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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

In high school I could not spend more than five minutes with my thoughts. If I was alone, I was definitely watching Netflix or YouTube (I can probably recite every one of Cody Ko’s “That’s Cringe” videos verbatim). Ideally, though, I was around other people—convinced I was an extrovert.

A big part of why I was this way is because of my poor mental state. I didn’t like being able to think about anything I wanted, because my thoughts would almost always turn into something I simply didn’t want to think about, but it was out of my control.

When I came to college, things didn’t instantly get better. In fact, they almost definitely became worse. Because I was around strangers instead of the people I had grown up with, being around other people suddenly became another source of my anxiety, rather than an escape from it.

While spending time alone was no doubt quite distressing for me at first, it was also a new opportunity; I had never spent much time alone before, so I got to make up my own rules as I went along. Eventually (with the help of other resources), I was able to return to a normal social life with a new best friend by my side—me! Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from spending more time with myself, including why I think it has been such a valuable skill for me. I have also included a few solo activities I love, in case you’re looking for some fun and easy ways to practice self-love during this Valentine’s season and beyond.

One of my favorite things about spending time alone is that I can do whatever I want, instead of having to compromise all the time. Don’t get me wrong—I think compromising and adaptability are also very important skills to have. However, it is nice to know that if there is a movie I want to see that none of my friends are interested in, or if I want to go to a coffee shop to study but my friends don’t, I can go on my own and be just fine.

In a similar vein, because I have become so comfortable in my own company, I can be more selective of the people I do choose to hang out with. When I look back on past friendships, I sometimes wonder what drew me to someone given how incompatible we really were. Now, hindsight is 20/20, but I do think a lot of time and stress could have been saved had I been okay with being alone, instead of forcing myself to hang out with someone that I wasn’t the biggest fan of.

This even applies, in some capacity, to the friends I truly do love and cherish. As I mentioned earlier, I used to think I was an extrovert because I wanted to spend all of my time around other people. Over the past year, I realized that my social nature was actually somewhat of a coping mechanism, and I identify more as an introvert because of the rejuvenation I experience being alone. And, because I don’t feel like I need to spend every waking moment surrounded by my friends, the time we do spend together is even more special to me.

While this may seem like a contradiction to what I just said, I also love being alone because it serves as an opportunity to make new friends! For instance, I ended up having to go alone to my yoga class this quarter because the friend I was going to do it with has a class at the same time. At the first class, I found out a girl I had mutual friends with was also in the class, and we got to talking and building a friendship of our own. Had my original friend not had class and gone with me to yoga, I’m not sure that I would have made the effort to make this new friend.

Essentially, all of the above reasons I’ve mentioned for why I love being my own best friend (along with countless others), culminate into one huge reason why I think this newly developed skill of mine is so important: it has strengthened my capacities for self-love, self-confidence, and self-reliance. After all, what is a best friend if not someone you can love, trust, and rely on?

For anyone looking for ways to spend more time with themselves, here are some of my favorites! 

My absolute favorite solo activity is listening to a podcast. I love podcasts as a medium for learning something new, whether it be more about an interesting true crime case or a deep dive into a sociological phenomenon. I promise that no matter what your interests are, there is a podcast for you out there! I will usually have one on while I go for a walk or lie out for a tan—two of my other favorite things to do alone.

Speaking of walking, something else I love doing alone is moving my body. Whether it be pilates, weight lifting, yoga, walking, or literally anything else, movement always leaves me feeling good both physically and mentally. Of course, workout buddies are always great to help keep you motivated and accountable; I just love being able to focus on myself and not have to worry about anyone else for the time being.

I also think that solitary time is a great opportunity to pick up a new hobby! I, for one, have recently gotten into knitting, and I love working on my project whenever I have a few minutes to spare.

The last solo activity I’ll mention, is taking myself out to dinner. This is especially topical given that Valentine’s day is right around the corner! As someone who is going into this Valentine’s day single, I think I may celebrate by taking myself out to my favorite local restaurant (shoutout Natural Cafe) and enjoying the self-love that comes with being my own best friend.

Hi, I'm Sloan, and I'm a second-year sociology major at UCSB! I love the beach, music, going to the gym, and cats. I am interested in mental health, fashion, sports, and so much more. I can't wait to share my passions with you through Her Campus!