In our hyper-connected world, where the very fabric of our society is being remodeled and reshaped by technology at a lightning-quick pace, and where the old institutions that once held us together (e.g., religion) are crumbling, it’s only natural that an increasing number of us are feeling lonely.
As a result of mass globalization, the rise of the machine, pandemic crises, climate crises, political crises, crises of family, crises of equality, cancel-culture crises, crises of meaning, mental health crises, crises crises crises (am I getting the point across yet?)
… it’s also no wonder that many of us WANT to be alone, but don’t know how, and have no idea how to even be okay with it.
Table of contents
- My Journey With Being Alone & the Stigma and Shame Surrounding It
- How to Be Happy Alone (5 Empowering Paths)
- #0 Give yourself permission to have permission
- #1 Give yourself permission to rest
- #2 Give yourself permission to play
- #3 Give yourself permission to pursue a project of unbearable passion
- #4 Give yourself permission to rewrite the internal narrative
- #5 Give yourself permission to heal, grow, and be gentle
- What if You’re Still Unhappy Being Alone?
- Further Resources
- Final Words
My Journey With Being Alone & the Stigma and Shame Surrounding It
There is still so much stigma surrounding spending time alone.
As someone who has been on a pretty solitary journey for the past 10+ years, I still at times grapple with the shame that surrounds being not just an introvert, but a loner.
I have a strong relationship, two doggos that I adore, work that I love, and a nourishing spiritual practice, but I don’t have many friends.
In fact, I haven’t had a solid group of friends since my high school years. I kind of just … became a lone wolf after graduating high school and quitting university. And forming adult relationships since then has been a pretty “meh” experience.
I have tried volunteering, I have tried joining yoga and meditation classes, and even a Buddhist center, but the fact is that I am, (1) shy, (2) still carry unresolved attachment wounds from childhood that make my boundaries either too rigid or too porous (it’s a work in progress!), (3) struggle with anxiety due to my religious trauma, (4) am a neurodivergent HSP who struggles with sensory overwhelm, and (5) I love my solitude!
I’m not looking for advice here. I’m fortunate to have access to therapy, so I’m not inviting free therapy in the comments. I have done a lot of inner work and have made a lot of progress through the years – and I’m still on this journey of softening, opening, and returning to my inner Center.
But the truth of the matter is that I find myself alone a lot of the time, other than spending time with my partner and our dogs each day and visiting extended family once a week.
The work I do (writing for and running this website) means that I spend the majority of my time (maybe 90% of my week) online and at home. For me, this is a dream come true … no commutes to work? Hell yeah! No office politics? Woohoo!
But I also, from time to time, feel lonely. I sometimes get pangs of guilt that whisper, “You need to get out more and be more like other people.” Or shame that says, “Everyone else has tons of friends – look at them all laughing and smiling in that social media post! – why don’t you have that?”
And that place deep inside of me – the wounded inner child you could call it – sometimes wonders, “Is there something seriously wrong with me?” to which my inner critic chimes in and says, with a cold smile and a Cruella Deville voice, “Yes, there IS something terribly wrong with you, darling. You are fundamentally broken, and everyone can see it.”
But although I don’t have many friends IRL, and find myself alone a lot of the time, I have learned how to be happy alone. Even before my work here, finding my partner, or getting my dog companions, I learned how to be happy alone when I was truly internally alone. And I believe it was that capacity to enjoy being alone, that allowed me to enjoy the life I currently live.
So I will draw on that wisdom and the lessons I’ve learned across the past 10+ years to help you, dear reader and fellow lone wolf, to learn how to be happy alone, and be okay with it.
How to Be Happy Alone (5 Empowering Paths)
I’m not sure what circumstances have led to you being alone.
Maybe you’ve gone through a breakup, a divorce, changed country, have neurodivergence, are going through some kind of spiritual awakening, are at an age where most friends and family members have passed, have a solitary job, struggle with some kind of mental illness, are a carer, are a stay-at-home parent, don’t know to reach out to others – whatever the case, I want you to know that being alone is a blessing.
Yes, being alone can sometimes feel like a curse, and we do need human warmth from time to time (a therapist and even online friends and connections can be of help in that case), but I want to reframe and change the way that we look at being alone.
