19 Expert Tips for How To Be Happy Alone and Enjoy Your Own Company

Photo: Stocksy / Luis Herrera
Somali-British poet Warsan Shire once wrote, “My alone feels so good, I'll only have you if you're sweeter than my solitude.” To someone who’s learned to love their “me” time, this sentiment likely resonates, but for those who struggle with feelings of loneliness or isolation, the thought of actually enjoying solitude might seem like an alien concept. In a society that glorifies being in a relationship and maintaining an active social life, being single (or even having alone time) can feel like a personal failure—but learning how to be happy alone, say mental health experts, can set us free from that unnecessary shame.

Experts In This Article

While there's nothing wrong with wanting to find a romantic partner, it's helpful to keep in mind that until you get there, it's absolutely possible to be happy without one. In fact, even if you do have a partner, your happiness shouldn't hinge entirely on being around them, anyway (which is one good reason why to date yourself, regardless of your relationship status).

As it turns out, learning how to enjoy your own company is as much a skill as learning to enjoy anyone else's, even if you feel like you really know yourself. Below, mental health experts share how to escape the feelings of loneliness that can come with being alone (and why those two things aren't the same) and reveal all their best tips for how to be (truly, really) happy alone.

Is it okay to be alone?

It is absolutely okay to be alone. Not only is being alone okay, it’s also incredibly common. A 2023 United States Census Bureau report revealed that nearly 30 percent of all U.S. households in 2020 were one-person households, a number that has increased every decade since 1940. Plus, nearly half of all U.S. adults are single; that’s about 117.6 million people.

As for whether being alone is okay for your health, scientific research supports two distinct points: 1. Human connection is paramount for our well-being, and 2. Spending quality time alone is beneficial for our minds and bodies, too.

One 2023 study1 exploring the effects of daily solitude (and the balance of solitude versus social time) on well-being in nearly 200 people found that on days when the participants spent more time alone, they experienced less stress and a greater sense of positive autonomy (aka feeling like they could make choices of their own volition and without pressure from others).

That being said, humans cannot thrive (nay, survive) without having meaningful connections with other humans. Research proves2 that social connection has the power to improve so many aspects of our physical and mental health. Social connection is so important, in fact, that isolation has been linked to premature death from all causes—a risk that, according to the CDC, “rivals the effects of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.”

That's all to say, while there is certainly an upside to having alone time (and it's possible to learn how to be happy when you're alone), it is not recommended to be alone all of the time or to be totally isolated. As for exactly how much time is optimal to spend alone and with others on a regular basis? That'll be unique to you, based on how you personally perceive your social interactions and your alone time. Whereas some people prefer to shift the ratio toward social time, others will have a natural disposition in the opposite direction because of the subjective nature of feeling lonely versus simply being alone.

Is being alone the same as being lonely?

Being “alone” and being “lonely” mean two totally different things. Whereas being alone means you are physically by yourself or not in the company of others, being lonely, by contrast, is a feeling of sadness revolving around a real or perceived lack of social connection.

As a result, the two states of being don’t always coincide: Not all people who are alone are lonely, and not all lonely people are alone. Loneliness can be present even when you're physically surrounded by people or spending a lot of time with others; it's a mindset of feeling disconnected, regardless of how much time you might actually be spending alone. Indeed, “you can be in a relationship and be lonely,” says relationship coach, author, and podcaster Monica Berg.

It's for that reason that finding a romantic partner or spending more time with friends or family members isn't always an instant balm for loneliness; you might be less alone, sure, but you could still feel lonely. While part of busting loneliness will involve forming and deepening genuine connections with others, the other part involves learning how to be happy alone.

How can I be happy when I am lonely?

According to Berg, feeling happier when you're lonely starts with self-love. “The secret to combat loneliness is to have a great relationship with yourself,” she says. “When you like who you are, you're not going to have that overwhelming pain of being lonely.”

“When you like who you are, you're not going to have that overwhelming pain of being lonely.” —Monica Berg, relationship coach

If you're single and most of your friends are in relationships, it's easy to assume that your single status is the primary driver behind prolonged feelings of loneliness. But, remember: Just as being alone does not equate to loneliness, being in a relationship does not equate to automatically feeling connected. “A romantic relationship, in and of itself, is never going to fix [loneliness] or make you feel whole or complete,” says Berg.

