as a woman todayBeing alone in public — whether you’re having coffee alone, going to the movies alone, or enjoying your own company at dinner — seems to be something to avoid. So much so that the simple idea of spending time alone is met with fear and anxiety. Or, on the contrary, it should be a statement. She says I am sufficiently independentAnd sufficiently successfulAnd Confident enough You don’t need anyone else. there Vulnerable Judging at both ends of the spectrum. Admittedly, a few years ago when I first found myself living alone, these facts about the world made me feel not only lonely, but isolated in the experience.
I was on the verge of breaking up with my longtime partner, selling my car and all my belongings (except for some valuable books and clothing items), and had to say goodbye to my beloved cat. I’m back across the country—having moved to the West Coast four years ago—without a clear path forward. But a part of me knew that I longed for the experience of living alone.
I longed for the challenge and the opportunity to learn more about myself. Living on my own for the first time, while scary and terrifying, would give me context to experience healing at my own pace. And while I wasn’t out to prove anything to anyone else, I knew I wanted to reconnect with the inner confidence I’d let static for the past few years.
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Living alone for the first time? What the therapist wants you to know
Truthfully, I know living alone is a financial privilege. Rent in America is unaffordable for many, and homeownership is an elusive dream for people across every generation. But just because something is a privilege, doesn’t mean having that experience is easy. If you’re living alone for the first time, know this: Others deal with many more complex emotions, thoughts, and feelings that you are. And it was true of me, living alone is probably the result of a major shift in your life.
To help us navigate the complexities of living on our own for the first time, I spoke with Katherine Lee, a therapist in New York City. Below, she shares many ways we can learn to find joy in living alone. This can open you up to experience more self-love, compassion, and confidence in how you move around the world. Keep reading for everything you need to know about living on your own for the first time.
Many people are living alone for the first time if they have just moved out of their parents’ house or left a relationship. These contexts can be tricky to get out of. What could make the transition easier?
Create security and comfort in your home. Cultivating safety and comfort can create a form of stability and enhance a sense of strength during a period of transition that may seem unstable, uncertain, and inconsistent. Whether it’s rearranging furniture, adding artwork and photos, and creating a cozier atmosphere with lighting, take the time to make your space your own. Your living space is sacred!
Create a routine. Humans are creatures of habit. Routine creates a sense of security because it is something known and familiar, mitigating and dampening our “fight-or-flight” response. Create a routine It feels appropriate and reasonable to you.
Stay connected to your support system. Living alone doesn’t mean you have to go through the experience alone. Living alone can feel lonely and isolating; It can be easy to stay in your inner world and not engage with others, especially if you are more of an introvert. Schedule video chats, phone calls, and coffee chats to stay in touch on a regular basis.
stay active Get involved in activities you enjoy or try new things to give yourself something to look forward to during this transition. Join clubs, volunteer, take classes, and create opportunities to meet new people and expand your social circle.
Be proactive in addressing mental health issues. Living alone can come with its own set of challenges. If you find yourself feeling constantly overwhelmed or experiencing mental health symptoms regularly, reach out for help. Find a therapist in your area Or join a support group for people in a similar situation.
What strategies help you deal with the feelings of loneliness that can come with living alone?
Communicate with others. Living alone can mean being physically alone more often. Connect with the ones you love: call and text your loved ones, share your meme, etc.! Join clubs or groups that share interests with you, sign up for a gym, join a book club, or volunteer.
Find things to look forward to. Create excitement and opportunities to have fun! Whether it’s exploring and discovering restaurants, cafes, parks, and museums or redesigning your space, have a night out and do an activity you enjoy. Schedule activities and create things to look forward to.
Adopt a pet. Research has shown that Interactions with animals It can help fight loneliness. If you are able to, getting a pet can be very helpful in dealing with feelings of loneliness.
Get out and explore. Living alone can also be a great opportunity to explore your surroundings and discover new things in your community. Make time to visit museums, parks, and other local landmarks, try new restaurants and cafes, or even just take a walk around your neighborhood.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means becoming more present and aware of your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. That could include memoirsor coloring or yoga or practicing mindful eating, walking, etc. When you consciously acknowledge your feelings of loneliness, you can let go of unhelpful and critical stories. Mindfulness can transform your current feelings of loneliness into opportunities to connect with yourself and others.
When you acknowledge your feelings of loneliness, you can let go of unhelpful and critical stories.
What are the ways in which we can thrive when we live alone?
Prioritize self-care. Living alone can be an opportunity to focus on yourself and take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Taking care of your basic needs—eating nutritious meals on a regular basis, getting 7-8 hours of sleep, moving your body, hydrating your body, and taking care of your living space—are the building blocks of self-care.
Building a sense of community. While living alone means being physically alone more often, it doesn’t mean you have to be emotionally alone. Build a sense of community by connecting with friends and family members, joining clubs or groups with people who share your interests, or volunteering.
Be intentional in your relationship with yourself. Living alone can be an opportunity to work on your relationship with yourself. Use this time to focus on yourself and your own needs, explore your interests and passions, and even address unhealthy tendencies and patterns. Learn to appreciate the time you spend alone! Your relationship with yourself is a mirror of your relationship with others. Fostering a relationship with yourself will naturally create a ripple effect in other relationships.
Get out of your comfort zone. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do, but felt fear receding. Start by taking a reasonable step toward confronting this fear. Sometimes, just starting to acknowledge our fears and/or desires is the first step. As Nelson Mandela said, Courage is not the absence of fear but the victory over it.
Remember, living alone doesn’t have to be a negative experience; It can be a valuable opportunity for personal growth.
How do we grow from the experience of living alone for the first time?
Be more self-reliant. Living alone can teach you how to be self-reliant and independent. When you live alone, you are solely responsible for your well-being and the upkeep of your home. While this may seem intimidating at first, it can turn into a source of empowerment and a heightened sense of agency.
Become more self-aware and learn to embrace your authentic self. Living alone gives you time and space to reflect on your inner world. The more you are put in situations where you have to take care of yourself, the more you will learn what that actually looks like. As you spend more time with yourself, you may gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, feelings, motivations, and needs. The more you understand who you are, how you work, and where you work, the more you will live an authentically harmonious life.
Reframe this season as a period of growth and transformation.
Develop the ability to practice self-acceptance and self-compassion. Living alone is often a transition for many, and with any move, there are often things that are unfamiliar and new. I find that people often criticize themselves for not knowing how to do certain things, like understanding the utility bill and taxes and knowing what kind of cleaning supplies to use in certain situations. It can be really easy to be critical of yourself. But instead of being critical, you can practice self-compassion and acceptance. Reframe this season as a period of growth and transformation. Embrace the bumps that come along the way. Be curious, ask questions! The more you embrace this season and all that it brings into your life, the more you will welcome compassion and acceptance into your life.
Be more self-confident. You are the best advocate and you are responsible! When you know what you need and you can only rely on yourself, you begin to learn how to access your voice.