How Spending Time Alone Helped Me to Find Peace and Rediscover Happiness

spending time alone

All of our unhappiness comes from our inability to be alone.

– Jean de la Bruyere

Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing.

I am used to spending time alone. I’ve been single for years and I was technically an only child until I was fourteen. However, over the past two years I learned how to really be alone and I have grown to love it.

This has caused many people in my life to worry about me. They think something is wrong. They think I am depressed and unhappy. Whilst others think I have become unsociable and some have taken it personally.

Up until two years ago I had always been a socially active person. As soon I was old enough, I would meet up with friends and family, attend talks, workshops and exhibitions and go clubbing. I was known as the person who was always busy and never home.

The truth is that I found it exhausting but I didn’t know any other way to be. It was the only way I knew how to be part of a social circle that I could relate to in any way.

I am a very private person and although I connect with people easily, I am selective about making friends and letting people into my life. So, rather than be alone, I did what I needed to in order to stay part of my social circle.

I always felt like I didn’t quite relate or fit in, but at the same time I didn’t want to stand out or be different — I wanted to feel part of the group. We had similar backgrounds and shared an interest in music, attending concerts, eating out and travelling. I had many fun and enjoyable times, but I couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing.

Depth and substance.  That’s what was missing.

I can remember Saturday nights at a club, when my feet were hurting because I hate wearing heels, thinking I’d rather be at home with a mug of hot chocolate, reading a book or watching a film. I would look around and think I don’t fit in here and I don’t want to be here. I would feel self-conscious so despite not wanting to, I would have a couple of alcoholic beverages to avoid feeling out of place.

I longed to connect with people who thought like me, shared my interests and passion for life as well as people who could challenge my thinking, inspire me and introduce me to new experiences.

I grew up with young parents who had a volatile relationship. Growing up, much of my time was spent with my parents, stuck in the middle of their disagreements and forced to mediate.

In the years that followed, my family life continued to be absorbed by conflict and friction. Even after I moved out at 22, my life was dictated by my family’s constant disagreements and inability to communicate effectively.

So peace and alone time is something I had never experienced.  In fact, it wasn’t even something I knew I wanted until two years ago when I was at an emotional breaking point and peace and alone time were the only two things that kept me sane.

I had to take a step back from life.

Emotionally I was exhausted and did not have the energy to connect or socialise with anyone. I withdrew myself and began to spend time alone. I sent a message to those closest to me and explained that I needed some time out.

I spent time reading and watching films. I also attended talks and workshops, rekindled my love of art and learned to make candles.

Initially my choice was respected, however after a few months, my behaviour was questioned and there was doubt around my happiness – how could I be happy spending so much time on my own? Was I really happy?

The truth is spending time alone is how I rediscovered my happiness.

I had time to reflect on what made me happy and what had been causing me pain. I became aware of the people in my life who contributed positive energy and intentions and those who did not. Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I felt peace.

The constant disruption had been removed and I could finally hear my inner voice. I began to get present with my needs and values and confront my beliefs and fears.

Time alone gave me access to the root cause of my pain and frustration and allowed me to create peace in my life. I learned that until you can find peace with yourself, you cannot find peace in the world.

As I embraced being alone, I learned to enjoy my own company. I no longer felt the need to fit in socially and I found the strength to be authentic and say no to anyone or anything that made me unhappy.

When you spend time on your own, you are faced with yourself and you are forced to acknowledge all the aspects of your life that are not working and that you dislike.

You may be challenged by the people in your life. People do not like change and not everyone reacts positively to the choices you make about changing your thoughts, views, beliefs or behaviour.

Initially, being alone can be lonely.  However, once you reach a place where you are content in your own company, you will discover that a relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have.

I’d love you to share your experience. How do you feel about spending time alone?

Photo by 42andpointless

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55 thoughts on “How Spending Time Alone Helped Me to Find Peace and Rediscover Happiness”

  1. Beautiful, Leanne. “Depth and substance” – right, this is what you get when you start to spend time on and with yourself only and two essential components for a mindful life. Thanks for the wonderful article, this is what I needed!

