How to be Happy Alone, 12 Simple Actions to Make Yourself Happy

how to be happy aloneAre you wondering how to be happy single or alone?

I’ve been through a couple iterations of aloneness during different periods of my life.

I refer to them as alone in a room full of people and alone in a room with myself; which I’ll talk about in this post.

As to how to be happy alone, there isn’t a simple answer. Although we can be happy without intimacy with others, there seems to be a limit to that experience until we share it with others.

I’ll share and talk about the last scene in the movie Into the Wild. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s pretty hard to watch—so you’ve been warned—it always brings tears to my eyes.

My wife Emily and I sat down and came up with 12 simple actions (most were her suggestions) that you can do—alone—to be happy; which I’ll list at the end of this post.

My Time Alone

There were certainly times in my life where I have been alone, and would have considered myself happy. My aloneness consisted of two very different versions. The first has consumed the majority of my life, up until the age of 35.

Is Happiness Only Real if Shared? – Click to Tweet

Alone in a Room Full of People

As we live our lives consumed with how others perceive us, we display certain external versions of who we are; or more precisely, how we want others to perceive us. From my experience, this creates a sort of split self. I have this version I’m showing the world, while at the same time, I have an inner perspective of myself that’s often quite different. Although we’re probably not aware of this “split” self at the time. At least I wasn’t.

We seem relatively happy. Maybe we have a large group of friends that we hang out with from time-to-time or we may even be in an intimate relationship. We think we’re happy; at least it would appear that way from the outside.

Yet inside we may still have this little nudge or pressure in our soul that’s suggesting there must be something more. Maybe we feel as if we’re settling. Asking ourselves, “is this as good as it gets?”

I lived that way for the majority of my life. I was always this outgoing, positive, and seemingly happy person. Yet I still felt something missing in life. That all of these other happy people around me must know something I didn’t. It’s funny though, because at the same time my ego was telling me—and fighting to portray externally—that I was the one who held the secret. After all, most friends came to me for advice and were certainly blown away by my witty sense of humor and personal drive.

So there I was; happy alone. Yet even in a room full of people, surrounded by friends, or even in an “intimate” relationship, there was still a part of me that felt lonely. That I was missing something while resigning to “that’s life” and it’s always going to be this way.

As a result of living this split self; I never really got honest with anyone, especially myself. When things got uncomfortable, I’d bolt or just pass over it. I had no emotional connectedness to my authentic self or what I truly needed to be happy. So I just acted as if most of the time and avoided any real emotional connections with myself and others.  This was later described to me by a psychiatrist as conflict avoidance. Which is a fancy way of saying I didn’t like feeling uncomfortable.

Even though I was in relationships and had friends, there were long periods where I became quite introverted. Staying at home all the time by myself and becoming consumed with learning. I got into computers and taught myself about networks, programming, and web development. Although I was alone, I didn’t know how to just be. I was unable to just sit in a quiet room alone with my thoughts because there was always that deep part of me that felt as if something was missing. So I just kept my mind busy on external things.

So I would say that I was happy; at least compared to a lot of people I knew at the time. But in perspective, it was nothing compared to the soul filling happiness and contentment I’ve discovered since.

Alone in a Room with Myself

After hitting that point of total isolation and desperation, I sought to find inner-peace and happiness. That’s when I truly started getting honest with myself. I simply didn’t care anymore what others thought of me. I got help from anyone or anything I could; therapist’s, counselors, clergy, 12-step programs, spiritual advisers, books, etc. I just wanted something different out of life and wasn’t going to give up until I found the missing piece to the puzzle.

What I found was my perfect and authentic self. Through a process which I go into great detail in my upcoming book, “Happiness for the Practical Mind: 7 Steps to Discovering and Loving Your Authentic Self,” I found what I was missing; a deep emotional connectedness with self. Resulting in—among many things—a deep acceptance of my authentic self and the ability to love and be loved.

The process—as it’s ongoing and continually evolving—allows me to live as one. Just be who I am and know that it’s enough. What I feel on the inside, peace, joy, love, acceptance, and happiness, is what radiates outwards and shows on the outside. I truly know and accept who I am, which means needing less external from the world to make me happy, therefore I am happy.

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
-Lao Tzu

Today, I’m able to sit alone, meditate, and feel the presence of love, spirit, God, and all the wondrous things life has to offer. I can sit alone in a room with myself and feel happiness, joy, and peace. Once I realized I have everything within me to be completely happy, I no longer need to take or expect anything from anyone. Living is not about me anymore, it’s about what I have to offer the world. This is when real meaningful and life changing relationships manifest in our lives. This has brought a completely different level of happiness.

Since I can be happy alone with my true self, I can truly connect with others and develop deep, intimate relationships. Being happy alone is good, but is happiness real if not shared with others?

“Being happy alone is good, but is happiness real if not shared with others?” – Click to Tweet

Is Happiness Only Real if Shared?

