Dealing With Living Alone
September 29, 2014 5:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm 29 I've lived with my mom and sister for the past few years. Before that I was married for seven years. So I've pretty much always lived with someone. I'm having trouble adjusting to living by myself.

I know it sounds inane, but living by myself has become depressing. There were definite downsides to the lack of privacy and constant family drama I had to put with before, but now that I've been on my own for a few months, the loneliness has settled in. I try to see my friends as often as I can, but most everyone is busy with something or other these days. I guess I'm just looking for some advice for dealing with my loneliness.
posted by Cybria to Human Relations (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I felt MUCH less lonely living alone once I got a cat.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:34 AM on September 29, 2014 [18 favorites]

Dogs are also good, and because of the need for walking etc. impose more of a structure on your life.

Do you have hobbies? Are there groups related to your hobbies in your area? Join up!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:39 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

A pet definitely helps if you have time for caring for them. Have you decorated your place in a comfortable way with some plants and homey touches? Plants and art on the wall make all the difference to me.
posted by parkerjackson at 5:40 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Chances are, the loneliness was always there, you just didn't have the time to notice it before now. This might be a good time to find a life coach or a therapist. While you are looking, go for walks every day. Join the gym. Get as much exercise out of your home as you possibly can. It helps.
posted by myselfasme at 6:06 AM on September 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

Definitely seek therapy, or at least talk to your medical professional about appropriate courses of action.

When I lived alone I thought about having Skype on constantly in a public room in my place eg lounge, kitchen. I never did it, so I don't know how effective it would be, plus it depends on your friends and family using Skype.

My plan was to have a dedicated Skype terminal, a laptop or tablet. I'd regularly remind friends that I'd be always online, and they could pop up a window for a chat any time I'm home.

I may resurrect the idea. I've been present at group Skype chats where family members couldn't get together in person, and it can be great. There's no substitute for face-to-face meeting, but it may help.

Other than that, I'd echo the advice about exercise. Find a group class in a local gym, or a martial arts dojo. You'll get fit and meet new folks. Maybe one will want to move in with you :)

Oh, could you rent a room out?
posted by ajp at 6:22 AM on September 29, 2014

Some people like solitude and deal well with living alone - I'm one of those. Others really like to be around other people very frequently. Others like a mix of the two.

I like living alone because I have hobbies that are best done alone (reading journals, programming, video games) or that can be done alone or with others (bicycling, lifting weights). So maybe think of this as a good time to find out what your interests are. And the best part is you aren't limited to hobbies that can be done in a house full of other people - instead, you can explore hobbies that are best done in solitude. In a way living alone is a good thing - you have more options that you used to because you have the option of doing solitary things.

Also, maybe try joining interesting groups on You might discover some new interests and make some new friends so you can get out of the house more, which will help you feel less trapped.
posted by Tehhund at 6:26 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Fill up more of your free time doing things with other people. Work out or take classes at a gym. Take some art classes. Join an amateur drama group. Look into volunteering. Get involved in neighborhood groups.
posted by mareli at 6:27 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you should think about getting a roommate if that's feasible where you are. Some people don't like living alone. It's a very unusual situation to be in, historically-speaking.

I lived with family or roommates until I was 31, so I was really excited when I got my own place. But I really was lonely a lot of the time, and I'm a fairly introverted person. After a couple years of living alone I decided I would rather have roommates. Then after a while with roommates I decided I wanted to live alone again. And after a few months of *that* my boyfriend moved in with me. Sometimes it is really nice to have someone else in the house.

Regardless of whether you find a roommate, definitely out there and meet more people. Living "alone" is much more fun when you have a girlfriend/boyfriend/bestie/bro who's generally available to hang out with.

Also: do your friends/family live nearby? Are you friendly with your neighbors? Friendly neighbors are great. You can hang out with them almost as easily as with people who live in your own house. Or maybe organize a weekly or monthly event at your home - pasta night, or game night, or Buffy rewatch night, whatever.