    1. Hi Martina, yes that is right. We spend so much of our time looking outside of ourselves for what we need. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

      1. The only way you can truly learn to be with others is to first be comfortable with being with yourself. Great post, seems very personal and heartfelt. I especially liked the bit about being lonely and being alone not being the same thing :-)

      2. Wonderful article!!! I recently went through a similar stage after fighting the urge to need a period of isolation for sometime I was compelled & knew I must tackle this issue…one reason being it was a trouble symptom of my mental health condition being alone got me in trouble due to my fear of feeling lonely or abandoned but the greatest motivator was when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As I’m a lifelong” Daddy’s girl” I knew instantly that without a doubt I was going to have to isolate to tackle the issues honestly & blindly so I could learn to be alone with myself & be perfectly fine, preparation for the impending deterioration & death of my Daddy, my only trusted parent. I have to mention that most of that period was spent silent & not knowing what I should be doing but I just came back around to my mission which made me think that in those times I only needed to BE, examine the emotions whirling around, be mindful of some or none & let it pass….I actually scared myself because I never broke down like I thought I would over my father so I would sometimes entertain a thought that I’d for sure flip out when it happened but I told myself that I was handling this isolation period just as it was meant to be & amazingly I found me again & could entertain myself n truly be ok with it : ) Music is where I turned back to in the times I couldn’t handle the silence. Ultimately, I had a breakthrough that helped me manage my most severe symptom of having Borderline Personality Disorder not to mention my preparing for the life-altering situation with Dad, & as a bonus I gained inner peace n insight, clarity of what I must do next to get back on my true path which was totally unexpected but very much welcomed :) So your personal experience with this need that people may never have known but come across this article & are instantly aware that it’s exactly what they’ve needed!!! I’ve rambled on lol but just wanna thank you for sharing!

  2. grear post! Being alone is so important, especially in such a noisy world. For me, I spend time alone praying and reading my Bible, which gives me fuel for the day ahead.

    1. Hey Dave, I find the world really noisy too, and it seems to be increasing so time alone doing positive activities I enjoy has been extremely beneficial. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

    2. Being alone makes me cry at times I wish people could understand how I feel when they just block me out like I don’t exist, but the presence of God makes me whole.

  3. I am 22 and pursuing post graduation. I am practically the same person you described in the article, minus the challenging situations you faced initially. Have been living alone for almost a couple of years away from my home town near college. Living alone has helped me realize what truly matters to me and what kind of life I want to build. Despite living alone I seldom feel lonely much to the surprise of people around me, because we get to learn so much about ourselves. I also have quality friends so I can go out to have fun if I want to. The bottom line is that we truly need to live our innermost desires and dreams and solitude is a great way to connect to that and pursue it with delight. :)

    1. Wow Ankit, I wish I had an ounce of the courage and wisdom you have at 22. Everything you have said is spot on and I think it’s amazing that you have realised this as such a young age. Continue to be true to you. :) Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. That was the a great post there I love your statment that says “I learned that until you can find peace with yourself, you cannot find peace in the world.” I couldn’t agree more because I beleive it all begins with us. I reckon spending time alone, meditating or staying without saying a word in a quite enviroment is a good practice.

    1. I agree Reuben, although I’m still working on my meditation practice. Living alone means I spend a lot of time in quiet without word though, which in itself can be a challenge for many. Now I dislike speaking on the phone when I am at home as well because I have made it such a peaceful space. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

  5. Hi Leanne,

    I find alone time is extremely important. I am that person at a party that at some point has to sneak off for even 10 minutes of time-out just to be alone with my thoughts, no matter how good a time I am having.

    Although I think that makes me a true introvert, in that I need time on my own to recharge, whereas extroverts need to be around people to recharge and unwind. It really is about each of us finding our own paths that work for us.