If you’ve never read the book or seen the movie Into the Wild, you should. But I must warn you, it’s sort of… well, really sad at the end. If you’re not familiar with this true story, here’s a brief synopsis:

Christopher McCandless is a promising, smart, and seemingly fearless young adult. After graduating with honors from Emory, he gives away his savings—anonymously—to a charity, hops in his car and drives off without letting anyone know where he’s going. For certain reasons he’s lost trust in his family and sets out to experience the country and ends up hitching across the Northwest before settling on a plan to live completely alone in the Alaskan wilderness.  In his journeys, he comes across many people who are inspired by him, but he avoids any true intimacy.

He finally makes it to the Alaskan wilderness in 1992 at the age of twenty-four and lives for 16 weeks off the land void of any human contact using a deserted bus as shelter. However, he eventually ate some spoiled or poison berries which lead to his death; alone in a bus in the woods.

 What do you think, is happiness only real if it’s shared?

That ending scene in the movie just disturbs my soul for some reason; in a way which I very seldom feel. It touches a deep rooted fear, of being completely alone or dying. A feeling that’s not pleasant, but cannot keep us from living today. There’s been a few times in my life when I’ve felt that primal fear; it’s my time. And it’s true, you think about those most important to you in your life.

Like when I think about a day in St. Croix when I nearly drowned snorkeling.

My wife and I had just become certified SCUBA divers so I was feeling a bit over confident. There was a nice reef about a hundred yards out from our resort and a fellow diver had mentioned an entry point just past our beach near some rocky outcroppings. So off I went while Emily walked the beach and picked up seashells.

Without a snorkeling vest I carefully timed the waves and entered the choppy water and kicked out quickly to where the depth was probably 15-20 feet. I figured once I got out from all the rocks the water would be calmer. What I discovered was quite the contrary. Huge swelling waves pounded me while I could see enormous sharp rocks popping above the surface all around me as each wave passed. Tiring quickly, I struggled to swim and switch between breathing with and without my snorkel. The water was so choppy that whenever I tried to just swim face down using my snorkel, it would take in water causing more panic. I searched for any large rocks I could stand on to rest while praying I didn’t suck in more water or get slammed into the sharp rocks on all sides.  The swells and my initial entry had carried me far enough that returning the way I came in was not an option. So I would have to make it a few hundred feet to the beach passing more large rocks. It was a daunting task with 3-4 foot swells, sharp rocks, and—from the few glimpses I actually got under the water—spiny sea urchins the size of basketballs everywhere!

As fatigue quickly set in, I managed to find a few good footings on large rocks to catch my breath briefly until a large wave would lift me up causing me to lose my footing. I remember briefly seeing Emily down on the beach, calmly looking for shells. It was humbling to know that just a few hundred feet away she was so peaceful while I was fighting for my life. I was thinking, “God, please… I’m going to die right here in this ocean while she’s just a few hundred feet away.”

Once I made it to shallow enough water, I didn’t care about all the sea urchins any more and just scampered over the sharp rocks and crawled to the sand. Emily, not catching the terror still on my face, looked at me and said, “How was it?” I simply said, “Not good and probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.”

I will say one thing, I feel a lot safer with a tank of air strapped to my back!

12 Simple Actions to Make Yourself Happy

1. Go shopping (Yes, this was my wife’s idea) – She’s a bargain shopper and will watch a pair of jeans for months until they go on sale. She said that shopping alone makes her happy. She can take her time and look for great deals.

2. Paint a Room – It’s amazing what a coat of paint in an uplifting color can do to a room.

3. Get rid of old socks – I wasn’t sure about this one… but hey, I do feel better when I clean out my sock draw.

4. Go for a Walk – Enjoy nature or find a park where there are other people and feel good about getting out and being part of a community.

5. Make a new friend – Be open to friendship and find ways of connecting with others.

6. Read a Book – It’s great being sucked into a good book, the kind you can’t wait to get back to.

7. Go to a Movie – Go to a movie and get a huge bucket of popcorn and your favorite soft drink. I used to think going to a movie by myself was pathetic, but then I realized… who cares, I’m in a movie!

8. People watch – Try not to do this in a creep way. I love going to a coffee shop or mall and just walking around and watching how people interact. We humans are interesting.

9. Volunteer – Find a local shelter or volunteer organization to donate your time.

10. Make a list of things you need to do around the house – I love lists. You can make a simple list of jobs around the house you’d like to get done. Just checking a few off can make you feel good about yourself.

11. Make a gratitude list – This is one I use all the time, never fails. Gratitude makes us happy!

12. Start a Puzzle – Puzzles can be fun and provide a good sense of accomplishment when finished.

These are just a few things we thought of this morning over coffee.

What do you do to make yourself feel happy?

Is happiness only real if it’s shared?

Want to know how to be Happy regardless of Circumstances?

Find out more about what keeps you from happiness and how to break the chains in my free book. Sign up to receive your copy instantly.

