Health

How to be alone and happy

I'm generally very social and I like to busy myself with shared activities — bike rides, brunch dates, bar stool-sitting — but every now and then, I find myself with a few quiet days and it always feels like a nice break.

alone

I’m generally very social and I like to busy myself with shared activities — bike rides, brunch dates, bar stool-sitting — but every now and then, I find myself with a few quiet days and it always feels like a nice break. So many people dread being alone for fear of being lonely. I’ll admit that I also have my antsier moments, where a familiar restlessness kicks in and I usually just have to ride it out because it always passes.

I know I’m not the only one who’s happy being alone. Last year, Tanya Davis and Andrea Dorfman made a short film on the subject: How to Be Alone. I don’t really have any particular rituals — no dancing naked in the house, though I will take an extra long shower whenever a situation permits — but here are some of my favourite things about being alone:

1. A sense of time: Time always passes much more quickly when you’re in someone’s company. And, since I always feel like the days and years are too short, I welcome any opportunity to slow things down.

2. Bad television: We all have our guilty pleasures. Currently, mine is the Australian version of Project Runway — and it’s much easier to watch three episodes in a row when my boyfriend’s out of town.

3. Self-reliance: When you spend a lot of time with a partner or roommate or family member, you start to rely on their assistance to get through the day — which is nice. But it’s also great to have a reminder that you can do pretty much everything you need on your own.

4. Writing: Writing is by nature quite solitary — which is something I love about it. I like to sit in silence, often staring out a window or at a wall, and wait for thoughts to pour out of me.

5. Planning: I do most of my best scheming when I’m alone — most of it travel-related. I love to look at maps, flip through travel guides and plot a fantasy about where I’m headed next.

6. Reading a book in public: I love taking a book or magazine to a cafe or restaurant and lingering for hours. I’ve heard that dining alone is somewhat stigmatized, and that many women strongly dislike to do it. But there’s something really leisurely about a meal and a book.

7. Walking: Walking solo for me is really meditative — and I don’t mean the 15-minute jaunt to the fruit stand. I can happily walk for hours, and I sometimes like to just pick a neighbourhood in the city and head there, where I can happily observe without interruption.