    1. Hey Keith, I used to think I was an extrovert because I’m a really sociable person but that was before I fully understood what it meant, but I don’t think I’m a true introvert either. I think I am learning to adapt to the ever-increasing noise of the world we live in and as I get older and my values become clearer, I’m gaining a better understanding of who I am and what I need to do to take care of myself and be happy. So as you say, I think the fundamental thing is to find our own path that works for us. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  6. Ah great post! Thank you for sharing! I recently discovered myself how important and peaceful alone time is but I worried that maybe I enjoyed it too much but after reading this I don’t because like you said being alone and being lonely are two different things.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      I can totally relate. Even now I question how much time I spend alone, but mostly because of other people’s comments. Also because we are taught that as humans we need the company of other people. However I think because society has changed so much, people actually have too much access to others and we’re hardly ever separated long enough to have time to ourselves.

  7. Leanne,

    I too found that getting to know myself by being my own company was and continues to be a treasure for me. What a great post. I think you are spot on. Nothing really changes until you do. Susan

  8. Being alone is so very important. Yet I resonate with what you said here: “I longed to connect with people who thought like me, shared my interests and passion for life as well as people who could challenge my thinking, inspire me and introduce me to new experiences.” It took me a long time to realise how desperate I was for mirroring from others to gain an identity, even if the mirror was very dirty. 12 years ago I retired to a small town in central Mexico. Two years ago I came out of retirement after publishing my memoir, and find a lack of support for my new endeavors. I decided that Mexico is not a place, in general, where one works on projects with others. So I am starting an online mastermind group. But continuing to enjoy spending most of my time alone.

    1. Don good for you for publishing your memoirs and for starting an online mastermind to create the support you’re currently lacking. I think that’s a great idea. Also, these days I prefer to network online than face to face – unless it’s with friends or family. I find initial meetings awkward so I like that online groups give you an opportunity to make a connection and establish common interests beforehand. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. :) Good luck with group.

  9. I love this post. There is something so grounding about being alone. In ourselves, we can see the true reflection of ourselves, without the projected images of others messing it all up. I am a total extrovert, but every 2-3 months, I tend to crawl into my cave and regroup, so I can find the true me again. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Tara, I agree. Whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, taking time alone to reflect, reconnect and regroup regularly is vital. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  10. Thank you for your perspective. It sounds like being alone helped you understand why you were lonely. I find spending time with myself allows me to step back and reflect or assess on what is happening in my life at that particular time. It gives me a chance to course correct if needed. I need social interaction and other people in my life. However, the people need to be the right people. If I don’t have the right people around me I need to change that. When I have those right people around me I spend less time thinking about it when I am alone!. Thanks again

    1. Totally Mike. I do not consider myself anti-social or anti-people. I now realise it’s all about the type of people I spend my time with. Some people drain you, whilst others leaving you feeling positive and uplifted. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. :)

    2. Exactly Mike. Solitude plus quality relationships makes a wonderful recipe for peace and personal effectiveness. Thanks for sharing your view.

  11. My Story is same like you.Difference is, still i am not involved in any social group.In-fact i have no need of any company or group…

  12. Hi Leanne,
    This was a very welcomed post for me to read this morning as I was wondering whether I should be a little bit concerned about the time I spend alone but now I won’t be. I do have my little dog who is always right by my side, but I like apsolute silence in the day time no tv or radio just me either going about my jobs or whilst reading, meditating or out in the garden. I do have some very close friends who I enjoy being with and family at weekends.

    My wanting to be alone came about similar to you with being with very difficult some toxic family members who used to make me feel quite ill and still can do when I have to see them. I am trying to learn to be stronger and more honest to these people.

    I would love to find something happy and worthwhile to do whilst being at home? a small business? helping people in some way? or just being creative? not sure what yet.

