The Art of Living Alone: Extending Your Lifespan If You Live by Yourself
It’s morning. You get out of bed, and the solace of the house is there to greet you. You do your morning shuffle down the hall to the kitchen, where you cook a breakfast of scrambled eggs, coffee, and toast for one. You think of the whole day to yourself: no plans, no one coming over today, maybe not tomorrow, either. Do you embrace the solitude, or do you dread the lonely days without other people?
For introverts like me, the art of living alone was easy to master. My batteries get charged up by being alone with my hobbies and passions around me, along with the stillness of nature. But even for people who like being alone, and especially for extroverts, who need to be around people to have their batteries “charged up,” being alone all the time can be dreadful.
According to the Washington Post, studies also show that people who live alone have shorter lifespans than those who don’t. Even if you like living alone, there are ways to extend your life without having to move in with other people. Here are some ways to embrace living alone—for people who need to be with others more frequently, as well as for people who enjoy being with others on a more occasional basis.
Embrace The Solitude
1) Make Plans with Friends and Family
This can be every day, this can be once a week, or once a month. But even for Introverts, all people are social animals and need some human connection form time to time. If friends and family live far away, learn how to use Skype to connect with them, or schedule an out-of-town brunch monthly if possible. Years from now, you won't remember all the little things that kept you busy, but you will remember those moments spent with people you love.
2) Get Outside
If you’re mobile and can walk around, take a walk outside around your neighborhood. Chances are, you will get to meet your neighbors and perhaps even make friends. It’s good exercise the fresh air and vitamin D is great for your health! If you have a porch and have limited mobility, sit outside and people watch. You can even do this with an open window. Seeing other people helps make us all feel a little less alone.
3) Get a Pet
Having a furry companion takes a lot of time and energy, but it is well worth it! Not only does a cat, a dog, a rabbit, or any furry, feathery, or scaly friend give you a routine and a sense of responsibility and purpose, but can also add happiness, and in dogs, has been proven to extend lifespans by lowering blood pressure and the risk of a heart attack. When I moved to California from Michigan, getting a cat to keep me company during nights alone saved me a lot of lonely nights.
4) Get/Embrace a Hobby
You may have picked up a hobby in your younger years. You may just be starting, or revisiting an old hobby you dropped a long time ago because of work. Hobbies are great ways to discover or rediscover what you liked to do; and they are ways to meet other people through connecting. It is never too late to learn something new or express your creativity in a new way! My suggestion is start small- try an adult coloring book or a puzzle.
5) Get Active in the Community or Online If You Can
Is there a local museum or art gallery where you can give some of your time? The possibilities are endless: if you are passionate about a hobby, call your local craft or hobby store and see if you can join or run a session. Start a book club if you like to read. Look up local societies you can join or causes you can help with that you care about! If you are unable to get out much and have access to a computer or the internet, join an online community about a passion of yours and meet other people from around the world who share your interests (just remember to be safe online)!
6) Prepare for the Holidays if They are Tough
If you live alone and holidays are hard, due to a relative not being there or spending a lot of them by yourself, the best thing to do is prepare as much as you can for the time ahead. Contact your local house of worship that best fits your faith (if you identify with one), or a community organization and see if a family can host you for a holiday. Sponsor a “Friendsgiving” if you can where your local friends who are also without relatives or family can gather and have a good time. Send holiday cards with personal messages to let the ones you love know you're thinking about them.
7) Keep a Journal
Finally, if none, some, or all of the above work out for you, a great thing to do is keep a journal. Write down your experiences, thoughts, and memories and get them on paper. A journal can be a great way to boost memory and to get your feelings out. I use a journal and it is a wonderful way to reflect on the past; I enjoy reflecting on where I used to be, how far I have come since, or reliving a past memory that made me happy!