The Loneliness of Evenings
August 28, 2023 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I’m curious if any other folks who are or have been single or living alone have thoughts or advice on dealing with the loneliness of evenings. I find that the times when I feel the most lonely are after dinner, but before bed - say 7:00 -10:00 pm.

This is the time when it’s not quite time to go to bed, I’m awake, but I find myself struggling with what to do that feels good or connecting and isn’t work. I have noticed that it’s the time when I reach for junk food, or end up watching shows I don’t really like just to have something on the television.

It’s possible that it’s a hard time for me partly because when I’ve had a partner, it’s often when we’d talk about our day or snuggle on the couch. The thing I struggle with is that it doesn’t seem to matter if I’ve been particularly social that day - I could have just come back from an event but somehow that time just feels very solitary (maybe more so if I’ve just come from being with people?). Friends are often putting kids to bed, or talking with their partner or away from the phone, or on the east coast and therefore asleep. Sometimes I’ll read a book or watch a show with a craft in my lap and it works out, but it can just suck sometimes.

Is there a way you’ve gotten through the loneliness of evenings? I don’t really want to get into the habit of doing work during this time, that seems like a recipe for burnout, but I’m curious if others have ways they think about, or occupy times when it does feel lonely.

Here are the things that are true about me and my life: I work from home, I see friends regularly - either going out or inviting them to my home for dinners, I go on dates, I attend events/talks/shows on my own or with others, I have hobbies (sewing, knitting, making things, doing aerials), I volunteer with my community, I read a lot of books and cook delicious meals for myself. I try to be genuinely available to people in my life and community. Since I work from home, in recent months I’ve been pushing myself to go out and do more stuff which has helped somewhat - but this problem during this time of the day remains.

FYI, I don’t think that the question I’m asking is answered by the well meaning response: “find more activities to do” or “make more friends”. I have awesome activities and badass friends. I guess I’m hoping to hear from folks who have been there in those moments of loneliness what it is that helps them feel better. Are there any strategies or ways of thinking about alone time that have helped you?
posted by mulkey to Human Relations (32 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Pet?
posted by *s at 5:47 PM on August 28 [16 favorites]

Oh, I have the same issue. It's why I like going to rehearsal instead of sitting at home alone bored. Honestly, I end up watching television and knitting for hours.
I just accept that that's how things are, I haven't really figured out "getting past it" so much as just trying to distract myself, or having evening plans to go do karaoke or something else if no shows are on.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:48 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To be honest, one thing that helped was that I acknowledged that sometimes, it just sucks. Let myself wallow in that a bit and then try to pick up something fun. It made it easier to move past that feeling, to acknowledge it and then let it go, than just trying to fight it.
posted by sm1tten at 5:50 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]

I watch movies.

Yes, there is a selection process (I have a few spreadsheets) but I watch a movie because it's something to do. I enjoy it, absolutely -- I really love movies. Most are 2 hours or less, so it fits into a weeknight. I usually start them around 6 p.m. so I'm done by 8 or 8:30.

I love movies, though. If you're not a movie fan, well ...
posted by edencosmic at 6:02 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have been there and it's rough.
The thing that helped me the most was using that time to connect with friends who live elsewhere. I'm on the East coast, so for me it was mostly calling or texting friends on the West coast. I see you're in Oregon, but if you've got people who are awake and free somewhere — especially if you never get to see them in person — hit them up! Don't automatically assume that coupled people are occupied with their partner — ask if they have any time to remote-hang. One friend recommended a show that I hadn't seen and then agreed to co-watch and live-text with me. Another friend suggested going through a “best albums of all time” list and sync up listening to some of them. Or if you're a board game person, you can play other people online on Board Game Arena or Tabletopia.
Failing something like that, it's also a good time to write letters or postcards to send the following day.
Also, cooking or baking for future-you, or to give away to other people, is a great time killer. Add a show or podcast in the background of that activity to fill the people-presence gap.
And if you have or can have a cat or dog, having them around can help — if for no other reason than giving you a reason to talk out loud at another being.
posted by D.Billy at 6:12 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I know it's pretty cliche at this point, but daily sunset walks have really made a difference for me. There's something about keeping a commitment to myself, and getting better acquainted with my neighborhood that helps fight the evening blues.