Comments

  1. Harriet Cabelly says

    Hi,
    Hopped on over here after reading your wonderful guest post on Tiny Buddha. Your story was captivating.
    In answer to your question, what do I do to make myself feel happy? I try to incorporate into my day things/activities that bring me joy. Some examples – my daily walks; enveloping a mug of very hot tea while sitting down with my book; getting into the flow of writing a blog post and losing all sense of time; keeping my space clutter-free.
    I’ll be back again. Best to you.

    • jared says

      Harriet,
      Thanks for the kind words and sharing what you do to make yourself happy! Great list of activities, and most importantly, action! I’ve been reading Lori’s book from TinyBuddha.com and it reminds me of the section in there where she says to set aside time throughout your day to do little things like this that make you happy. You bring up a good point also, that it’s the little actions and things we can do for ourselves, carving out time in our day to do these things, which can bring us fulfillment and joy. I talk about some of that actually in a book I’m self-publishing that’s due out in a few months, that we just over complicate our happiness sometimes. Good reminder, thanks!

      • Carrie says

        I found you over a year ago when I was struggling with a 15 year break up. I hadn’t been happy in so many years that I really didn’t know how to be happy or what makes me happy. Through this journey, I loved that you gave lists and even though I didn’t think doing the things on the list would make me happy…I did them anyway. What I found was that maybe for me cleaning out my sock drawer didn’t make me happy, it did lead to something that did. So when people are struggling, it nice to do someone’s list at 1st until you figure out what is on “your” list! So thank you!
        On my list…painting my nails, spending time with my dog, trying to be engaged with the people I come in contact with, and reading/looking at magazines and the newspaper.

        • jared says

          That’s great Carrie. Thank you SO much for coming back and leaving that comment. That really made my day. I really like what you said and it’s pretty insightful, “What I found was that maybe for me cleaning out my sock drawer didn’t make me happy, it did lead to something that did.” And that maybe doing someone else’s list is good until you can figure our what’s on yours! Good stuff, thanks!

  2. Olympia says

    Thank you so much for sharing your list! I was in a 5 year relationship with the love of my life until it ended beginning of last year. It was the hardest and most challenging time of my life but when I look back now it lead to me finding my authentic self. I start walking and running and I managed to loose 27lbs over 7months and I started all kinds of hobbies including outrigger canoeing, gardening, journaling….I was always an extrovert until I started to do things alone and learning more about myself. I am now more confident than ever and I am starting to discover what really defines me…meditation has lead me to depend on a power higher than myself in whom I have complete dependence on. Keeping busy sure has paid off and I am starting to conquer my fears and negative thoughts. :) Keep on keeping on!

    • jared says

      Olympia,
      Wow, thanks for sharing your wonderful journey. I too went through quite a transitional time in my life as I talked about. Meditation and exercise is something I love also. And all the hard work we put into ourselves (if done properly) allows us to have real meaningful relationships. Congrats on losing all that weight, that’s incredible. Love your enthusiasm, keep on keeping on!

    • jared says

      Carolyn,
      No I’m not alone currently. But there have been times, the majority of my life, that I have been alone. And as I’ve mentioned in the article, happiness can certainly be found alone, it’s just of a different type and degree. Although as my life experience changes, I look back and realize that loneliness (at least in my case) can maybe me somewhat narcissistic. I was alone because I was shy, no one understood, I lacked communication skills, etc. But in reality I was making everything about me. That doesn’t mean I was a bad person, it was just too scary to get outside my comfort zone. Having that self-awareness now allows me to see when I’m isolating or avoiding confrontation or interaction and remind myself that growth comes when I step outside my comfort zone. I need to put myself out there if I want to have friends and some type of social interaction with others.

  3. Greg Weber says

    Wow. I needed to hear this message about connecting to my authentic self. I’ve always thought I WAS connected to it, but now, after a very painful breakup with a partner I loved very much, I’m realizing how much of my self-worth is based on getting a woman to love me. I’m discovering how much I really don’t like myself and how I’m mean – cruel even – to myself a LOT of the time.

    I love “Into the Wild.” The scene at the end you speak of is so pwerful because it captures the essence of his “Alaskan Adventure,” which was really a flight from the world that had betrayed him so deeply. At the end, he recognizes how much he needs to reconnect to other people – ironically, as he’s dying alone in the wilderness.

    • jared says

      Hey Greg, thanks for stopping by. I can relate to not liking oneself. As well as attaching one’s self-worth to the acceptance from others. I had many past relationships like that, even though I knew they weren’t necessarily right for me at the time, I wanted so badly to be loved. In hindsight, I realize now those weren’t the most healthy relationships. After spending several years getting to know and loving my authentic self, I realize how badly I treated myself and thus allowed others to treat me in relationships. We seem to allow others to treat us just slightly worse than we treat ourselves. I always return to a great quote:

      “Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
      -James Allen (As A Man Thinketh)

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