Being alone helps us to :
- Listen to our needs and our own inner voice
- Relax, unwind, and decompress
- Discover what we truly want in life
- Access creative ideas and original thinking
- Tap into deep emotional and spiritual insights
- Befriend ourselves
- Tune into the voice of our Soul
(Let me know if there are any other benefits that you’ve discovered to being alone in the comments! Also, there’s a sweet little book in the lonerwolf shop called The Power of Solitude, if you’re keen on going more deeply into this topic.)
So with that being said, here’s how to be happy alone and be okay with it:
#0 Give yourself permission to have permission
I want to begin with this preliminary step here that recognizes that “permission” is the key to learning how to be happy alone. Why?
Permission is what gives us the internal authorization to think, feel, and do things in a different way.
We often carry so much inner baggage surrounding being alone. We’re taught by society in all of its many forms that not having any friends, or a partner, or a family, etc., means that there is something “wrong” with you.
But when we look at the cesspool of suffering that is society and the “Soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation” that is social media (I have to channel my inner Wednesday Addams here, hehe), that’s not exactly a great standard to live by, is it?
So give yourself permission to be happy alone. Give yourself permission to LOVE your solitude. Permit yourself to be alone on easter, on Halloween, on Christmas, on every major calendar event, and feel good about it and yourself! Because why shouldn’t you?
You have the right to be happy alone.
#1 Give yourself permission to rest
Being alone means that you probably have more space than other people. And even if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not physically alone (and are instead around many others), that internal aloneness can enable you to tune into yourself and your body and mind’s needs.
Rest allows you to calm your vagus nerve/nervous system, regain vitality and creativity, and feel contained in your body again. Rest is the prerequisite to all following points below because, without rest, we don’t have the energy, imagination, or impulse to make the most of our solitude.
#2 Give yourself permission to play
Learning how to play and have fun by yourself is tremendously healing. When it comes to learning how to be happy alone, play is at the very heart of what makes solitude so enjoyable.
What does play look like for you? What do you feel excited about creating? What do you feel joyful doing?
Take your inner child by the hand, step into the role of the loving inner parent, and go wild! That might mean learning how to bake something delicious, honing the art of gardening, learning an artistic skill, embarking on a crafty project, traveling to a new and mysterious place, playing with your furry family members, or star gazing – there are so many opportunities to play!
In this article I wrote ages ago on how to spend Christmas alone, I provide a whole bunch of (often goofy) ways of having fun by yourself.
#3 Give yourself permission to pursue a project of unbearable passion
Okay, maybe “unbearable passion” is a little melodramatic. But what I mean is that the key to not only learning how to be alone but relishing it is to find out what lights you on fire.
What fascinates, thrills, inspires, heals, delights, and intrigues you?
Play (the previous point I just wrote about), is what enables you to find what you love occupying your time with and what your ikigai (a Japanese word meaning ‘reason for being’) is.
If your passion also helps humanity in some way, extra brownie points to you because not only will that make being alone worthwhile, but also deeply meaningful.
As a result of my own personal play and exploration, I discovered my ikigai in the form of this website: lonerwolf (unironically named!).
#4 Give yourself permission to rewrite the internal narrative
Often, being alone is coupled with feelings of guilt, toxic shame, self-blame, self-loathing, and a whole load of other painful emotions. It’s not uncommon to fall into a kind of victim mentality where we feel like tiny little islands in the vast ocean of life.
“Why can’t I be more like …. ?” “Look at all their friends! I don’t have any of that … I’m a sad loser.” “It’s tragic to be spending this much time by myself.” “There must be something wrong with me.” “I’m always going to be alone.” “No one understands or cares about me.”
Have you ever had any of the above inner narratives rotating around your mind? (I certainly have!)
Giving yourself permission to rewrite your inner narrative means being willing to step out of the role of being a victim, or being a weirdo, or being a [fill in negative self-judgment here], to simply being a person who happens to be alone.
What would rewriting your inner narrative look, feel, and sound like to you?
How can you gift yourself with a positive, healthier, and self-affirming inner narrative?
Examples might include,
- “I’m an introvert who loves spending time alone, and that’s okay!”
