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This post is all about how to nurture your mental health when you live alone.
“Whoa oh I can’t stand this living all alone”-Phyllis Hyman, Living Alone
I can remember Phyllis Linda Hyman’s voice just like it was yesterday. Her voice was so soothing, full of strength, pain, pleasure and love. Little did we know at the time that she suffered from pain more than anything else. Her struggle with bipolar depression ended in 1995, when at the tender young age of 45, she took her own life. And just like that, our beautiful, incomparable songbird was gone.
Her story inspired this post. If you are living alone and struggling, I pray that something in the words below resonates with you and helps you to stay with us another day.
Understanding the Impact of Solitude
Just like anything in life, there are two sides to every coin. Living alone is no different. It can be both a blessing and a curse. While alone time can be relaxing and beneficial, it can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
As someone who has previously lived alone for quite some time, I understand firsthand the challenges that come with solitude. In this post, I aim to share a few powerful research-based insights that I have found to be effective both in my personal life and with clients on how to thrive mentally while living alone. Continue reading to learn more.
The Bright Side of Living Alone:
- Freedom and Self-Discovery: Living alone offers unparalleled freedom. It allows individuals to explore their true selves without the influence or judgment of others. This freedom can lead to a heightened sense of self-awareness and personal development.
- Peace and Tranquility: Without the constant presence of others, one’s home becomes a sanctuary of peace. This tranquility can be incredibly beneficial for mental health, offering a space for relaxation and introspection.
- Control Over Environment: Having complete control over one’s living space can lead to a greater sense of autonomy and satisfaction. This control allows individuals to create an environment that truly reflects and supports their personal well-being.
The Challenges of Solitude:
- Loneliness and Isolation: Perhaps the most significant challenge of living alone is the potential for loneliness. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and the lack of regular social interaction can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Lack of Support System: Living alone often means not having immediate access to a support system in times of stress or emergency. This can heighten feelings of vulnerability and anxiety.
- Over-reliance on Digital Communication: In the absence of face-to-face interactions, there might be an over-reliance on digital forms of communication, which can sometimes lead to a sense of disconnection from real-world relationships.
Psychological Concepts in the Context of Solitude:
- The Need for Social Interaction: Psychological theories, such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, emphasize the importance of love and belonging through social interactions. These interactions contribute significantly to our emotional and mental well-being.
- Personal Space and Boundaries: While social interaction is vital, the concept of personal space is equally important. Psychological studies suggest that having a personal space where one can think, relax, and be oneself is crucial for mental health.
- Balance between Social and Personal Needs: The key lies in finding a balance between fulfilling the need for social interaction and enjoying the benefits of personal space. This balance is subjective and varies greatly from person to person.
Tips for Maintaining Social Connections When Living Alone.
As women, we all crave those moments of connection with our friends, family, and loved ones. However, even after the pandemic, many of us are still struggling to stay connected the way we used to. We miss our brunch dates, coffee shops meetings, and girls’ night outs. Staying connected is still as crucial as ever, however, and with the help of technology, we can safely and consistently maintain social connections, even when physically alone. In this post, I’ll cover some tips and tricks that can help you stay connected without leaving your house.
Join online communities.
There’s a bevy of online communities available for women to connect with one another. Spend a few hours scrolling through social media to find groups that share your interests, hobbies, or professional aspirations. You can join Facebook groups, professional slack channels, or even take a free online course. Not only will you meet new people, but you’ll also have the opportunity to learn something new and gain support from others.
Host virtual happy hours.
If you’re looking for a way to make your virtual meetings with friends or colleagues more fun and interactive, try hosting virtual happy hours. You just need to grab a drink of your choice and your online connection and meet in a zoom hangout room. Use this time to play games, share stories, catch up on what everyone’s been doing, and let loose. Having fun and laughing with your friends can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Schedule coffee dates.
Scheduling virtual coffee dates with friends is another way to stay connected. You can use this time to chat about anything and everything under the sun. You can catch up on the latest news, share your problems, and seek guidance from your loved ones. Having these scheduled coffee dates ensures that you have something to look forward to and maintain your social connections.
Create DIY projects together:
You must have seen a lot of DIY project tutorials online. Invite your friends to join you to do it together. You can share the materials, stay connected through chat, and see each other’s progress. At the end of this, you’ll have something to show for your time spent together and that in itself is an achievement.
Reach out to new people.
If you’re feeling lonely, it’s okay to look for new people to connect with. You can download dating apps, join online matchmaking communities, or even try making friends on social media. You never know, you might just find someone who you actually connect with.
Create a Personal Sanctuary
1. Declutter Your Space
Creating a comfortable, personal sanctuary begins by decluttering your space. The more you have in your space, the more overwhelmed you may feel. If you’re unsure where to start, begin with one room, and clear the debris in it. Once you’ve decluttered, you’ll have more space to add items that promote mental stimulation and comfort.
2. Add Items that Comfort You
Bertrand Russell once said, “The task is not to see what has never been seen before but to think what has never been thought before about what you see every day.” This quote can be translated to decor. It’s not necessarily about buying new items, but getting creative with what you have. Consider adding warm, comfortable blankets, pillows that soothe your nerves, and ambient lighting to relax. You could even display sentimental items like artwork, photos, or souvenirs from your travels to remind you of happy memories.
