Background reading on the subject of the art of being alone is depressing. Nearly every article, of the dozens I have reviewed, assumes a negative perspective on being alone.
The inherent assumption is that being alone is automatically associated with loneliness and something to be avoided, mitigated or ameliorated, and various tips and solutions are offered to help the reader cope with being alone.
Clearly there are cases and situations where this view is valid. For example, those who are house-bound or institutionalised for reasons of physical or mental ill-health or incapacity, those who are wrongfully imprisoned, and all those experiencing extra-ordinary circumstances of enforced isolation such as the recent pandemic.
But aside from with these exceptions, for the vast majority of us, how we experience being alone is a matter of choice. This is not just a matter of opinion there is a growing body of research evidence supporting this statement.
There are other factors which may also influence your response such as personality type, age and life stage, but regardless of these factors you do have a choice as to how you respond to being alone, and your response is 100% within your control.
You may not have chosen the condition of being alone, and it may have been imposed upon you by circumstances beyond your control, but your response to the situation is within your control.
This is what is meant by the art of being alone - and it is skills based.
 Duality - As we live in a world of duality, periods of being alone are inevitable.
You can not experience up without down, hot without cold, black without white, noise without silence and therefore you can not experience "together" without "alone".
Being alone can not be avoided. It is a natural experience. The issue is not with the condition it is with your response to it.
 Paradox - You can not master the art of being alone until you have mastered the art of not being alone.
Most of the online tips and guidance on how to be alone miss the point unless they ensure that you have the necessary skills to not be alone.
It's rather like being offered tips on how to clap with one hand!
Reinforcing an inadequacy does not solve the underlying long-term problem.
There is comfort and reassurance in knowing that you have the skills to attract company, to make friends and to not be alone as and when you have the opportunity to do so, and when you choose to.
 Habit - The skills involved in mastering the art of being alone need to become habits in order to deliver lasting benefits.
These habits need to deeply ingrained and form part of your unconscious competence.
James Clear describes them as Atomic Habits - which are comprised of small and seemingly insignificant changes that will compound into remarkable results if you persist with them consistently over many years.
 Compounding - The long term positive effect of mastering these habits is exponential.
This is a harsh thing to say - but no-one suddenly became a difficult, cantankerous miserable old man or woman overnight. People like this have always been like this to some degree.
The same is as true of the old man who behaves as a charming, and friendly gentleman or the little old lady who everyone describes in the UK as being "sweet" or in the US as a real "honey".
As we get older, our patterns of thought and behaviour become more ingrained and more pronounced.
To put it bluntly, our misery or happiness has been a choice.
 Long Game - Mastering the art of being alone is like playing a long game.
The long game is an approach to any area of life where you are prepared to sacrifice short term gains in order to achieve long-term wins.
So in practical terms this means that when you are alone, rather that constantly seeking to amuse or distract yourself in any of the usual ways, you take the long view and put in the work to master the art of being alone.
We engage in financial planning for our long term future.
We invest in savings plans, pensions schemes and we build investment portfolios.
Isn't it strange that we rarely, if ever, plan for our long term social future?
 The art of having company
I have lived and worked away from home for considerable periods of my life, both in the UK and extensively in S.E.Asia and I feel qualified to comment on this from my own direct experiences.
The first set of tips are what I refer to as "software tips"
These are to do with your mind, your attitudes and how you think:
For a comprehensive checklist of good people skills see this book summary of the old Dale Carnegie classic:
The second set of tips are what I call "Infrastructure Tips"
People really are creatures of habit and it is surprising how quickly you can get known to, and get to know, other people by acting in alignment with this reality.
Obviously we are not talking about building in-depth relationships at this stage here, but rather this is about establishing a social infrastructure and creating an environment where, over time, that can and will take place.
 The art of being alone
Having mastered the art of not being alone let's take a look at the art of being alone.
Again, from considerable experience of having been, or felt, alone for long periods of time, my advice is to lay down some very solid foundations for being on your own.
These are my 4 practices on which I base my approach to the the art of being alone:
These practices create the space for me to enjoy the art of being alone and to be productive and creative in my work in writing articles for this website.
If you are experiencing some tough times in your time alone, I offer you the following articles for further reading - they may offer additional insights into the art of being alone:
Return from "The Art O Being Alone" to: Walking The Talk
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