- “I feel nourished and revitalized by spending time alone.”
- “Although I might feel lonely from time to time, I know that I am always connected to my higher power.”
- “Many people are alone like me right now, and that’s okay. It gives me more space to do the things I love.”
- “I have the right to embrace my personality style and not buy into the false messages of society about who I ‘should’ be.”
Can you think of any other self-healing inner narratives?
#5 Give yourself permission to heal, grow, and be gentle
Without the level of solitude I’ve experienced, there’s no way I would be able to:
- Feel creative enough to write for and create the content for this platform
- Create and sustain this website in the first place
- Go deep into my inner work and healing spiritual journey
- Forge a nourishing connection with Soul and Spirit
- Find connection in different ways: through nature, meditation, spirit guides and allies, online groups, and friendly faces
Learning how to be happy alone and being OK with it is 100% an inner job – it’s a mentality that we carry, not something we can ever find on the outside.
Being alone opens the doorways to deeper healing, mental/emotional/spiritual growth, and the ability to find out who we are and what we want. It gives us the space to process old traumas, heal old wounds, and begin anew.
Ever wonder why many monks, nuns, sages, mystics, and spiritual figures through the ages spent prolonged periods alone? It’s because aloneness can be tremendously healing if you allow it to be.
Sure, the mind might jump in and start parroting judgments based on societal conditioning, but solitude has always been a gateway to not just joy, but also fulfillment.
Think of Jesus in the desert, Muhammad in the cave, Moses on the mountain, and so on and so forth.
I’m not saying that being alone means becoming some kind of prophet, but instead, what I’m saying is that being alone is innately a spiritual rite of passage.
And maybe, that’s the ultimate reason why you’re finding yourself alone. (Only you can figure that out.)
What if You’re Still Unhappy Being Alone?
If none of the advice above speaks to you, or you’ve actually tried all the advice and are still miserable, there might be a few reasons why.
Perhaps you’re an extrovert who naturally needs and thrives around others, or your trauma is preventing you from enjoying your aloneness as well as others’ company.
What do you do if you’re still unhappy being alone?
Shadow & Light Membership:
"Shadow and Light's weekly guidance always rings true to my heart. Thanks for acknowledging my shadows and inviting my inner light. I always get excited to open the Shadow and light emails on Sunday!" – Angela M.
Here’s some advice:
- Seek out a therapist (there are many options out there, both online and in-person)
- Try volunteering as a meaningful gateway to connecting with other people
- Go out and simply be around people and take comfort in their presence (offering a smile every now and then to a stranger can help you to feel connected, and 9/10 it will be reciprocated)
- Find places that make you feel safe and relaxed, like the local park or library, and regularly visit them (which increases your chance of making friends greatly)
If you’ve come to the end of this article and are wondering, “What’s next?” here are some further resources you might like to look into on your solitary path:
- The Power of Solitude (our book that explores solitude in the context of the spiritual journey and inner growth)
- Self-Love Journal (our highly-rated journal that helps you to be your own best friend)
- Soul Searching: 7 Ways to Uncover Your True Path (helps you to find a deeper sense of purpose)
- Feeling Alone: 13 Ways to Stop Feeling So Lonely and Isolated (self-explanatory)
- Feeling Empty: 5 Ways to Heal Your Inner Void (helpful for when being alone is also paired with feeling empty inside)
- How to Find Yourself When You’re Lost in Life (9 Steps) (if you need a few helpful pointers)
To wrap up this guide on how to be happy alone, let me leave you with a beautiful poem. I think it nicely summarizes the beauty of solitude and the opportunities present in this often-feared experience:
Be a thunderstorm after a gentle rain,
or lightning that strikes on a clear day.
Be the lone wolf away from a pack,
get lost in thought, find your way back.
Be complex, no need to analyze,
whatever you are, is perfectly right.
An identical match, or one of a kind,
be darkness, or the light that blinds.
Discover your truth, even if it burns,
seek what makes your soul yearn.
Howl at the moon, slide down a star,
be the magnificent being you are.~ Debra McLain
Tell me, what led you to this article? I’d be curious to hear, and whether it has helped you at all. :)