Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD — Written by Crystal Raypole on June 30, 2020
Setting up house alone for the first time?
If you’ve just left a sibling or two who practices a what’s-yours-is-mine philosophy, or decided to try something new after a succession of bad roommates, you might feel beyond ready.
But maybe you aren’t positively thrilled by your new circumstances. If you just went through a breakup with a live-in partner or had other plans that didn’t pan out how you’d hoped, you might settle into your new place with disappointment clouding the situation.
No matter what you’re feeling — excitement, stress, or anything in between— it’s normal to have some nervousness, too.
But you can absolutely live alone, safely, without feeling alone in the world. Here are some pointers to help you embrace your newfound solitude and find fulfillment in living solo.
Living alone can help you find the time to work on your most important relationship — the one you have with yourself.
Until you live alone for the first time, it’s pretty common to spend most of your time in the company of others. When you focus on maintaining strong connections with friends, family, and romantic partners, though, your relationship with yourself might take a backseat.
If you’re realizing you may not know yourself as well as you imagined, now you have the chance to really take possession of your life. A self-discovery journey can be a great way to kick off this new adventure
You might consider what you like doing with your free time, your favorite foods, and whether you actually enjoy watching all that Netflix (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But don’t forget the deeper questions, too.
If you’ve just left home or ended a relationship, exploring future goals and personal values can help you gain some insight on your identity and the path you want your life to take. A well-developed sense of self can make it easier to identify what you want and need from relationships with others.
Don’t worry if none of this seems immediately clear, since this type of exploration can take time.
Tip: Try journaling to track and sort through your thoughts.
Along with soul searching, living alone gives you the chance to examine your relationships and note the ones that don’t do much for your well-being.
Maybe your roommate’s friends automatically became your friends, but you never grew close to any of them. Or you spent most of the last year hanging out with your partner, guiltily feeling the distance between you and your friends widen.
If these stories sound familiar, take some time to identify positive relationships with people who lift you up and add value to your life. Going forward, you can prioritize these important connections.
Remember, you’re under no obligation to spend your free time with people who make you unhappy, so invest your time in the meaningful friendships.
No matter how much you enjoy living alone, you may feel lonely from time to time. These feelings might come up around the times of day you associate with seeing people.
If you and your previous roommates usually all returned from work at the same time, coming home to an empty house might be rough.
And if you’ve just left a relationship? It’s absolutely normal to miss that intimacy of snuggling up next to your partner (but it’s also totally normal to love having the bed to yourself now).
There’s good news, though: Knowing where loneliness comes from can help you manage it. And being alone doesn’t have to translate to loneliness.
If you’re a morning person and really miss conversation over breakfast, try planning brunch with friends. When your evenings feel quiet and empty, turn on some music as you unwind from work and make dinner.
If your loneliness is more physical in nature, don’t overlook the value of hugging yourself.
Always longed for a furry companion? Now’s your chance, since you no longer need to worry about a roommate’s allergies or a sibling’s fear of dogs.
With a pet, you’ll never come back to an empty house. Pets also offer physical comfort (stroking a dog can release mood-boosting hormones) and entertainment, as countless pet videos on YouTube prove.
Days feel a little aimless? Having a pet makes it easier to stick to a schedule, since they need regular feeding and care. If you need a reason to get out more, a dog will hold you accountable for a few daily walks.
Can’t have a cat or dog? Consider a bird, fish, reptile, or small mammal. They may not be quite as sociable or cuddly, but they can still make great pets. Just read up on their care before making a decision — some need special diets, while others may live for more years than you’re ready to commit to.
Speaking of commitment issues, you can also look into fostering programs. Many shelters have programs that allow you to temporarily provide a home for animals in need. The animal gets to unwind in a cozy home, and you get to have a pet without all the commitment — everyone wins!
Loneliness doesn’t always strike where you might imagine it would.
According to 2016 research, people who live alone often spend more time with friends or in their community than married people do, and many people in unhappy marriages report feelings of loneliness, despite not living alone.
Yes, this means that living alone might actually result in you feeling less lonely than those who aren’t.
The key is exploring new ways to connect in your community.
Not sure how to connect?
Here are a few starters:
- Check community schools, shelters, and libraries for volunteering opportunities.
- Participate in community events, like marches, sidewalk sales, and barbecues.
- Get acquainted with neighbors, especially those seem to have shared interests.
- Frequent small businesses and get to know other regulars.
