When the days get grayer and the nights get longer, being alone can get, well, lonely.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As an extrovert, sitting with myself is one of the hardest things for me, especially when it’s -14 degrees outside (yes, I have voluntarily chosen to live in a place where the air makes my face hurt for half the year). But rather than distract myself by binge-watching “Friends” over and over again, I find that setting aside time to be alone actually helps keep me grounded. This season, give yourself some alone time — here are six simple ways I practice being alone:
Create a cozy space
Set your environment up for maximum relaxation. That means eliminating clutter first and foremost. Clean your space and get rid of all of the stuff that weighs you down as your first “alone-time” task. If that seems daunting, start with one cabinet or one shelf. My go-to is organizing my closet by color. It never lasts, but it feels good to bring order to chaos.
Once that’s done, make some tea, light a candle, and get yourself a cozy blanket, hygge style.
Turn off your phone
Take it to the next level by turning off your phone. Painful, I know. I definitely fall into social media wasteland when I’m feeling stressed. Don’t get me wrong, I love connecting with my friends. But if I really want to practice being alone, I need to put the phone down — which for me means completely off and in another room — and you should, too. (Even if it’s just for 10 minutes!)
Doing this can be really uncomfortable, but by banishing my phone to another room, I can sit without distractions and really be alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time, rather than the few minutes between pings and notifications designed to pull me back in.
Take a gloriously long shower
As someone who crams in a three-minute shower between my workout and my 9 a.m. meetings, I love taking a long, luxurious shower in the evening. I take this time to do some self-care: I scrub everything, actually use conditioner, or try out a new face mask — any excuse for 20 minutes of steam.
In the shower, there’s nothing else to do but be alone. In a house full of people, it’s the one place where I can be alone with my thoughts (and it helps me feel warm and cozy, too).
Stretch it out
When is the last time you stretched? Even as a lifelong athlete, I tend to skip over stretching so as not to “waste time” in my morning workout. But it’s an important habit whether you work out or not to stay flexible, and gives my body something to do when I have trouble sitting still and alone. I’ll find a spot in front of our wood burning stove and do some basic stretches. You’d be amazed at what doing a simple forward fold for three minutes can do.
If I’m feeling really into it, I’ll put on a 30-minute yoga class — I use an app called Glo — and sink into more serious poses. I’m a big fan of yin-style yoga right now, which forces me to sloooooow everything down and sit in stillness, rather than the safety of moving from pose to pose in vinyasa. The app lets me take things at my own pace, and I’ve come to build yoga into my bedtime routine because it’s so relaxing.
Get into a creative flow
I’m a writer, so my creative energy is something I safeguard every day. I love using alone time to get into flow state — what some people call “in the zone” — by writing, crafting, or doodling. Find what you love to lose yourself to, whether that’s a tricky puzzle or a new recipe, and give yourself the space to make some magic happen.
Meditate or pray
When I’m craving stillness, the best way for me to drop into the right mindset is to meditate or pray. Sitting in silence and counting my breaths is still hard, several years into meditating every night — but it’s one of the best ways I know to train my brain to see my thoughts and slowly quiet them down.
So, take a deep breath and go sit with yourself for a bit. You may surprise yourself.
Originally published on January 16, 2020.