The art of being alone but not lonely

You are in a room with four walls smeared with pale white paint and you are sat on the cold hard concrete floor clinging onto your body with your head buried into your chest. You feel a sharp chill trickle down your spine as your thoughts of being alone consume your body, and a solemn tear spills over your cheeks, like a river escaping a dam.

Does the thought of being alone resonate with you? I would like to send you a message in this article to tell you that you are not alone. Many of us are experiencing the exact feelings or have been in a state of loneliness at some point in our lives.

Loneliness is like an uninvited guest; it can knock on our door and couch-surf for a short period of time or may decide to move into our space and stay longer than expected. Regardless of how long your uninvited guest has been occupying your space and the effect that it has caused you such as questioning why you are feeling like this, know that your feelings are validated.

In this article we are going to explore the art of being alone but not lonely. I have devised a framework which you can adopt as it has helped me when that uninvited guest pays a visit.   

 

1. IT IS ALL TEMPORARY 

Understand that the situation is temporary. Finn Butler encapsulates this statement perfectly; he says:

‘I know sometimes you cannot even breathe deeply, and the night sky is no home, and you have cried yourself to sleep enough times that you are down to your last two percent; but nothing is infinite, not even loss. You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day you are going to find yourself again’ 

This quote hit me like a tonne of bricks, as it is easy to feel in our current state that our reality will be permanent, and nothing will change. However, when we examine our environment such as nature, we slowly notice that nothing is permanent, it is all temporary. Embrace these feelings even though it may cause you pain; it will help in the long term when moving forward from the current situation of despair. I suggest this because we may know that our situation is temporary, however, this state of mind is different from accepting and embracing our circumstances regardless of your mood. This may help you take a step in embarking on the journey of being alone but not lonely.

 

2. BE YOUR OWN PERSONAL CHEERLEADER

The next step in the journey of being alone but not lonely is to believe in yourself and to marginalise any negative thoughts that undermine your ability. I would argue this variable of believing in yourself is highly important as it can have an effect on the decisions you make in both your work and personal life. 

To take action, I would recommend eyeballing my article called ‘Reset and Restart’ that is on the Her Campus KCL website, as it provides you with strategies to create goals for yourself to inspire you to harness your craft and acknowledge your past successes.

 

3. REFRAME YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES

I think there is a misconception of being alone as ostracising yourself from society, which has negative connotations. However, remember that being alone can enable you to engage with constructive self-reflection which can allow you to see a bigger picture than you previously were viewing. Take the time to reframe your situation, which is about ‘finding another way to look at the possibilities of your life’ (Rebecca K. Sampson). 

Get yourself a piece of paper and let us reframe our circumstances together. Start by drawing yourself on the left side of the page, (your drawing may be a stick figure like mine), and surround your drawing with words including how you feel at the current time, your passions and aspirations. Then on the right side of your page draw your future you, (which may be in a year or even five years), and jot down words which you want your future you to embody. Once complete, take a step back and craft tactics in which you can move from the left side of your paper to the right side where your ideal self lies. This may be practising meditation once a day or securing an internship to gain experience in the field you desire to work in.

 

4. UNDERSTAND YOUR TRIGGERS 

Anytime your uninvited guest comes knocking on your door, take a note of it in a journal or on a scrap piece of paper. Identify what is triggering these negative emotions; it may be scrolling through Instagram or lounging in bed for hours. Once you have identified the triggers - which may take a few weeks - adopt tactics to minimise any presence of them, such as cutting down the hours on social media and picking up a hobby like dancing.

 

5. INVITE OTHERS IN

You may feel that it is important to learn and be strong on your own but remember that you do not have to embark on this journey alone. Self-discovery is a personal journey. However, you can choose to share your experiences with others and be in a state of vulnerability as it can broaden your perspective on subjects. It can also aid you in your progression on mastering the art of being alone but not lonely.

woman leaning on door looking out onto the city Photo by Kinga Cichewicz from Unsplash

Understand that there is no universal period of time when you will arrive at the journey of being alone but not lonely. It is a process and adopting the following strategies I have laid out may help you on this journey. My final words that I have to say to you are, I wish you the best, and I know that you will overcome any barriers that may present itself to you as you are a strong individual.