    1. Hi Jenny, I think people who spend long periods of time on their own question themselves. I think as you’re genuinely happy, then it’s fine, and it sounds like you have a good balance. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  13. mahavir nautiyal

    Your post resonates with me. Even though I like meeting quality people who have positive vibrations with me but not finding one does not disturb me. To be with one self or in the company of nature is a joy in itself. It helps one to know oneself realistically, assess one’s strength and weaknesses, to be in love with oneself ( not in the narcissistic sense ) and view life in a larger perspective.

    1. Hi Mahavir, I think the key thing you said there was people who have “positive vibrations”. The energy of the people you spend time with is crucial. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  14. OMG, I feel like you are my soul Sister. I can relate so much to you and at some point in your story felt like I was reading about myself. As I have grown I have come to enjoy my solitude a great day and like you would rather spend time with a book than trying to fit in with people I didn’t really feel i can connect with in a way that I crave. I always thought something was wrong with me for feeling this way, it’s great to know that am perfectly normal lol! Thanks for this beautiful story.

    1. Hey Yvonne, so glad you saw yourself in my story, I know that feeling of thinking there must be something wrong with you. There are a few of us out there. ;) Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  15. Hi Leanne,

    I have enjoyed reading about your experiences. We (my husband, I and two children) relocated across England and have come to realise what my values, inspirations are. I realised it was because we didn’t have our friends or family near by. Its amazing how it gives you the confidence to be truly happy with what you want from life.

    1. Hi Emma, thanks for your comment. I’ve been thinking about relocating for some time because although I’ve managed to carve out time for myself, I still feel the strain of the demands and expectations – said and unsaid. Hopefully, I’ll make a move soon. Thanks for reading. :)

  16. Love it! I like spending time alone too. I like eating alone (coz sometimes I just dont want to talk and just appreciate the food in front of me), I like going to cinema alone too, or just stay in my room the whole weekend, or walking around the city alone. But the place I am living now doesn’t accept that. For people around me, being alone means you’re quite weird. Like people wouldn’t want to be with you. I act busy so that I have a reasonable reason to eat alone in the cafeteria. Or pretend that I am sick on weekend so that I have reason to stay in my room. Or buy two tickets in the cinema to pretend that I am with someone.
    But after reading this, I am more encouraged to be alone and silently appreciate the things around me without judging anything (like some of my friends do).

    1. Hey April, with social media people are even more expectant to have immediate and constant contact and interaction with people. Being alone is still seen as many as being weird or unsociable, or that you are unhappy. Eventually I’ve found once you’re at peace with it, the right people will get it and respect it. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I’m glad you feel more encouraged after reading. :)

  17. Hi Leanne,
    I love being alone and have for my whole life. For years I thought I was the “odd person out” with all my family and friends, especially in large group settings. While I loved being in their company, I never felt totally comfortable. I would look at others who seemingly enjoyed being a large gathering and just as you wrote, would rather be home with a good book just relaxing. For years I thought I was just shy, (but was totally comfortable in one on one situations) or in small 3-4 people gatherings. I finally read about introverts and how we process the world a little differently. It was a big relief knowing that I wasn’t weird or anything. Now, when faced with a large gathering, I try to “break it down” into small parts or I find a small group to be involved in conversation with, or if the room itself is to loud, I move to the quiets part of it (or out of it completely). Just knowing that there really is nothing wrong with me has made a world of difference in my life. We need to take care of ourselves in ways that enrich our lives. Quiet, alone time works for me!
    Regards,
    Frank

    1. “There is nothing wrong with me.” You got it dear friend. Enjoy your own company. To do well in the world outside, it is essential to manage well our worlds within. And solitude is a great way to do that.

    2. Hey Frank, how liberating is it when you finally have that “a-ha” moment that actually there’s nothing wrong with you or wanting to spend time alone. As I always say, as long as you’re not unhappy and your alone time actually adds to your life, then I think do what works for you. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

  18. Hi Lianne,

    A lot of people who knew me think that I am a happy, fun-loving person who always talks and interacts with people. I used to be like that and enjoyed it.

    But when I got older, and became more mature, I just found myself enjoying some time alone.