Rather than focusing your attention on finding someone else to absolve your feelings of loneliness, “invest in your relationship with yourself,” says Berg. “The only thing that will make you not lonely is when you really have a strong sense of self.” (And the same thing applies if you're in a relationship but looking to feel happier and less lonely when you're alone.)

A total mindset shift like this is easier said than done—but certain lifestyle changes can help. To help you adjust, ahead are 21 research-backed, expert-approved tips for how to mitigate feelings of loneliness and actually be happy alone.

19 tips for how to be happy alone

1. Set personal goals

A great way to focus on your relationship with yourself—whether you're single, in a romantic relationship, or otherwise—is to set goals for yourself and steadily work toward achieving them.

“These goals can be personal, career-related, financial, or educational,” says therapist Rachna Buxani-Mirpuri, LMHC, owner of Buxani Counseling Care.

2. Create a daily routine

When you’re in an emotional funk, adhering to a regular schedule can keep you focused and on track, helping you push through more difficult days as they appear. Indeed, research shows3 that adhering to a regular routine can lead to greater resilience in the face of future stressors.

Plus, establishing a solid morning routine can give you something to look forward to at night, when loneliness tends to creep up for many people.

3. Prioritize self care

Self care can mean many things, but Buxani-Mirpuri says paying special attention to movement, nutrition, and meditation are all especially worthwhile ways to take care of your body, mind, and soul. Dedicating time each day to oral care, skin care, and other activities that bring your mind peace and joy is also worth doing, she says.

“The practice of self-love is essential for happiness,” Buxani-Mirpuri explains. “Realizing that the most important relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves is an important step to achieving contentment in any situation.”

4. Write out your feelings

The efficacy of journaling as a tool for boosting mental health and happiness cannot be overstated. Therapists have recommended journaling to their clients for decades as a tried-and-true method for processing thoughts and feelings.

Because that's exactly what writing down your feelings can do: Putting your thoughts onto paper can essentially create a container for them to exist within (outside of your mind), helping to disrupt spirals of overthinking. Plus, seeing your feelings reflected back to you in tangible form can give you a (literally) new perspective on them.

5. Know (and reaffirm) your worth

Remember: Your happiness shouldn't be dependent on any outside person or thing, and your worthiness as a human being is innate, meaning it can never be taken from you, regardless of your relationship status.

“Relationships, when healthy, are wonderful, but the absence of them does not mean that [your] life is incomplete.” —Rachna Buxani-Mirpuri, LMHC, therapist

“Relationships, when healthy, are wonderful, but the absence of them does not mean that [your] life is incomplete,” says Buxani-Mirpuri. Understanding that you’re a complete person whose self-esteem develops from what you do in your life and how you contribute to the greater good will help you navigate any feelings of inadequacy associated with being alone, adds Buxani-Mirpuri.

6. Practice gratitude

The benefits of gratitude—in terms of supporting our mental well-being and even boosting our physical health and longevity—are well-documented. “The biggest shortcut is to cultivate and awaken with appreciation every single day,” says Berg. “So often when we look at [our lives] as half-empty, we forget about all of the powerful things that we are, that we can be, that we can do.”

Buxani-Mirpuri notes that experiencing and expressing gratitude for all the things we *do* have can also help us to not get stuck thinking about the things we might be missing (like, for instance, a partner or a BFF).

If you’re looking for an easy way to start a daily gratitude practice, psychotherapist Rachel Wright, LMFT, recommends writing down the things you’re thankful for each morning in a gratitude journal.

7. Embrace and enjoy solo sex

If you’re single (or spending a good deal of time alone), you may not have easy access to a sexual partner, but that doesn't mean you're barred from experiencing pleasure. Masturbating is both a fun way to feel sexually satisfied and can help relieve stress through the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, like dopamine.

In fact, even if you're partnered, Wright says focusing on your sexual relationship with yourself and engaging in masturbation is paramount. All the above benefits still apply, plus when you're regularly masturbating while in a relationship, you can boost your sexual autonomy and figure out new kinds of pleasure and sensations that you want to explore with your partner.

8. Get outside

A large and growing body of research4 has found that spending time in nature5 supports our mental health, lowering our stress levels, restoring our ability to concentrate, and boosting our creativity. With that in mind, Wright recommends going on a weekly hike or otherwise setting aside time each week to enjoy what nature has to offer, whether with a picnic, walk around the block, trip to the beach, dip in a lake, or by simply standing with your bare feet planted in the grass.