Finally, some people love this book (e.g. me) and some people think it's dumb and outdated (it kind of is) but Live Alone and Like It is a guide to living alone from the 30s that is still weirdly helpful (warning: 30s casual racism).
posted by mskyle at 6:43 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

This may sound kind of silly, but make sure there's some kind of noise going on in the house once you get home. When I lived alone, I would turn on the TV immediately, not to watch anything, but so that I wasn't coming home to such a quiet, lonely place. The radio can help with this, as well.
posted by xingcat at 7:08 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

cats and dogs make much more sense than therapists or "life coaches".
posted by bruce at 7:54 AM on September 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

Agreed with xingcat. Silence = lonely as hell for me, even if there are other people in the house. Don't ask me why, that is just how I am. Silence for me is dreadfully loud. (I suspect I suffer from tinitus which may or may not be related.) When there is a power outage I go absolutely bonkers because it is so quiet. Every power outage (of which we have many) my husband is all "Oh, isn't the quiet nice?" and I'm all "LA LA LA LA MUST MAKE NOISE LA LA!". I actually got a battery operated radio, not for safety, but just for the ability to have some background noise when the power is out.

So as soon as you get home put on some music or something. Keys down, coat off, radio on. If you like the ability to vary your music to your mood/activity then I strongly recommend Free music, great quality, TONS of different types of music. Personally I would not go in the direction of the TV for noise because (for me) TV is a huge life sink hole. TV on = I don't do anything else but sit and watch. I can try to clean or whatever while the TV is on but I always end up stopping and just focusing on the screen. Radio/music? I'll do something else while I listen (knit, sketch, paint, cook, clean, etc). And that is the other thing. I feel extra lonely if I feel like I'm not accomplishing something. Sometimes the thing I accomplished is as simple as "relaxed" or "slept" but usually it is more like "knit a pair of mittens" or "reorganized my closet".

And just saying... it is okay to feel lonely when you are alone. Sometimes living alone can truly feel depressing. This is normal. There are awesome parts to living alone (being in control of the space, privacy, not having someone eat the food you were saving for later, not cleaning up anyone else's messes, etc) but there are not awesome parts too. Some people deal with it by getting out of their house as much as possible. Others (like me) deal with it by making the house feel like there is some activity there.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:26 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I too was surprised to find I didn't dig living alone. I think of three types of strategy here:

1) get out more (exercise, hobbies, meetups, volunteering, game groups; even just hanging out in cafes where there are other humans around can help),

2) bring more people/connections into your place (inviting people over a lot, getting pets, finding online chat groups to hang with, getting a roommate, joining a commune or coop living arrangement); and

3) ways to make solo living feel less solo (filling your home with sound, music, audio books, tv, podcasts, etc.; ritualizing your use of time).

That last one might need a little explanation, but basically, I found that my loneliness was most acute and damaging at specific times (right when I got home to an empty house; during meals; at bedtime). Not having others around made it harder for me to stick to a normal schedule and meant that my body clock did weird things and I had a harder time sleeping regular hours. It helped somewhat to have specific things I did at those times -- not just "some TV" at dinner time, but a particular show. A specific drink I'd sip in my armchair when I got home from work. Stuff like that helped me feel a little less cast adrift by the lack of other humans.
posted by shattersock at 8:31 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also went through this kind of transition, and have been living alone for almost 6 years now. It took me a fairly long time to adjust. I have picked up some activities that I do with people, and try to maintain social connections in a variety of ways, but the big shift for me was learning to embrace being alone. For whatever it's worth, this poem (presented through youtube) really spoke to me while adapting:
posted by Lafe at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2014

cats and dogs make much more sense than therapists or "life coaches".

Whatever the drawbacks of therapists and life coaches, at least you don't have to feed them and clean up their crap.

I'm also of the opinion that buying pets to fix emotions makes about as much sense as having a baby to fix a marriage.

The advantage of a therapist is that they will probably be able to help you figure out how to deal with your loneliness factor. The likely answer, however, will be many of the suggestions listed above -- particularly exercise, as its efficacy in helping many physical and mental/emotional issues is becoming more and more known.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:47 AM on September 29, 2014

Things I did to enjoy living alone:

-did a lot of puzzles
-got a cat (I didn't do this specifically to alleviate loneliness, but it did have those benefits)
-started watching a lot of TV
-planned my meals and cooked for myself
-baked things
-learned to enjoy cleaning (you're only cleaning up after yourself, and for yourself)
-went on a lot of walks when I started to feel cooped up
-talked to myself often (or to the aforementioned cat)
-listened to podcasts (during the cooking and cleaning)

Living alone might not be for you. It's not for everyone. But take some time to quietly sit with yourself, to observe your own habits and emotions without the context of other people. It can be an intimidating process, but you can learn a lot about yourself and appreciate your own company in new ways.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 9:59 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a dog. Get a cat. Get a goldfish. Get a houseplant. Go for walks. Write in a journal. Cook dinner for yourself and only yourself. Make rituals and observe them daily. Enjoy the silences.
posted by fignewton at 11:33 AM on September 29, 2014

Source: I am nearing 29 and have my feet firmly planted on the extroverted side of things.

