If you’re expecting to discover some sort of easy fix here that will instantly allow you to become stress free and more confident than Beyoncé — soz, but it doesn’t really work like that.
And trust me, I wish it did. What I can tell you however, is that there is one thing you can do that I personally found to be so helpful.
Think about this: in this hectic modern time (do I sound like a granny if I say “modern time”?), we’re constantly surrounded by other people. Snapchats from other people, calls from other people, message after message after email. Basically the only time we’re by ourselves is when we’re sleeping.
Which is why consciously taking time out to spend an hour or two alone can be an absolute godsend.
Studies show that solitude (and note that there’s a difference between solitude and loneliness), can help increase productivity, reduce anxiety, improve your creative side and even have a positive effect on your relationships with people around you.
Scientists say that the best way to view solitude is as “a strategic retreat that complements social experience,” not as separating yourself from the world altogether. Makes sense.
Interestingly, when I went to search for a header image for this piece on Shutterstock, I typed in “woman alone” and it was instantly auto-completed by the photo search engine with “woman alone sad”, and “woman lonely”.
When you type in “man alone”, you get suggestions of “man alone and sunglasses” (I have no idea why), and “man alone in bed”. Hmm.
The funny thing however, is that doing anything by myself used to fill me with such anxiety and dread that if I had time to kill I would actually walk up and down Grafton Street for 40 minutes rather than have a coffee by myself. I used to get so nervous if I thought I would be the first person to arrive to an event or if I had to spend a lunch break by myself in between lectures. Complete and utter over-reaction I know, but bear with me.
It was only when I moved to New York for a year that I realised how lovely it is to just be in your own company. I thought Americans were so ballsy: eating by themselves, going for a cocktail all alone – I was impressed, and I forced myself to follow suit.
The trick, I found, is to start off small. I would make sure I always had a magazine or book on hand so that I could distract myself from the fact that I was all on my lonesome. I try not to scroll through social media on my phone as it’s not exactly the most relaxing pastime. You’ll feel much more relaxed if you concentrate on just one thing.
It takes a while to stop feeling like literally everyone is staring at you (they really, truly aren’t), but once you get used to it, you’ll find yourself happily people-watching and letting your mind wander. I also found that it became much easier for me to organise my thoughts and mentally plan what I need to do that day or week.
Whether you’re having a coffee by yourself, a bite to eat or even a solo cinema trip, there’s so many places in Dublin to go alone where you’ll immediately blend in — no stress. I love Il Valentino for a solitary chai (fab spot to sit outside when it’s nice out), Taste Café for some food and both the IFI and The Lighthouse have some brilliant movies on that you can easily enjoy alone. You don’t have to share popcorn either, which is always a bonus.
Some of favourite things to do are things I do by myself. And I can honestly say that realising that, and learning how to enjoy it, has made such a positive difference to my life.
Why don’t you take some time to yourself and see what happens?