3. Stimulate Your Senses
Stimulating your senses is a powerful technique to promote mental wellness. Consider adding scents that relax you, music that calms you down, or a salt lamp that illuminates your room while providing health benefits. Don’t be afraid to add bold colors and designs to your walls. Art pieces on your walls can stimulate your vision and provide added inspiration.
4. Follow Somatic Work Principles
Somatic work, also known as body-mind centering, is a holistic approach to wellness that focuses on integrating the body and mind. Incorporating these principles can help you create a living space that’s supportive of bodily and mental wellness. For example, if you have furniture that makes you feel uncomfortable or stiff, consider replacing it with something that better supports your body’s natural alignment. Another principle you could follow is incorporating lighting that triggers your body to signal bedtime by choosing warm, calming ambiance light machine.
5. Make Your Space Personal
It’s important to make your living space personal. One way to do this is by making your bedroom more luxuriously cozy. Consider adding high-thread-count sheets and comfortable pillows. Add some of your favorite scents and decor pieces that make you feel snug and secure. You could even create your own wall art or paint your walls your favorite color.
Staying Physically Active When Living Alone
When we talk about nurturing our mental health while living alone, one aspect we can’t overlook is the role of physical activity. There’s a profound connection between our physical and mental health, a bond that’s deeply rooted in the way our body and mind interact. Engaging in regular physical activity is not just about keeping our bodies fit; it’s about triggering a cascade of positive biochemical reactions. Exercise releases endorphins, often known as the body’s natural mood lifters, which play a crucial role in enhancing our sense of well-being. Additionally, it’s a powerful stress buster, capable of reducing tension, stabilizing mood, and improving sleep quality. Beyond these immediate benefits, regular movement also sharpens cognitive functions, contributing to better concentration and memory.
For those living alone, incorporating exercise into your daily routine offers a chance to create a regimen that’s both enjoyable and flexible. You might consider yoga or Pilates, which are excellent for strength and flexibility, and also bring a mindfulness aspect beneficial for mental health. Alternatively, simple bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats can be effective and don’t require any special equipment. For something more light-hearted, dancing to your favorite music can be a delightful way to get your body moving. And let’s not forget the plethora of online fitness classes available today, catering to all tastes and fitness levels.
The key to reaping the mental health benefits of exercise lies in consistency. It’s more about the regularity of your physical activity rather than the intensity. Finding ways to integrate movement into your day, be it through stretching during work breaks, going for a walk, or even engaging in household chores, can make a significant difference. However, it’s important to listen to your body and not push beyond your limits. Overexertion can be counterproductive, leading to injury or burnout. Balance is crucial – your exercise routine should include periods of rest and recovery. Most importantly, choose activities that you enjoy. Exercise should feel like a refreshing break, not a tedious task.
In essence, staying physically active is a vital component of maintaining your mental health, especially in solitude. It’s not about rigorous training sessions or becoming an athlete; it’s about finding joy in movement and recognizing the positive impact it can have on your overall mental well-being.
Seek Professional Support When Needed
One of the most crucial aspects of maintaining our mental health, particularly when navigating the challenges of living alone, is recognizing when and how to seek support. It’s important to remember that reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards self-care and resilience. We all need a helping hand at times, and there’s immense strength in acknowledging this need.
Nowadays, we a wealth of resources available for mental health support. Therapy, for instance, can be a transformative experience. It provides a safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings with a professional who can offer guidance and support. Therapists can help you develop strategies to manage your mental health and improve your overall well-being.
There are various therapeutic approaches available, each catering to different needs. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely used for addressing issues like anxiety and depression by changing thought patterns and behaviors.
Additionally, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are two therapeutic options that have shown remarkable results for many individuals. DBT is particularly effective for those struggling with emotional regulation or interpersonal relationships, offering tools to manage intense emotions and improve communication skills. EMDR, on the other hand, is a unique form of therapy often used to help people recover from trauma and distressing life experiences. It involves processing and desensitizing distressing memories, reducing their lingering effects.
Support groups and online forums also play a significant role in providing emotional support. These platforms allow you to connect with others who may be experiencing similar challenges, offering a sense of community and understanding. Sharing your experiences and hearing from others can be incredibly validating and comforting.
I want to remind each one of you that it’s perfectly okay to seek support. Whether it’s through therapy, support groups, or reaching out to trusted friends and family, taking that step can be a pivotal part of your mental health journey. Remember, you are not alone in this, and there is a whole community and professional support network ready to help you navigate through this path.
As you embark on or continue this journey, I encourage you to take small, manageable steps towards mental wellness. Remember, it’s not about making monumental changes overnight, but about consistently incorporating these practices into your daily life. Each small step is a victory, a movement towards a more balanced and fulfilling life.
To leave you with a thought to carry forward, here’s a quote by Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Let each step you take be one towards self-care, self-discovery, and mental wellness. Your journey is uniquely yours, and every effort you make in nurturing your mental health is a testament to your strength and resilience.