If the enduring popularity of Friends wasn't enough of an indication, let us be the ones to tell you that our society places a lot of value on friendship as an indication that you're, well, someone worth being friends with. And, sure, friends are great! We love friends! (And Friends.) But some of us are just as happy — if not happier — by ourselves than we are with other people, even if there are wonderful people in our lives. And it turns out, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact, you'll get some serious benefits from taking (and enjoying) that alone time.
First off, just because you're alone doesn't automatically mean you're lonely. "If you feel that you’re not understood or you don’t have anyone to share your thoughts, feelings, or experiences with, that’s a sign that you’re lonely," says Michael Brustein, PsyD, a clinical psychologist based in NYC. "But if you’re alone, you might not have anyone with you, but you still have this sense that there are people out there you can relate to."
Having the comfort that, even though they're not with you right that second, you still have people who "get" you, allows you the freedom to really get to know yourself and your interests a little more. "You can really take things in differently and more mindfully because you can get in tune with them without distractions," Dr. Brustein explains. "You become more one with the activity." Also, as any introvert will tell you, it's surprisingly easy to be totally engrossed within your own inner world if you give it a chance.
Plus, Dr. Brustein says that being chill by yourself can have the fairly-awesome side effect of making you more attractive to other people, because it shows you're an independent, confident human being.
Ready to get a little more comfortable being by yourself? Dr. Brustein says you can ease into it by practicing mindfulness when you're with other people. That means taking a minute to become aware of what's happening around you in the moment. It helps you become more present and engaged with what you're thinking and feeling. Another great way to get more in touch with your inner world: journaling, he says.
Then, consider trying going to a movie or out to lunch by yourself. Feel free to bring a book, but also try to just tune into your own thoughts and the experience itself. Added bonus: no arguing over which movie to see.
Of course, there's a chance you might try these experiments and they won't feel good at all — or, even if you don't try them, that you're generally finding yourself veering into loneliness territory. If that's the case, and you're not sure how to break out of that isolation, Dr. Brustein says that could be because you have a fear of rejection or you feel "unlovable." And those are definitely reasons to check out professional counseling, which can help you build up self-esteem and learn ways to reach out to other people when you're feeling lonely.
But for now, we're decidedly on Team Loner. In fact, our team is planning a little Netflix get-together this weekend and, no, you're not invited.