I try to take a picture of at least one thing along the way that makes me smile. I hope this helps!
posted by Space Kitty at 6:13 PM on August 28 [25 favorites]

Distraction I guess? I almost never feel lonely because I'm never bored. Between reading metafilter, doing crosswords, playing some light phone games, watching tv or whatever, reading, housework, life admin etc there's not a lot of time left before bed!

Also, would it help if you reframed it as "me" time? Time where you get to do whatever you want to do and you don't have to fit in with anyone else's preferences or schedule.

Yes, it crosses my mind that it might be nicer to do things with someone - even if you're both sitting there reading separate books it has a different feel to reading alone, but ultimately if the book is good enough I'm happy enough with that. So maybe also focusing on what you have got rather than what you don't have.
posted by pianissimo at 6:19 PM on August 28 [8 favorites]

Shift your schedule and make dinner later?
posted by shock muppet at 6:26 PM on August 28

Best answer: I’ve had luck on the past shifting bedtime earlier and getting up at 5am, it just feels better to be alone it you aren’t 100 percent happy during those hours I find.
posted by flink at 7:44 PM on August 28 [11 favorites]


I find watching a movie or a couple episodes of a favorite show is an excellent time-suck in the late evening.
posted by Stuka at 7:47 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]

I don’t get home from work until 7 or 8, so my evenings have compressed downtime. Between kitty interaction and feeding, dinner and shower, I have enough time to watch maybe one episode of whatever show I’m watching (or whatever bike race I need to catch up on), before I move into brain disconnection mode. But I am still in a state of solidly enjoying my single status.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:10 PM on August 28

Best answer: Find a third place: a cafe or bar or bookshop that you can go be around other folks and maybe even have a chat or two. My town has a bunch of kava bars where people come to have quiet conversation or play chess, and I find it's a lovely way to wind down before heading home to bed.
posted by ananci at 8:41 PM on August 28 [9 favorites]

I’m there too. It takes so much motivation to get off the couch and away from a screen—even though I’m in front of one all day! Regularity is key for me. Things that have either worked for me or are on my list:

-a standing date with a friend (for two years, I walked with the same friend at the same time every Thursday night. Later during Covid, I joined a pod with a friend-couple, where we had two dates a week: one to cook dinner together and watch a movie, and one where we ordered in and either sat by the fire to visit, or played a game. Post Covid, we still have a standing weekly date. Also during Covid, about every other week or so I hopped on FaceTime with another friend-couple, and we all logged in to play a Tabletopia game and visit);
-get out for a movie;
-institute your own stay-in documentary movie night, and invite people or not;
-walk with a book in your ear. YMMV based on the kind of town you live in. Where I live, I can put a book in my ear and walk the neighborhoods for an hour, even in the dark, without fear of traffic or violence;
-learn an instrument by doing 30-60 min lessons nightly on a site like;
-dive into a new pursuit… on my radar: felting, refashioning thrifted clothes, baking, maybe with a podcast on in the background;
-make a goal to get to know your neighbors, whatever that looks like. A progressive dinner? Someone else who wants to learn and play cribbage? A casual BYO craft and chat? (an adult coloring book is always a good backup for such things).
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 9:03 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You have a rich life with strong connections. Maybe there's a dip or spike in some hormone or neurotransmitter around that time, a circadian rhythm thing like the afternoon slump.

I would try a slow movement thing, like yoga, tai chi, dancing (loosely interpreted) to music, or a walk. But for some reason I'm thinking it would help to make your body expand into the space around it, so stretch your arms up and around while you walk.

If you previously spent that time snuggling or catching up with a partner, maybe an adjacent activity would be good: Journaling, reflecting on your day with some tea outside, instituting a laborious and pleasurable whole-body moisturizing routine.
posted by meemzi at 9:10 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]

Sorry for my earlier typos! I was answering from bed at 5am my time! Haha. I have anxiety at the moment and I find that if I train myself to get up super super early it is much easier and more enjoyable to spend my time from 4:30/5-7:00 or 8 drinking coffee and watching the news and surfing my phone and journaling AT THAT TIME. Everyone else is asleep. You just don’t feel lonely. It is more conducive to positive thinking, I can clean up or organize my room, change my clothes a few times… putter around…and I can take action on later in the day. It’s a different feeling than when you have to unwind for bed. Around 8 things start happening, food can be eaten etc. shops open, the sun comes up. For me, with anxiety the evening is just a difficult time, the day is done and my mind wanders and the people that I can call and talk to are in different time zones and I only like to ring them a few times a week for a half hour or so. Shows aren’t doing it for me right now either. I get started on this by waking up at 5:30 for a few days and just being tired and then it becomes routine.
posted by flink at 10:07 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]

