As a compulsive extrovert, I’ve always fed off of the energy I get from being around others. I’m overly social, and I often feel the need to constantly be surrounded by people. But even for someone as outgoing as me, this can get draining really quickly. Hanging out with my friends starts feeling obligatory, and I pour all my energy into listening to other people’s problems and helping them.
My seemingly endless social energy is definitely an asset, but I’ve realized lately the importance of recharging and taking some time to be alone. After all, the time I spend alone allows me to be an even more engaging and fun person when I actually do go out with my friends. And most importantly, being comfortable with oneself is the basis of forming healthy relationships.
Being comfortable with oneself is the basis of forming healthy relationships.
Despite all these benefits, I still find it hard to really commit to spending time alone. That’s why I’ve started blocking out time for it in my schedule, just like I would schedule brunch with my girls. Although the idea of “self-care” has gained a lot of popularity in modern culture, it can be really intimidating to actually go through with all the ideas constantly repeated on lifestyle websites.
Have you ever really just sat down to read book for pleasure, or taken a relaxing bubble bath, without finding your mind wandering in a billion different directions?
For someone as active and energetic as I am, I often have difficulty focusing on relaxation in such simple terms. I’ve found that if you aren’t comfortable yet with the sound of silence, or share my caffeine addiction, taking yourself out on dates can be a perfect solution. You get all the benefits of much-needed alone time, but you don’t need to be lazy or passive. Dating yourself can also reinforce your confidence, independence, and overall sense of self.
Here are a few ideas for how to date yourself!
Take yourself to an art museum
Almost every city has some sort of art scene. Whether it is a traditional gallery, a local art walk, or a street fair, the simple act of viewing art alone can be truly uplifting. I’ve done some of my best thinking in the calm white noise of a museum, surrounded by vibrant paintings that remind me of the passion and hard work that can go into creating something.I’m not an artist myself (in fact, I can hardly draw a stick figure straight and my handwriting is downright illegible), but there’s something inspiring about being surrounded by the fruits of other people’s labor.
It reminds me that if I am patient, focused, and dedicated, I, too, can create something beautiful. You don’t have to be looking at a Van Gogh to get inspired–local artists work really hard to produce work that’s complex and meaningful, and you can often find exhibitions for free. So next time you have writer’s block, or feel like you’re getting fed up with the monotony of school, consider a visit to a gallery for some inspiration.
Sit in a coffee shop
I’m one of those people who absolutely cannot stand studying in the library. The sheer silence alone drives me a little crazy. I get distracted watching how focused everyone else is, and spend hours flipping my pen and opening new Google Docs on my laptop instead of actually immersing myself in work. I’ve found that treating myself to coffee at an independent shop is the perfect antidote to this problem. Whether I have serious work to do, or just want to spend time doodling and thinking, I’ll drive myself to the nearest non-chain coffee shop and sip a latte.
An added bonus is that most independent coffee shops attract a diverse crowd of people, who are usually friendly and engaging. I’ve had some incredibly interesting conversations with the owners and patrons of these places, exchanging life stories and hearing about their experiences. I think that these conversations totally still count as alone time, because you’re not under any social pressure when talking to a stranger in such a casual setting. You’re just getting to know each other out of interest alone.
But of course, there’s nothing wrong with sitting out on the patio, enjoying the (hopefully nice) weather with a cappuccino in hand and just enjoying the experience without saying a word. It can be a truly calming experience to lose yourself in thought and pensively savor a drink.
Go for a long drive or commute
This is the lowest-maintenance option for alone time, especially during those busy weeks when you don’t feel like you have any time to spare. The simple act of getting in your car, putting on an acoustic playlist, and driving to the grocery store to run errands you need to do anyway, can be relaxing and enjoyable. I’ve learned to love driving, because I can enjoy my own company guilt-free, and still feel like I’m accomplishing something. For those of you that don’t have cars or get around using other means, it’s easy to pressure yourself into doing work during a commute, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
My college is in a suburb of Boston, and the commute to the city can take 30-45 minutes. Instead of pressuring myself to finish a reading for class during the time it takes to get to my haircut appointment, I cherish the time I spend sitting on the metro by putting in headphones and people-watching. A commute can be the best time to pause and reflect on life, uninterrupted.
So next time you’re feeling socially overloaded, or just overwhelmed in general, take yourself out on a date. Just because you’re not in a relationship doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy nice things. Sometimes you’ll find that the activities you’d normally do with someone else can be even more interesting and fulfilling when you do them alone.