I am terribly uncomfortable with being alone. The worrier and control freak inside waste all kinds of time wondering what everyone else is doing, and sometimes assuming they are all doing things without me on purpose. Most of the time I attempt to remedy this by filling my schedule and staying busy with random to do lists and projects. However, the fake escape can have an opposite effect because having all the extra demands on my time can heighten my unofficial anxiety. Trying to manage all those thoughts can leave me feeling helpless and useless since I've never truly required myself to just sit and relax.
Basically the thought of having to deal with myself and my thoughts incites panic. Quite literally I'd rather hide. When we are alone with our thoughts we have a greater chance of criticizing ourselves. Being preoccupied, even artificially, influences our thinking away from the tough stuff. We don't have to think about it if we are worried about other people or situations. Thus if we dislike spending time alone we give ourselves two options: get up and distract yourself or stay under the covers for as long as humanly possible.
While I wish staying in bed weren't a problem, there is a solid bit of commentary on emotional, physical, and interpersonal concerns. I've spoken before about how humanity thrives because of community. The biggest issue that sticks out to me is if we never come to terms with who we are, both good and bad, we can never improve. Defeating shortcomings begins with personally accepting them. Constant distraction from real life allows our defense mechanisms against negativity to become part of our personalities. In short, we really do become useless. Alone time, on the other hand, provides a chance to work it all out and let's us learn more about ourselves. In turn we are better equipped to deal with the world around us.
A secret about alone time that I've recently discovered is finding activities that work in already established interests, skills, and talents without pressure to perform. The reason we don't like to be alone is because we are afraid of what we think of ourselves. Afraid we don't meet our own standards. The time might be spent in critique of our latest experiences, charging us to do better in the future. A better use of that time might be in the creation of something that doesn't demand anything from us, where the results of what we make are just happy to have been made. No comparisons or competition. Just making for making's sake.
Over time we can see how much we've accomplished on our own. Eventually spending time alone won't devolve into self-deprecation but instead lead us to self-actualization. We are capable of being alone because we can honor those parts of us that simply are - you know, the ones we were afraid of in the first place.
Activities for When You'd Rather Not Be Alone (But Have To)
Through experience, I've come to understand when I need these breaks and what to do with the time. Before I was scared of choosing to go off on my own, for all the reasons listed above and more, and I overwhelmed myself to the point of being paralyzed. Now I am learning to understand my needs better since I spend more time with myself. The activities you choose to structure your time alone should be simple, preferably you can completely zone out. You may compare this to mindfulness or inner thinking. The point is to experience yourself in places that are purely your own. Some suggestions from my favorite alone time activities are...
- Brainstorming, Mindmapping, or Brain Dumping - Sometimes it's good to just let it all out with no boundaries. It's okay to use upcoming projects for this because you aren't trying to finalize anything. You are just to come up with as many ideas as possible. The process can ease tension, provide perspective, or just plain clear your mind. Color and scribbling required.
- Watching TV - Documentaries, catch up on shows you've missed. Learn something or don't. As long as you are vegging out, as television is so beautifully designed to do, it works.
- Reading - Series are especially good here because you can stick to a set of books that keeps you going for a while. Extended reading opens you up to new ideas, and helps drive your interests and creativity. Not to mention it can be addictive when you find the right books. I've read six books in the last 3 months, finishing off a series that I couldn't recommend more emphatically and starting a new one that I also enjoy. And I'm already looking forward to my next one.
- Writing - Working "serially" is perfect here too. Journaling, scrapbooking, and even light (no pressure) blogging are outlets that help you learn to express your feelings in words. Better communication and understanding is always a good thing.
- Walking - Grab your loyal buddy, either a pet or a camera, and head out for a walk around the neighborhood. Appreciate the world around you and get healthy. Bonus points if you are walking for charity!
- Coloring - Adult coloring books are extremely popular these days. I myself have about 4! And since I have no drawing skill whatsoever, it's nice to have the images already created for me. The focus required for coloring can be very calming and colors can affect your mood.
- Cooking - As long as you are alone in this one it can be a perfect way to spend your time. Cooking uses a grouping of different skills and the results can be amazing! Take what you make to the local homeless shelter or hand over some baked goods to the neighbors.
- Music - Put on your favorite tunes for some bedroom karaoke or a personal dance party. Or learn a song on your favorite instrument. Again this uses your brain a few different ways so you'll be spending time and energy. Plus you can go all out because no one is watching.
Examples of things I wouldn't do...
- Group Exercising
- Phone calls/Checking email
- Cleaning or Organizing
- Social Media
These activities require other people or they just aren't fun. Remember to choose an activity or two that you actually want to do for which you can find a secluded spot to accomplish. And no cheating with group classes at the gym or heading to the dog park. That's a habit for another time when maybe meeting people is the point. For now, enjoy you because YOU are awesome!