After all, it can feel easier to be happy alone when you're in a pleasant natural setting (versus cooped up inside).

9. Learn something new

As long as you’re alive, you’re capable of learning something new—and you should strive to do so. Research shows that when we do new, novel things6, our brain’s neurons grow new projections and make new connections, improving our cognitive function in the long run. Plus, doing new things can give you a fresh outlook on life and build your self-confidence.

“Get involved in an activity that fosters fun and learning,” suggests Buxani-Mirpuri, noting that learning to dance, play a musical instrument, or paint all qualify.

10. Use positive affirmations

Positive affirmations, or uplifting phrases one repeats to themselves, can help challenge negative thoughts as they occur, and over time, can also lead to a more expansive view of the self7 and a stronger sense of self-worth—which is directly supportive of happiness. One 2016 study on self-affirmation8 even found that such affirmations can lead to positive neural changes, including increased activity in regions of the brain associated with self-processing and positive valuation and reward.

11. Limit your time on social media

At its best, social media can help us meet new people and share our thoughts and ideas with a worldwide audience. At its worst, however, it can be a massive source of FOMO (aka fear of missing out), making us feel even lonelier than we did before we logged on.

Interestingly, a 2023 study of social-media use and loneliness9 in nearly 1,700 adults found that the motivation behind social-media use can have a significant impact on its effects. Specifically, those who used social media with the motive of maintaining their relationships winded up feeling lonelier than those who spent the same amount of time on social media for other reasons.

Which is all to say, it's not a great idea to log on for the sake of finding connection, particularly when you're already feeling lonely. Chances are, doing so will just remind you of what you might lack in comparison to others, versus helping you feel any happier.

12. Get plenty of exercise

Need a mood boost? Get active! Physical exercise has been proven10 to boost mental health, with an especially significant effect on self-concept, or how you perceive yourself. And when you're learning to be happy alone, engaging in an activity that strengthens your own connection to yourself can go a long way.

Not to mention, finding a sport or form of exercise that you enjoy and excel at can build confidence. Seeing physical proof that you are capable of doing something like running a 5K, squatting your bodyweight, or holding a 60-second plank can remind you that you are a strong, worthy individual who can overcome anything you set your mind to—including a period of loneliness.

13. Book a vacation

Just because you're single or spending ample time alone doesn't mean you can't take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to make memories for yourself. In fact, being alone—when you don't have to contend with another person's schedule or priorities—might actually mark the best time to finally book your dream trip, says Buxani-Mirpuri.

And if far-flung travel isn't in the cards for you right now for financial reasons or otherwise, dedicate a day to exploring a different part of the city or town you live in, or take a micro-vacation, which just involves setting aside a few hours or a day of unscheduled time to mentally clock out and chill.

14. Volunteer for a meaningful cause

There’s no denying the sense of joy you’ll feel when you give back to others—and you don't need a romantic partner (or anyone else, for that matter) to facilitate that event. “We all know the benefits of helping others in need, so take the time to contribute to a cause that you believe in.”

Aside from lifting your mood, volunteering has also been shown11 to boost feelings of connectedness and increase a person's sense of community, both of which can help you feel happier when you're alone.

15. Take yourself out on solo dates

Table for two? Says who?! Getting dressed up and taking yourself out on a solo date is an incredible way to reinforce feelings of worthiness and self-efficacy. The next time you see a new restaurant open up in town or catch a trailer for a movie that piques your interest, take yourself out on the town to enjoy it solo.

It might be tempting to order the food to-go or wait for the film to hit a streaming platform, but experiencing it in public can expose you to other people without requiring you to interact with them—and such social proximity12 (even without connection) may help boost your mood and well-being. Plus, going solo to an event enables you to experience it on your terms and arrive and leave whenever you'd like (without having to worry about how another person might feel).

16. Consider adopting a pet

If you mostly struggle with feelings of loneliness while spending time alone at home, consider adopting a furry friend, if you can swing it financially. Research shows13 that the connections people form with their pets can lend a hand in improving their mental health and overall mood. Plus, funneling time and energy into an animal can keep your mind occupied—a helpful tactic for avoiding loneliness and boredom.