Although I'm no longer living by myself, I suffered through a 6 months being fairly alone (I lived with an excellent friend who just happened to never ever EVER be home) and these are some of the things that helped me deal... most of them are going to sound ridiculous, but if you are anything like me and are going to start actively seeking to end the situation... there are certain privileges that only living alone affords you. I sincerely miss...

-Never closing the bathroom door. Ever. Place a TV directly in the line of sight from the toilet if you can.
-Walking through the door = no pants o'clock
-Summer was no clothes o'clock because our apartment was roasting and not having to suffer in cloth made it way more tolerable
-Putting like 3 heads of garlic in any food dish because the only person who has to smell your breath is you
-Practicing your karaoke and dance skills as hard as you can. Even if they're never showcased outside your front door.

Things that made it easier, but aren't necessarily 'live alone' things...

-Nthing getting a cat. Film it constantly when you are bored. Something internet-worthy is bound to happen. Especially if you equip yourself with some cardboard and a laser pointer. I had a hedgehog myself, but a cat would've been better for sure. (side note: do not constantly post about cat on social media, this will have the opposite of the intended effect)
-Watching stand up comedians on youtube is a super way to pick your mood up when you're doing chores by yourself

Experience is the only thing you're lacking here - your loneliness will subside when you learn how to just be alone - and that WILL come with time.

(I'd cover the whole getting out thing, but all the above answers have done an excellent job at doing that!)

Good luck!
posted by rideunicorns at 2:10 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

it's time to start appreciating the pleasures of an unobserved life. doing what you want, when you want. decorating and painting the walls without compromise. eating popsicles in bed. dedicating an entire room to be your vanity and closet. i, personally, loved living alone because my apartment was a true expression of who i was, what i liked, and it was filled with luxuries tailored to ME - yes, you can put a mini fridge full of beer in your bedroom.

living alone teaches you a lot about yourself, and everyone should try it for at least a bit. focus on the joys of living alone in your unique place instead of on loneliness. if that feeling persists, fill your time outside of your living space with social interaction.
posted by lesalvo at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't need to live alone, as long as you are in a medium-to-large sized city where there are lots of other unmarrieds around. Ask any single friends you have if they'd be interested in getting a two bedroom apartment. Or look on Craigslist for a bedroom in a shared house. Bonus: new friends!
posted by amaire at 4:11 PM on September 29, 2014

I lived alone for several years after living with people. In addition to all the great advice above (cat, music, etc.), being along all the time was a great motivator for getting over my social anxiety. I got in touch with friends often to plan activities. I made dinners regularly, watched TV shows, and had a list of people I could contact for a drink on fairly short notice. The trick for me was to get disciplined with contacting people and to set things up even when I didn't feel like it cause I never regretted going out. If you can join a group that has a weekly meet-up, that's even better.

The second thing I did was make weird art projects. I knew I wouldn't live alone forever, so I took advantage by doing things I would be too embarrassed to do in front of other people. I made some really really mediocre artwork that was super fun to play with, but yeah, doesn't need be to scrutinized by other people in my space.
posted by ohisee at 10:52 PM on September 29, 2014

Much as I've had some great flatmate situations in the past, I live alone and I love it! I love coming and going as I like, I love being able to have people over without worrying about whether they'll get along with my flatmates.

I'm quite a social person and always-on around other people so it's a relief to have some downtime where I don't worry about what people are thinking about me.

A few times a week and on weekends I schedule things with friends - often this is one on one (maybe the difficulty you're having is that people aren't always available in groups?), and often it's on my initiative. I also travel quite a bit.

At home, there're a few interests that I'm pursuing (reading, language learning), and a few ways of relaxing (internet, tv), and ways I keep in touch with people socially (phone, email, facebook, skype).

I do feel lonely sometimes, and it's often when I'm not sure what I want to be doing, or I'm tired. So having an agenda of things I know I want to do is quite helpful.
posted by squishles at 5:20 AM on September 30, 2014

Also: I find it very helpful to make the space your own through decorating or something else, even in quite a minimal way.

I took pictures of people close to me, printed them out, and blue-tacked them to a wall. Looking at that wall makes me happy, comforts me, reassures me and inspires me.
posted by squishles at 5:48 AM on September 30, 2014

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