How to be Happy Even If You Are Alone

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

IN BRIEF

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Here are some tips to help find happiness, even while alone. When you are you're own best company, there is no more loneliness, just happiness.

A 2020 US study about loneliness conducted by Cigna, showed that 61% of Americans reported feeling lonely. That’s an astounding number, but the feeling of loneliness is actually present in all generations, with 79% of Gen Z, 71% of Millennials, and 50% of Boomers reporting feelings of loneliness. (1) Those affected by loneliness can experience it in diverse ways, such as:

  • Lack of motivation either to work and/or exercise. 
  • Feeling of emptiness.
  • Continuously procrastinating. 
  • Uneasiness, regardless of trying recreational activities like listening to music or watching TV.
  • Insomnia, choosing isolation from others, emotional exhaustion, and in many cases substance abuse.

While loneliness may be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, it is not the same as being alone. Being alone is defined as a state of not being within the company of another individual. It’s absolutely possible to feel happy alone, it’s all about applying a good dose of self-care and awareness on a regular basis. 

Spend time in Nature to be Happy Alone

Depending on the location, close contact with nature may be a possibility. With Mother Nature, a little can go a long way, it’s a matter of finding the right opportunity. A walk in a small park close by, or along a riverbank can quickly do wonders for a person’s happiness level. The aim is to be consistent in making the time to escape from the demands of modern life. So, find a place to connect with nature in whichever way possible. Studies have shown that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature improves overall well being. (2) 

Other benefits from taking a walk in nature:

Practice Gratitude to be Happy Alone 

Gratitude is not reserved just for big occasions, it can also be felt in the small things that may pass unnoticed sometimes, but make a world of a difference. Anything from a bit of sunlight on a cold winter day, to a cup of hot coffee, to getting the last available parking spot. There are plenty of ways to be thankful every day. Few ways to practice gratitude are:

  • Start and end the day with a gratitude note 
  • Be consistent in writing a gratitude list
  • Give kind and respectful compliments 
  • Think about the abundance in the world 

Studies have shown that practicing gratitude with consistency may increase your happiness level. (3)

Declutter to be Happy Alone

Clutter can disrupt emotional health by creating feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.

It turns out the human brain is wired to dislike and feel uncomfortable around clutter. When primitive people lived in the wild, clutter meant danger. Something was able to come out of a pile and harm them. So, it’s completely understandable why people around clutter may find themselves in a state of high alert, unable to focus, which consequently wears out the mind.  

Decluttering the living space will not only contribute to physically releasing the space of unnecessary stuff, but it may also increase the amount of happiness and contentment for the inhabitant.

Take a Technology Break to be Happy Alone 

We live in a fantastic time with incredibly helpful technology. Because of this, we can always be up to date on global events, and get in touch with friends and family, no matter how far away they are, instantly. We can even work and date remotely, the possibilities are endless. 

However, the constant stimulation of having the world at our fingertips may add additional stress to our lives. The fear of missing out, comparing everyone else’s great life to our own, endless newscasts, and other virtual issues can alter our state of mind. 

For this reason, it is important to consume technology very mindfully… limiting screen time, taking breaks, and being selective about where you spend your time. Besides calming your mind and increasing your happiness level, taking a break from technology and letting your mind wander may spark creativity. The absence of constant digital stimulation allows the mind to roam free and tune with the inner self. 

To Be Happy Alone, Volunteer

Volunteering does not only help others, but it also helps the one performing the service too. By volunteering, individuals get in touch with others in need of a helping hand. This may help to put in perspective their own life’s struggles, developing compassion and empathy for those less fortunate. 

There are many opportunities to become a volunteer. The community center in your neighborhood, a place of worship, an animal shelter, and nursing homes are great places to consider. Now there is even the possibility of volunteering remotely, like tutoring a child online or helping someone to learn a second language. Also, performing random acts of kindness and helping others increases the overall well-being of an individual too. (4)

Take Care of Your Health to be Happy Alone 

Many studies have been conducted about the close relationship between physical health and emotional health. For optimal physical health, it is crucial to take care of key aspects such as following a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and enough rest. Incorporating a dedicated routine to improve these aspects is something that can be done when spending time with oneself.  

Physical exercise releases endorphins, these neurotransmitters reduce emotional stress, and increase the feeling of well-being

Find a Creative Outlet to be Happy Alone

Some studies have observed that engaging in creative activities can elevate the happiness level. Individuals that incorporate any sort of creative activity like writing, painting, learning a new language or any other creative pursuit may experience an increase in their overall wellbeing. (5)

Boost Your Coping Skills to be Happy Alone

Life presents stressful situations often, therefore improving coping skills may help to increase happiness, and reduce stress. There are two main types of coping skills:

  • Emotion-Based coping skills

When dealing with unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, anger, nervousness, or loneliness. Applying emotion-focused coping skills may be useful to feel calm and deal with the distress. Some examples of helpful healthy emotion-focused coping skills are: drawing, gardening, go for walk, listen to music, exercise, meditate, aromatherapy.

  • Problem-Based coping skills

There are many ways of addressing problems that are a source of stress. The measures can go from changing a negative behavior, creating a different plan of action to more radical solutions like changing jobs or ending a toxic relationship. Some examples of healthy problem-focused coping skills are: establishing healthy boundaries, walking away from a stressful situation, problem-solving, time management.

Bibliography

1.UCLA LONELINESS SCALE. 2020 U.S. REPORT: To further explore the impact of loneliness, in our culture and in our workplaces, Cigna fielded a national survey of 10, 000 U.S. adults. Cigna.com. Accessed February 9, 2021. https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-factsheet.pdf
2.White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):7730.
3.Witvliet CV, Richie FJ, Root Luna LM, Van Tongeren DR. Gratitude predicts hope and happiness: A two-study assessment of traits and states. J Posit Psychol. 2019;14(3):271-282.
4.Van Willigen M. Differential benefits of volunteering across the life course. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2000;55(5):S308-18.
5.Tan C-S, Tan S-A, Mohd Hashim IH, Lee M-N, Ong AW-H, Yaacob SNB. Problem-solving ability and stress mediate the relationship between creativity and happiness. Creat Res J. 2019;31(1):15-25.

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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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