A licensed mental healthcare provider can also write a letter to demonstrate that a pet of yours is providing you with a psychological benefit and thus functions as an emotional support animal (ESA). (Note that this is different from a service dog, which is trained to complete specific tasks to help its owner on a daily basis and is allowed to accompany its owner in all public places, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.) An ESA letter, though, will grant your pet certain legal housing rights—so if you live in an apartment, for example, your landlord can't refuse to allow an ESA to live with you or charge you a pet fee.

17. Find solace in spiritual health

Buxani-Mirpuri says leaning on your spirituality can help significantly when working on learning how to be happy alone. “Practicing spirituality can help people gain an acceptance of situations and let go of the desire to control that which is not in their hands,” she says.

For starters, you might consider exploring astrology (perhaps learning how to read your natal chart), diving into tarot, or learning how to balance your chakras. These practices can help you feel a sense of connection to forces greater than yourself.

18. Maintain your support system

Regardless of the personal strides you might make solo, everyone needs someone to lean on during difficult times. Reconnecting with the friends and loved ones who are already in your life can be reassuring, especially if the source of your loneliness stems from a fear of ultimately dying alone.

“Your friends form your support system, and you are a part of theirs,” Buxani-Mirpuri says. Naturally, this applies regardless of your current romantic relationship status. “Take time to foster these very valuable relationships,” she adds.

Not sure where to start? Pick up the phone and reach out. Research has shown that people regularly underestimate how much an "out of the blue" or "just because" reach-out to a friend is appreciated.

19. Seek therapy

When loneliness is persistent, seeking professional guidance is a good idea. “Talking to a therapist is always recommended to help develop a more realistic perspective,” says Buxani-Mirpuri. And even if you don’t feel particularly sad or lonely at this moment, Wright says that enrolling in weekly therapy can help you to get to know yourself—and in turn, help you to become more present in your own life.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Weinstein, Netta et al. “Balance between solitude and socializing: everyday solitude time both benefits and harms well-being.” Scientific reports vol. 13,1 21160. 5 Dec. 2023, doi:10.1038/s41598-023-44507-7
  2. Martino, Jessica et al. “The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 11,6 466-475. 7 Oct. 2015, doi:10.1177/1559827615608788
  3. Hou, Wai Kai et al. “Measuring everyday processes and mechanisms of stress resilience: Development and initial validation of the Sustainability of Living Inventory (SOLI).” Psychological assessment vol. 31,6 (2019): 715-729. doi:10.1037/pas0000692
  4. Capaldi, Colin, et al. “Flourishing in Nature: A Review of the Benefits of Connecting with Nature and Its Application as a Wellbeing Intervention.” International Journal of Wellbeing, vol. 10 (2015). doi.org10.5502/ijw.v5i4.1.
  5. Bratman, Gregory N et al. “Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective.” Science advances vol. 5,7 eaax0903. 24 Jul. 2019, doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0903
  6. Miller, Adam M P, and Paul W Frankland. “To learn something new, do something new.” Cell research vol. 31,6 (2021): 611-612. doi:10.1038/s41422-021-00508-7
  7. Cohen, Geoffrey L, and David K Sherman. “The psychology of change: self-affirmation and social psychological intervention.” Annual review of psychology vol. 65 (2014): 333-71. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115137
  8. Cascio, Christopher N et al. “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation.” Social cognitive and affective neuroscience vol. 11,4 (2016): 621-9. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv136
  9. Bonsaksen, Tore et al. “Associations between social media use and loneliness in a cross-national population: do motives for social media use matter?.” Health psychology and behavioral medicine vol. 11,1 2158089. 1 Jan. 2023, doi:10.1080/21642850.2022.2158089
  10. Mahindru, Aditya et al. “Role of Physical Activity on Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review.” Cureus vol. 15,1 e33475. 7 Jan. 2023, doi:10.7759/cureus.33475
  11. Nichol, Beth et al. “Exploring the Effects of Volunteering on the Social, Mental, and Physical Health and Well-being of Volunteers: An Umbrella Review.” Voluntas : international journal of voluntary and nonprofit organizations, 1-32. 4 May. 2023, doi:10.1007/s11266-023-00573-z
  12. Holt-Lunstad, Julianne, and Andrew Steptoe. “Social isolation: An underappreciated determinant of physical health.” Current opinion in psychology vol. 43 (2022): 232-237. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.07.012
  13. Brooks, Helen Louise et al. “The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence.” BMC psychiatry vol. 18,1 31. 5 Feb. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2

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