Came here to say what flink did. Sitting in solitude with my cup of coffee & a book at 5am feels way better than being alone in the evenings.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:13 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]

Taking early morning walks at the lake or bike paths before the sun rises and we get back into our blistering summer heat.
Watching the change from moonlight and stars to a lovely dawn.
Listening to the shift in human and natural sounds.
Keeping track of local animals and seasonal vegetation.
Greeting other early risers with their pets and children.
It's nice to invite a friend, but I get quite a bit out of the flash of color or sound that I would not notice if I were concentrating on another person.

Of course, this means setting an early bedtime so that I don't sleep through the alarm. Sunrise is a precious but easily ignored event.
posted by TrishaU at 12:20 AM on August 29

I also set an early alarm (5 AM for me) and go to bed between 8 and 9.
posted by Tehhund at 2:59 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]

I found several things to do if this kind of mood strikes me:

1. Go to the gymn. I have a nice one with a small spa area nearby, so I will lift some weights, sit in the Sauna and then go home, eat something and read in bed.

2. I live away from where I grew up, so I will put on a local radio station from there and prepare some nice food, maybe something a little bit more elaborate than strictly necessary. It feels very cozy sitting in my little kitchen, that is now warm from the cooking and (hopefully) smells good, with some traffic alerts from my childhood town in the background.

3. Go to a bar with a book, have some drinks and maybe strike up a random conversation with some patron.

4. My library has an excellent online selection of magazines, I bought a large (12 inches) pad specifically so I could read them comfortably. So I will just randomly browse them.
posted by SweetLiesOfBokonon at 3:14 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]

Do you drink caffeine in the morning? I used to get a low mood in the evening after it wore off. Quitting has helped me enjoy evenings a lot more.
posted by wheatlets at 5:11 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]

Try shifting dinner to a later time. If you stop work at 5:00, then don't eat dinner until 7:00. Make the 5 - 7 PM period your time to go to the gym, run errands, take a walk. Then start dinner about 7:00. By the time you finish and clean up, it will be closer to 8:30, which means you will already be shifting toward your bedtime routine.
posted by eleslie at 6:41 AM on August 29

I am seeing someone seriously but we do not cohabitate, so I don't know if that's part of it, but I love that time of day. Part of the challenge of a cohabitating relationship for me, I have learned, is the being constantly observed. An ex was particularly...I dunno, he felt compelled to comment on and critique anything I did and it makes the privacy of living alone delicious.

I do what eleslie suggests, which is to go to the gym straight from work, and usually tack on some other needed errand as well. I get home around 8, 8:30, and then the night is mine! all mine!

Usually I make a small dinner, and then attend to a perpetually long list of chores OR self care (or both, I guess, depending) because both my house and meatsack just need tons of maintenance. Often by the time everything is done it's almost too late to do anything but go to bed.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:56 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]

Yes, another vote for shifting your schedule if it's possible for you. I felt this way fairly regularly (not every night but say 3x a week reliably) when I lived alone and honestly, the only thing that worked consistently was shifting my schedule so that I'd go to bed before 9 and wake up around 5-5:30. The morning feels a lot more hopeful and less lonely, seeing the sun rise is great for my brain, and being an early riser can help to maintain other good habits like exercise if you're into that.
posted by superfluousm at 7:12 AM on August 29

In addition to the other answers, I’ve started cleaning as part of my evening routine, that’s when I can’t make excuses about being too busy to wipe the baseboards or whatever. I also got into taking relaxing baths with candles and music and bath salts, it really helps wash the day off.
posted by momus_window at 7:20 AM on August 29

Best answer: I have this problem too. I’ve adjusted my schedule to get up early, so I go to bed around 9 and read until I fall asleep. It’s a nice way to wind down.