Following a regular schedule can help boost purpose and motivation, improving overall well-being as a result.
Routines often help relieve stress and loneliness, since keeping busy can distract you from unwanted feelings. Making regular plans with friends and loved ones can also help keep loneliness and anxiety at bay.
Just avoid packing your schedule too full. Overbooking yourself can lead you to check out mentally and keep you from mindfully appreciating the things you enjoy. Instead, you might end up simply going through the motions, which can create additional challenges.
Some tips to consider:
- Schedule time each week for housecleaning, errands, and other chores so these don’t build up.
- Try to go to bed and wake up around the same general time each day.
- Set time aside for relaxation and hobbies.
And finally, while a routine can do you a lot of good, there’s no need to plan out every minute. Leaving room for spontaneity has plenty of benefits, too!
Exploring new interests is an important part of self-discovery.
It’s not always easy to experiment in front of an audience. You might feel nervous about trying new things in front of family members, roommates, or romantic partners. What if you totally lack artistic talent? Or find out you don’t like playing guitar after spending time and money on lessons and practice?
While these questions have merit, it’s also worth considering that a life without a little trial and failure can be pretty limited. Doing the same things with the same people isn’t necessarily bad. But breaking out of typical patterns can expand your perspective, help you grow, and connect you with new people.
Now that no one’s watching, challenge yourself to explore things you’ve always longed to try — new cooking styles, crafts or DIY projects, physical activities, even new genres of music and movies.
Online video tutorials or how-to blogs can help you determine whether you’re really interested in something before you invest a significant chunk of cash.
While interior design may not help banish feelings of loneliness, creating a space that’s wholly your own can go a long way toward helping you feel more comfortable.
It’s common to feel unsettled or disoriented in a new place. But when you put in the effort to make it really feel like home, it becomes a relaxing sanctuary, somewhere you want to return to at the end of a long day.
As you settle into, scout out garage sales and thrift stores for unique pieces. When choosing linens and bedding, go with the colors that draw your eye or just make you feel good.
Arrange your furniture how you want it and display the art that makes you happy — because no one can tell you otherwise.
Consider adding a few plants, too. Even if you don’t have space to garden, indoor plants can brighten up your home and improve your well-being.
When you don’t have anyone else to consider, established habits can start to slip. Maybe you give up on a regular bedtime, skip nutritious meals in favor of snacks, wear the same clothes for 2 days, and finish the whole bottle of wine because, why not?
Doing these things occasionally may not be a big deal, but making a pattern of it probably won’t do you any favors.
Good self-care practices, however, can improve your emotional and physical well-being, and feeling good can make it easier to manage loneliness more productively.
Try these strategies:
- Set time aside for meal planning and food preparation to avoid relying on snacks or delivery all the time.
- Find a workout buddy if you have a hard time mustering up motivation for regular exercise.
- Try meditation to increase your awareness of what you’re feeling from day to day.
- Experiment with sleep and wake times to determine what feels most natural for you.
Online meditation options
Read our review of the best online meditation options to find the right fit for you.
Living alone can be freeing. You don’t need to get dressed to leave your room or label your snacks with warnings, and you can talk to yourself without worrying who can hear.
The benefits of solo living extend well beyond these immediate pluses, though.
Living alone can:
- help boost creativity and imagination
- help you find time to recharge
- lead to greater personal growth
- allow you to focus on passions
Spending time outside doesn’t just get you out of the house, it can also help you feel more connected to the world while relieving stress.
Spend some time outside and really listen to the world around you — whether that’s birdsong, waves, running water, rustling trees. This can strengthen feelings of compassion and kinship toward others on the planet, helping you feel less alone.
Living alone isn’t for everyone. You may not enjoy long-term solitude, and that’s perfectly okay. Acknowledging your needs can help you take steps toward finding a living situation that supports your well-being.
If you’re having a hard time with persistent loneliness or other emotional distress, a therapist can help you navigate these feelings, identify when loneliness might relate to something more serious, such as depression, and explore helpful coping strategies
Even if you prefer living on your own, it’s not always easy. You might value personal space but still have moments where you long for human interaction. Times of crisis that make it difficult to connect with others can isolate you and cause further distress.
But don’t forget that even though you live alone, you aren’t truly alone. Your loved ones are only a call or text away — whether you’re sick, sad, or just need to tell someone the largest spider you’ve ever seen has taken up residence in your shower.