while singing into your hairbrush. Let that bliss and excitement surge through you and outward in dance. Don't worry about feeling silly since no one is watching. This is an exercise in connecting with and accepting yourself, whether you're a Beyonce or a Napoleon Dynamite.
Crank your favorite booty-shaking jam and let yourself go. Dance until you're exhausted and out of breath. Dance until the laughter won't stop. It's a great lesson in not taking yourself too seriously and will open your soul to pure joy. You can break out an old cassette collection, explore new music stations online (Bollywood music is amazing if you're not overly coordinated), revisit old favorites on YouTube, or reconnect with your compact discs. If you feel silly, that's great! “There's power in looking silly and not caring that you do.” I can't say it any better than Amy Poehler.
1 Attend A Professional Conference
This solo act can intimidate even the most adventurous and independent women but shouldn't be avoided for the sake of comfort and security. Yes, meeting new people can be scary and of course you're worried about not knowing anyone while being expected to connect and mingle with perfect strangers. It's kind of the point. Once you've tackled this challenge, you'll be hard pressed to feel awkward ever again in a solo situation and if you do, you can remind yourself of this accomplishment to instantly regain your confidence.
The conference you choose can center on professional development, networking in your field, or a passion you've discovered while connecting with yourself and exploring your interests. Many conferences maintain social media accounts where you may be able to find a like-minded companion willing to split the cost of a hotel room. The purpose isn't to remain in solitude for the duration of the event, but to find the courage to undertake this journey despite your fears and insecurities. Tackle this challenge and you'll feel like there's nothing you can't do...and you'll be right.