However, I have you to thank for having this stuck in my head (at approximately :30).
posted by elphaba at 8:55 AM on August 29

Best answer: This is totally "me" time, time when I do the things I enjoy that are better when done alone. Yoga, meditation, long walks (loooooove walking at dusk), reading, reflecting, being mindful, crying (no joke -- such a good time to really pay attention to all your feelings), painting, journaling... and if I'm really honest, scrolling TikTok. Hey, I'm just letting the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

I think humans mostly operate in a default state of lack, of wanting what we don't have; when we have a partner, they take up maybe too much of our time, and we crave alone time; conversely, when we are single, we feel lonely and crave companionship. I know that's true for me. I've deliberately tried to get to a place of appreciating what I do have right now, which is plenty of time to and by myself, knowing that I won't always have that; and one day when what I have is plenty of companionship, appreciating that and knowing I'll eventually have more time for the "me" things again. I guess this is really just a gratitude practice, cultivating a feeling of abundance. All of which is to say, I struggle with this sometimes too and flipping my perspective has really helped!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:59 AM on August 29 [9 favorites]

After breakups I make a point of finding a TV show to watch each night which I'm actively looking forward to. It makes the evenings delicious instead of sad. If that's not your thing, you can find a video game, craft project, etc. but it's important that you only do it then and that you're excited about it.
posted by metasarah at 9:40 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]

Find a couple of classes (exercise or other) to do that are scheduled for early evening. By the time you get home and cleaned up there isn’t much evening left, especially if your bedtime isn’t very late.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:16 AM on August 29

Many people connect with their communities in the evening and enjoy working on a fun project with other people. A lot of creative types do this, where they meet with their co creators to create and discuss their art hobbies. There can also be a lot of job in the teamwork required to pull off a team mission, and a lot of closeness when everyone involved is using microphones so that you can hear them gasp or giggle. If you want something a little less demanding, there is the option of finding someone to have a watch party with.

How about looking for a community on line you can spend time with? What's something you always wanted to pursue but never got into?

I do an evening music practice with one friend - we both put our phones on speaker and practice our parts together. However I can only do this with the one friend, because we are lucky enough to have electronics and the connection to do it without the lag that usually makes it impossible to do things like this on Zoom or Discord.

If you have friends in a different time zone figure out who might enjoy contact with you at that time. For example your sister might be sitting down to her solitary dinner two time zones away from you, and would actually enjoy a "dinner date" where the two of you talked about nothing in particular once a week, and kept the family bond close.

Sometimes we feel lonely and isolated because we are over tired. You might check if taking a nap immediately after dinner resulted in you getting enough sleep even though you end up staying up until 1 AM. Or you might try going to sleep an hour or an hour and a half earlier. The bad feelings may simply be fatigue.

There's also the option of making that time for acts of service. If you work on creative projects for other people it can make you feel closer to them. You can picture your sleeping relative on the East coast being really happy when they get the sweater you knitted just for them.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:18 AM on August 29

I know this feeling, though I more often recognize it in retrospect than in the moment.

Some things that help me:
- doing the stuff I really want to do earlier in the day so that if I do end up being sad or drifting off in front of the TV or doing work in the evening, so what! (obviously requires a somewhat flexible WFH schedule)
- practicing music (piano) in the evenings (helps to have a routine and/or something you're working through - I have a sightreading book and I try to play a page out of it every day; once I've gotten started I often play for an hour.
- booking up more evenings than I think I should, so that the ones I have to myself feel like a treat
- going out for a beer or a sandwich or whatever
- going for a walk
posted by mskyle at 2:31 PM on August 29

Hobby. I started trying out a bunch of crafts during covid quarantines because I was alone 100% of the time for months. I got really into embroidery and now I'm trying out quilting. Having something to focus on that's engaging but not taxing really helps me. Bonus: some hobbies can be done while watching TV.
posted by Mavri at 2:47 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Really grateful for the responses y'all. I'm intrigued to hear the idea of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. I'm decidedly not a morning person, but I can't deny while I am tired in the morning I'm not nearly as unhappy/morose as I am in the evenings.

I have thought about getting a pet, it's on the list.

Special thanks to meemzi - this was honestly not something that had ever occurred to me before: "Maybe there's a dip or spike in some hormone or neurotransmitter around that time, a circadian rhythm thing like the afternoon slump."

And all of the folks commiserating, thanks. It really helps to feel seen!
posted by mulkey at 8:39 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]

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