Your husband is heading out with the guys, and your girls’ night plans fell through. You’re recently divorced, it’s your ex-wife’s weekend with the kids and you don’t have plans. You powered through your to-do list and suddenly have the entire afternoon to yourself. If the idea of spending an extended period of time alone makes you anxious, you’re well, not alone, but some time to yourself can actually be beneficial.
“Even when we’re not working, we tend to fill our time up with have-to-do’s like exercise, laundry, chauffeuring kids and paying bills,” said Karen L. Garvey, MBA, a Long Island author, speaker, intuitive and happiness coach. “However, happy people understand the importance not just of leisure time, but also alone time, and they understand the importance of using their alone time in life-building ways.”
Garvey shared a few ways to make the most of your time alone. Get ready to enjoy your party of one.
Give Your Thinking-Self a Break
Here’s something you don’t hear too often: stop thinking. “Our left brains are active,” Garvey said. “We think, plan, worry, navigate and analyze. Give your thinking-self a break.” Instead, Garvey recommended engaging in an activity that puts you in Zen mode, such as gardening, watching the sunset, star gazing or taking a bath. Doing so will help you relax and, after a hectic week of non-stop work, emails and errands, you deserve that.
Think back to when you were a kid on the weekend. Remember what it was like to not have so much structure and be able to poke around your room for something interesting to play with? “Adults today tend to plan everything and use their little bit of alone time [with distractions like] television or social media,” Garvey said. “To have no agenda [for] an hour or so gives you the opportunity to let your imagination ignite.” Follow your urges and curiosity and have only one goal in mind: enjoy yourself.
“Life is meant to be fun,” Garvey said. “Unleashing your creative self will balance the serious aspects of day-to-day life with excitement and fulfillment.” You don’t have to be a world-class artist or musician to get creative while you spend time alone, either. “There are infinite ways to lose yourself in your imagination and creativity.” Try activities you loved as a kid, like finger painting and coloring (adult coloring is on-trend right now), or make up a recipe from scratch and notice how your anxiety about being by yourself melts away. “You can sense the fun and happy part of yourself emerge and, if you truly ‘let yourself go’ into the experience, you feel unworried and free.”
Clean Something Out
When you’re always on the go, clutter tends to build in our homes and minds. Use your time alone to sort through that. “We have to get rid of something to make room for the new,” Garvey said. ” Simply going through a closet and setting aside clothes you no longer wear for donation or removing expired coupons from a drawer is a great start and can have you feeling more organized when you’re in a rush. Going through your planner from the last month and thinking about which extracurricular activities you enjoyed and which were more of a drag can help you pare down your hectic schedule and focus on making yourself happy.
Move Your Body
Even if you already have a solid exercise routine, moving your body outside of that can be freeing. “Moving the body dissipates stress and quiets the mind,” Garvey said. “When combined with being in nature, moving your body can have meditative benefits as well.” Garvey suggested kayaking, hiking or simply putting on music and dancing around the house. Go ahead and put on Spice Girls without shame. Remember, you’re alone.