How-to Hustle

Far From Home: How-to Be Alone but Never Lonely

Though some of you may find yourselves spending the holiday season surrounded by friends and loved ones, many people are faced with spending the season isolated from their family. Work, school, and a number of other obligations can hold people back from attending holiday affairs.

This year I’ve found myself in a completely unfamiliar position. Spending the holiday season 1500 miles away from home with few if any of the holiday amenities I’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not particularly alone this Christmas; I have a good friend traveling with me. Still, there is no way he could fit into the shoes of a significant other or my family. As an introvert, connecting with strangers to the same degree as my family and friends is rarely possible. 

Introverts vs extroverts

I’ll be covering the key difference between introverts and extroverts in a later blog update. The point that matters most to this subject is that introverts and extroverts value being alone differently.

While the introvert prefers to seclude themselves to fully focus on the things they love, extroverts make a significant point of surrounding themselves with others and being an active contributor to group environments.

As an introvert by nature, I’ve regularly faced anxiety when forced to leave my den and interact with others. That being said, my presence at group events, parties and family gatherings would often fail to leave a memorable impression. I’d be around, but not engaged. Instead, opting to just assimilate with the atmosphere through some minor semblance of social osmosis.

I don’t have any first-hand experience being an extrovert, obviously, but my understanding is that an extrovert would have the exact opposite experience at family holiday gatherings and other social events. Relying heavily on social interactions to draw excitement, the holiday season seems to be a time of year that extroverts thrive during.

Though being alone on Christmas is likely more troubling for the extreme extrovert, introverts on the opposite end of the spectrum face the same issues, just occasionally on a diminished scale.

Comfortably alone

For your average kid, being alone isn’t the most common occurrence. For others, loneliness is a constant contributor to their emotional state. For me, being alone became my default setting at an early age.

Generally, I hadn’t often found myself flocking to the same hobbies/interests as my peers. I’d opt to sink all of my time into my favorite hobby, game or books. This repeatedly lead to self-isolation and prolonged periods of disinterest in connecting with others. The same behavior was consistent throughout my youth and early adolescence and has had a clear and noticeable effect on how I handle relationships as an adult.

At the start, I was more comfortable being alone under these circumstances. Though, I eventually began to notice that I craved social interactions. Even so, I’d limited myself by not often connecting with others. My self-isolation became isolation by default and being alone became being lonely.

But why was I lonely?

It was some time before I’d noticed the effect my heavily introverted behavior was having on my emotional state and social life.

The short answer to why I felt lonely is that I didn’t understand my potential, yet constantly felt like it was being wasted. I may have noticed the issue, but it would be years before I took any real action to understand the forces behind transitioning from being alone a lot to constantly feeling lonely.

This topic may be personal for some, but loneliness is one of the key contributors to depression. I advocate strongly in favor of mental health awareness. By understanding why you might feel lonely this holiday season and how to avoid it, you are taking precautions against negative feelings and warding off opportunities for depressing thoughts to slip in.

Here are some mindful methods I’ve adopted to eliminate loneliness.

Value your time

This point definitely had to be made first. Likely one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned; learning effective time management skills can completely redefine the outcome of any event in your life. Though many people have a sense of self-worth, many don’t assign their time a concrete value outside of their employment.

Think about it.

If an employer can decide your time is worth $10.00, $20.00, or $50.00 an hour, what is stopping you from determining an approximate value for your time outside of a professional setting? The value doesn’t have to be a set hourly amount or even a dollar amount. Acknowledge that you only have so much time to give and quantify where you are willing to use it and what for.

But how does valuing your time fight off loneliness?

Me-time. Simply put, me-time is an easy way of labeling time spent alone with no preexisting obligations attached.

The time you spend alone has value as well. Arguably, me-time deserves to be appraised the highest of all personal time. The conflict I originally encountered with being alone was a lack of confidence in my ability to spend my me-time productively.

As a kid, I treated all me-time like free time that could be spent however I wanted. This was wrong. Time is never free and someone always has to pay for it out of pocket. Now I confidently focus on developing myself personally. Effectively, allowing myself to earn occasional bouts of free time as a reward for productively spending a majority of my me-time.

With a higher price tag on alone time, feeling lonely will quickly fall off your list of priorities.

Don’t just get busy, stay productive

My second choke point for preventing loneliness is to get yourself into a fierce state of productivity. Many other blogs will instruct their readers to just get busy, but is just being busy really a good idea?

When I cook I like to have 3 entrees going on the stovetop and maybe a side or two thrown into the mix as well. Though I am an exceptional cook, half of the time this results in one or two things getting horribly burnt.

The fact is, many of us try too hard to do too much at once and being too busy can quickly lead to negative results. 

Busy work, to the tune of worksheets and menial tasks, frequently tends to beat my mind into a position of focusing on anything other than the task at hand. Feeling busy is often stressful, therefore my mind will subconsciously (sometimes actively) seek an outlet to escape to. Other times, I’ll just completely stop what I’m doing to eliminate stress.

Contrarily, productive work is constantly engaging. But most importantly it leads to meaningful results. I write because I love to write. Writing also creates a product that I can use for my enjoyment, expression or profit. When writing, I am able to enter my most ideal state of productivity.

Being busy may temporarily distract you from loneliness, but the excitement of consistently doing meaningful work and seeing tangible results will keep loneliness at bay indefinitely. 

Cultivate a relationship with yourself

Sometimes it’s hard to acknowledge the value we bring to the world as individuals. For the lonely this task becomes insurmountable. For someone who poorly values their time and doesn’t take productive action, there is little evidence available to prove that the world actually does value them.

My third tip for someone struggling to overcome loneliness is to take immediate action to build self-awareness, positive self-esteem, and a passion for self-improvement. I’ve expanded on these topics several times in the past so I won’t get too in-depth in defining them. If you feel the world doesn’t value you, these are the tools you’ll need to build your self-worth.

Very important is spending your time alone nourishing these connections with yourself.

If you ever start to feel lonely, you need only recognize that your mind is the only company you ever really need.  While others can flake out on you, your own mind will always be there for you.

It literally has no other choice.

Lonely but never alone

Loneliness can be a troublesome emotion to face, especially when you are far from home. It can lead even the smartest of people to act in the strangest ways. Desperation to find connections in times of loneliness and distress can result in a strained emotional state and distanced relationships. Though some will see your loneliness and try to help, others would rather remain a bystander and not get involved.

That is why it is up to you to eliminate loneliness by adjusting your mindset. There are billions of people on the planet for you to potentially connect with, but those connections will never be as strong as the ones you make with yourself. The connections you have with yourself are the ones that will serve as a shield, comforting you when you are alone.


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