What I Learned from Being (Mostly) Alone for a Month

What I Learned from Being (Mostly) Alone for a Month

By Elana

What I Learned from Being (Mostly) Alone for a Month

What I Learned from Being (Mostly) Alone for a Month

Being alone can be so scary--I did it for a whole month. Here are some things that helped me stay motivated and pass the time. 

alone red chair and bookcase

Being Alone

This past November, I traveled from California to upstate New York for an artist residency. I was scheduled to live in the woods in a big house alone for an entire month. It was terrifying. For the past couple of years, I had found myself deeply afraid of being by myself. I turned to my friends or my boyfriend to ensure that my evenings were filled with something. I always made plans to avoid being alone, though many evenings I was irritable and exhausted and should have stayed in. I even thought I might be dating someone to ward off loneliness. That’s not the kind of person I want to be. I want to be able sit with myself. I want to be able to love myself enough to be alone. The time alone was honestly a way to test myself. 

Now we're all about to be tested over our ability to spend time alone. These tips are especially with people who are single and alone in their homes, my guess is if you're in a house full of family you'll be looking for tips on how to get some time to yourself--which you should do! 

Before being alone: set rules

Before the residency started, I promised myself a few things: I wouldn’t use social media while working (so as not to distract myself in the middle of a thought), I would not drink unless I had a visitor, and I would wait one hour before calling someone if I felt lonely. The first night was definitely a challenge. The darkness of the woods was overwhelming, and I wasn’t yet accustomed to the house and its noises and quirks. However, when I woke up the next morning to the beauty that is fall in the Hudson Valley, the stress eased. I only felt excited and determined.

snowy hudson valley porch

Over the next week, I could feel all my anxiety about my relationship, friendships, career, money, and the future slip away. The following week, I felt completely at peace. It wasn’t a struggle to be alone. I loved it. 

If you are about to spend some time alone, set some guidelines for yourself. Look at it as a challenge for ways to improve your life. Where can you challenge yourself to take a break? What's something you can work on because you have more time? Can you set chunks of time where you really embrace being alone? Can you reward yourself somehow when you do? 

Then, be patient. It gets easier over time. 

Tips for Being Alone

Here are some things I did to keep myself company:

  • Set goals. First of all, I had a goal. I was there to make art, so I was motivated to wake up each day.
  • Cook. When I wasn’t working, I cooked, which I find relaxing and fun and a productive way to take a break.
  • Listen. The radio, music or a podcast played at all times. These stories and voices kept me company.
  • Watch and read all the things. I watched stupid shows while I ate dinner, but I watched quality movies or read a book before bed.
  • Sleep! I went to bed early.
  • Find new habits. On my month alone, I drove several miles each morning to my favorite bakery and splurged on pastries, which I never do in Los Angeles. If you can't do something like that right now, try a walk, or a long coffee-making ritual. What's something that's completely outside of your normal routine? What can you slow down that you normally rush through?
  • Make a schedule. This helps to fill your time. Because I had things to do, I felt healthier than I’ve been in a while. I didn’t look at my body the entire time. I had the same schedule every day. I never got bored. I told my friends I didn’t want to hear about drama back in Los Angeles. We didn’t text every day. I checked in and was present on social media, but I didn’t feel addicted to it. Instagram seemed boring and irrelevant for the most part. I didn’t miss anyone.
already missing my ny bakery


Time Alone is a Gift

Usually it’s impossible for people with families or regular jobs to take a month out of their normal life, and while at the moment it's mostly not welcome, we can also think of the challenge as a gift. We are all capable of making changes, figuring out how we feel our best, and adapting to our environment (this is both a good and bad quality). I’m back in Los Angeles now, and it’s stressful. I don’t feel at peace anymore. Real life is full of unexpected events that are annoying and distracting. I haven’t completely changed my life here in LA, but the shifts I made have stuck with me. I keep a more consistent schedule. I keep my podcasts on at home when I’m alone.  Most importantly though, because of my experience, I know I can be alone, and I like to be alone. This feeling is empowering, and it can’t be taken away.