Alone or Lonely: Which One Are You?

All morning, I was looking forward to the pineapple fried rice. When my lunch buddy, Mike, told me that he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go to our favorite Friday Thai spot, I was a little disappointed. I don’t remember the last time we missed a Friday lunch at this place. So I had a decision to make. Should I go alone or should I do something else for lunch? The idea of a sit-down lunch by myself seemed a little strange, because it’s not something I normally do. As I thought about it a little harder, I said to myself, “why wouldn’t I go alone?” After all, I had been looking forward to the pineapple rice all morning, and I happen to enjoy my own company. Yes, I do like myself and could care less what other patrons might think of the poor guy (me) sitting alone with no friends. So I went.

As I sat at the table, I found myself quite tuned in to my thoughts. Although I missed Mike’s presence, I embraced the alone time. I very much enjoyed it.

It got me thinking about a topic that I discuss with many of my patients at my private counseling practice: the difference between aloneness and loneliness. The difference is quite extreme — here’s why. People who avoid idle, alone time fear being lonely. They don’t like the idea of having a front row seat to their thoughts. People who embrace alone time, on the other hand, enjoy the adventure and creativity that their thoughts can bring. It can be rather exciting for them, as it should be, because these are the people who literally attract the things they want into their lives.

Which type are you? Are you the type that looks at alone time from a perspective of loneliness or from a perspective of aloneness? If loneliness is your answer, here are some strategies that will help you to start embracing your time alone.  Doing so will help you to build a stronger relationship with yourself and will help you in the direction of your goals a lot faster.

  1. Have a meeting with yourself every day. That’s right. Make it a priority to have a 15-minute meeting with “you” every day. While you’re at it, really pay attention to your thoughts. What exactly are you thinking about? How are you feeling? Are your thoughts filled with worries or fears? Are your feelings down? If so, start replacing those thoughts with positive ones. Breathe in feelings that are abundant. The more you practice this, the quicker you will become it.
  2. Give thanks. During your alone time, steer your thinking. Start giving thanks for all of the wonderful things you have. Give thanks for your health, your family’s health, the home you live in, the car you drive, and the bed you sleep in. You get the picture. Creating a daily “attitude of gratitude” will literally have you loving yourself in no time.
  3. Meditate: Speaking of alone time! Meditation is the epitome of it. Have you ever closed your eyes for 15 minutes at a time in a quiet place for several consecutive days? Try it. Not only will you learn new things about yourself, but you’ll also discover who you actually are.
  4. Stretch: Take a few minutes to lightly stretch your body, and do it slowly. You can do this right from your desk. Not only does this help you to tune in to your physical body, it also help you tune in to your thoughts.  This is a great way of creating a balance of mind and body.
  5. Accept aloneness: The next time you have some serious downtime with basically nothing to do, don’t try to fill in the downtime with meaningless activities like Internet surfing or texting. Instead, embrace the boredom. Boredom time is probably the most mentally creative time there is. It is the Miracle-Gro of the mind.

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