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Maybe you saw the headline in the AJC:  Atlanta tops for people living alone.  The May 1 article noted that Atlanta is tied for Washington with 38.5% of households consisting of one person.  More and more of us are living alone, it seems.  So why does being alone seem like a problem for so many of us?

Sometimes being alone conjures up negative feelings – shame for not having someone to do something with, or fear that our aloneness either reflects something negative about us or is the way will always be.  But for most of us, being alone isn’t the way we are all the time.  It only seems like a problem when our fears get away from us and we make being alone something awful.  Think of the reverse:  imagine a life where you were never alone, where you were always accompanied or surrounded by others.  Most of us would quickly get exhausted.  Truth is, we need a respite from the busy-ness of modern life.

Remember what it was like when you were on your own for the first time?  You probably felt anticipation and excitement.  That’s something else that comes with being by ourselves:  freedom.  That’s one reason why I really like this video:

For those who live alone or spend a good bit of time being solitary, the real question is:  how do you cultivate the pleasure of your own company?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Boredom is your enemy.  OK, a little of it might be good if your life is hectic.  But for most of us, loneliness and boredom are closely connected.  What’s interesting to you?  Check out local things to do in the paper or online.  When was the last time you read a book simply for pleasure?
  • What are you waiting for?  Many single people feel self-conscious about going to a movie or restaurant by themselves or about traveling solo.  Imagining that things would be more fun with a friend or a partner means that they postpone happiness until some future date.  Better to seize the moment and make plans now.
  • Try something different.  We all get into routines, but if you’re feeling lonely it may be a signal you need to change yours.  Add a new activity or commitment to your weekly routine.  Consider volunteering or joining an organization committed to something you believe in.
  • Monitor how much time you spend online.  Staying in touch with friends via Facebook or whatever is fine, but spending lots of time communicating via keyboard or smartphone means that you’re in danger of not actually living your life.  Set some time limits and do something else so you don’t become dependent on technology for human contact.
  • Be patient.  Realize that life has its seasons of solitude as well as those of hustle and bustle.  Don’t let yourself get caught up in doom-and-gloom if you are going through a quiet time in your social life.  Things will likely change soon, particularly if you are trying new things.
  • Don’t be too patient.  Single people can waste a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring.  Don’t be shy about being the one to reach out and initiate contact or to make plans.  Being patient doesn’t mean being passive.

Spending time alone can be a great time to recharge the batteries or to think about what’s really meaningful to you.  Be mindful of the things you say to yourself and the choices you make and you may find yourself enjoying the freedom that comes with being your own person.