You deserve the fanciest snacks and the softest sweatpants.
This article is part of SELF’s second annual Rest Week, an editorial package dedicated to doing less. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally, is impossible without genuine downtime. With that in mind, we’ll be publishing articles up until the new year to help you make a habit of taking breaks, chilling out, and slowing down. (And we’re taking our own advice: The SELF staff will be OOO during this time!) We hope to inspire you to take it easy and get some rest, whatever that looks like for you.
I’m currently single and working from home full-time so I’m alone a lot, and honestly? I don’t mind it. In fact, I kinda love it. As a kid, I could spend hours in my bedroom by my little self, belting out Mariah Carey’s entire Hero album, bossing my stuffed animals around, and putting on one-woman, no-audience dance shows. When I finally got my own (teeny tiny studio) apartment in NYC after living with (lovely) roommates for seven years, I was elated—no more anxiously wondering if I’d have the couch or kitchen to myself after a draining day at work and, most importantly, an endless supply of sweet, sweet silence.
Do I occasionally get bored? Feel lonely? Plunge into existential dread? Of course. But one of the things that helps me thoroughly enjoy my solitude is going out of my way to make it feel a little special—to romanticize it if you will. I’ve been wooing myself this way for years now and I highly recommend you do the same. Alone time can feel mundane at best and terrifying at worst (there’s a reason many of us try to avoid it, after all), but by being a bit more intentional about it, you can make your downtime feel like a real treat. So, without further ado, these are my best tips for taking your solo hangs to the next level.
Try to do just one thing at a time.
Being alone—with just my own thoughts, feelings, and underlying “what does it all mean?!” angst—can make the temptation to multitask extra strong: If the rom-com I’m streaming is reminding me that I don’t have a plaid-clad woodworker to make out with? Let’s just grab the ol’ phone and google how old every single actor in this movie is so I don’t have to think about the empty space on my couch! If I’m feeling a little antsy when I plop down on my bed to work on a crossword puzzle? Time to put on a podcast and hang out with my audio pals while I try to think of a five-letter word for “best”!
Yes, sometimes diverting your attention is necessary—most of us can’t practice mindfulness 24/7—but I’ve also learned that I ultimately feel much calmer when I resist the urge to distract myself from every uncomfortable feeling and try to do one thing at a time. When you’re fully present, you’re more engaged in whatever’s in front of you, time seemingly slows down, and you ultimately feel more fulfilled—talk about luxury.
If you’re feeling antsy just thinking about trying this, start small and build from there: Commit to just 20 minutes of mindful time (you can set an alarm) at first, or maybe put your phone on do-not-disturb for the duration of one or two shows and see how it goes.
Make sure you actually want to be doing that thing, though.
I’ve noticed that sometimes my inability to immerse myself in the moment has nothing to do with loneliness or anxiety and instead comes down to the fact that I’m not really feeling whatever I’m doing, reading, or watching. That’s why it can be helpful to ask yourself if your activity of choice is actually self-care or if you’re falling into the “should” trap. Are you trying to force yourself through a non-fiction neuroscience book you’re just not that into? Endure an 11-part true crime podcast that your coworkers insist “eventually gets better”? Do power yoga in your living room when you’d rather just lie on your bed in a towel for 20 minutes? I’ve learned this the hard way: No matter how mindfully you try to do it, your alone-time activity won’t feel luxurious if you fucking hate it.
Protect your peace from social media comparison.
Speaking of traps, catching up on your friends’ and coworkers’ digital lives can also kill your happily independent mood. A reel assault can quickly trigger social media comparison and leave you feeling like you don’t measure up—an emptiness that hits particularly hard when you’re all alone with nothing to do but dwell.
Even if your self-worth remains intact, scrolling through your feed can also inspire FOMO and ultimately make your me time seem less appealing. When I’m really trying to relax by myself, I institute a no-social media rule—if I know I need some mental TLC, I don’t even want to risk the possibility of Instagram making me feel like crap. If you’re not ready to draw such a firm line, though, I’ve also had success with being super selective about the accounts I look at (only puppies and people who fill me up!). Before you tap that app, ask yourself: Is this going to add to or take away from my peaceful vibe?
Zhuzh up your meals and snacks.
I fully support going all out to make an elaborate, from-scratch meal or snack just for you if that’s your thing, but if you’re a busy, stressed-out person such as myself, that level of effort might sound more miserable than luxurious. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for mediocrity. An elevated menu is an important part of the deluxe alone-time package, and there are little tweaks you can make to up your food’s fancy factor and feel like you’re treating yourself.
Having bagged or microwaved popcorn on the couch? Sprinkle it with nutritional yeast for a cheese-like umami boost. Craving a burger? Order it from your go-to “nice” restaurant and eat it off of a plate you normally save for special occasions—or go all out and set the table and light a candle. Digging into a premade cookie or brownie after dinner? Spread a little peanut butter on top and sprinkle it with coconut flakes. Or, if even that sounds like too much work (say no more), you can also just stock up on fancy packaged snacks and call it a delicious day.
When in doubt, act like you’re hosting yourself.
This is probably my best tip on the list, and the guiding principle behind all the others: Treat yourself like a guest. When I have people over, I offer them my coziest blankets (Baloo’s weighted cotton throw is so comforting—consider it a self-hug), I light my fanciest candles (Enlighten Candles' subtle and sophisticated scents have really been setting the mood around here lately), and I skip the takeout chopsticks and break out cutes ones (like these) instead. And while I’m in no position to judge ratty loungewear (the threadbare, ultrasoft American Eagle graphic tee in my closet has been part of my self-care routine for 15 years), I also tend to dress a little nicer around company.
I’m certainly not saying shelling out for influencer-approved athleisure is a requirement for luxurious alone time—and some days are just two-sizes-too-big sweatpants kind of days. But when I’m feeling extra tired and cranky or just really going through it, I find that coordinating my bralette and underwear, pulling out my best joggers, and reaching for my most respectable sweatshirt gives me a mental health boost. An elevated lounge look serves as a gentle reminder that I deserve to be treated well—by myself and everyone else.
The original article can be found on SELF.
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