You’ve been relishing your date for dinner and a movie all week. You made the reservations at your favorite restaurant and have taken care of all the details for the theater. As you head out the door, you know you look your best for your date for the evening—yourself.
This scenario would feel right at home to Wendy Burt and Erin Kindberg, co-authors of Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill; $14.95). Their book of 125 activities to do solo is actually a useful tool for men, too. Just ask Clevelend Thorne. As a student at American InterContinental University, Thorne, 35, credits spending a lot of time alone with helping him graduate with a 3.8 G.P.A. Now, as a technical liaison for OpenFirst, a Milwaukee-based imaging and print production company, he continues to spend more time alone than socializing at work to excel at his job.
“I use that time to think about how to better myself,” Thorne says. “In order to mature and develop, I need to be alone to do that.” Though he maintains an active social life, Thorne says he often catches movies by himself. “Going out to dinner alone poses more of a challenge,” he admits.
And rightly so, considering how we are socialized to think that activities are more fun when there’s more than one person involved, says E. Carol Webster, a clinical psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “The fact that people need to be able to spend time alone is often overlooked because society places a premium on being a member of a group for everything,” says Webster. As a result, most people have trouble enjoying their own company. “That is not good,” she adds.
Spending time alone is inevitable and should be relished. Most people’s aversion to being solo, says Webster, dates back to childhood. When parents see their children alone, for example, they tend to think something is wrong. Instead, says Webster, parents should recognize the benefits of quality, purposeful solo time, which she says helps develop a strong sense of self; the ability to effectively distinguish personal thoughts, feelings, and interests from those of others; the chance to problem-solve unconstrained; and an increased capacity to relax as a result of not feeling external pressures.
Webster outlines some ways to increase your comfort in the solo zone:
Acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with spending time alone. Solo time is a prerequisite of self-development and growth, not a sign of weakness or personal defect.
- Make time for solo tasks a priority. Ease into it slowly by starting with quick tasks that don’t take a long time. For instance, try eating breakfast or lunch alone, rather than sitting down to an elaborate dinner at a restaurant.
- Use temporary crutches if necessary. Bring reading material along to help ease alone time in pubic until you’re able to just sit and be with yourself and your thoughts and not feel anxious about being out alone.
- Evaluate what was anxiety-provoking and what went better than expected. Allow yourself room