    Being alone has helped to silently converse with my innerself and eventually gave me some clarity. For me, being able to enjoy some time alone is about maturity and spirituality. It should not be perceived as depression, and since a lot of people think that way only shows that there are just a few number of people who enjoys some time alone.

    I never expected that I will be like this. But in this stressful and crazy world. I need to find peace.

    Regards,
    Jon

    1. Hi Jon. :) You point about conversation with inner self is very accurate. It does help in maturity and spirituality. The travel experiences that you’ve shared on your blog are cool. :)

  19. Hi, thanks a lot for sharing this post. This is exactly what I feel right now and trust me, people have already started judging me. And honestly, I can’t expect them to understand because they are perhaps dealing with rather larger issues and can’t make peace with the fact that you CAN actually be happy all alone, all by yourself, with no one to boss you around. I have just moved to the US and I don’t have a plan. All I want to do is sleep, read, cook, watch movies and that’s how I spend my time almost everyday. I just love the fact that there is no one to stop me now. Not even my husband, who by the way calls me “Anti-Social.” He thinks I need to be more sociable (read people pleasing) and need to explore my options. Okay, I am all up for exploring the opportunities and stuff but I am sorry, I am not in this world to please anyone.

    Thanks a lot again, Leanne.

  20. This is awesome! I can see myself in you. I’m currently living away with my family since I graduated college. My whole life was also dictated with my strict parents. I used to be a party girl and go in every bars and club so I can make friends. Then I realized people you met in party’s are not the people you need in your life.

    I started to work when I was 21 and never go back to my hometown for almost 2 years and that year I started to know myself even better. At first I was challenged, like every night there are always deep thoughts and questions that bugs me. Days goes by I learned to love myself. And I don’t need to pretend that I am happy. Being myself in a peaceful place and with real people makes me happy.

  21. Hi Leanne,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree, it’s really important that we learn to feel good about being around ourselves.

    As a pretty cut and dry extrovert, I thrive and get my energy from others which means that I don’t really need alone time in the same way that less extroverted or more introverted people do. I do, however, definitely need down time, or quiet time, but I don’t have to be alone in order for it to be rejuvenating.

    Thanks again,

    Julia Kristina
    http://juliakristina.com/blog

  22. Leanne,
    This is a great article. The beginning of the article used to described me to a tee. Now I am at a point where I have chosen to be single and working on a better relationship with myself. I also agree, even when you are at peace alone, it can still be lonely. How do you push through that?

  23. This is very inspirational! I have felt just like you have. I have felt like i don’t fit in where I am at and I long for a true connection with other people. It used to depress me because i wanted to feel that connection but no matter how much I tried, I never could. I love spending time alone and getting to know myself as an individual and I have learned to appreciate myself for who I am.

  24. I am so grateful to have found this online. It’s reassuring to learn that others feel the same way as I do, although in my small community I feel like I’m the odd one out. If you don’t follow a crowd and do what everyone else considers as ‘normal’ you’re questioned. x

  25. I to will be taking a 6 month break from social media and 6 month break in isolation. This motivated me to continue on my journey, very great story

  26. I agree with you..socialising is emotionally exhausting! Some days i feel up to it, but sometimes when i am too stressed out,i cringe at the very thought of it. I don’t mind being alone coz i like my company but like you said people around you don’t like change.And so i make sure that at work that i don’t exert myself so much that i am emotionally exhausted. I delegate my excess work to my virtual assistant (Habiliss), thus i am not only not able to spend some quality’me-time’but also able to free up time to do some meet & chat with friends :)

  27. I thought I was strange for feeling the way I did. I’ve had depression throughout my life & PND with both my children. My daughter has Aspergers & I truly thought you’re depressed again…but reading this article has given me the clarity that I needed. I’m not depressed I just want a simpler life, less chaos & to be honest bs!! I’m going to start embracing what I want rather than feeling guilty or ashamed of what I want. Thank you so much Leanne x

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