17 things every woman should do alone (at least once)


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I was speaking with a recently-separated friend. She had been with her husband for more than 15 years, and the prospect of spending so much time alone was daunting. Taking care of the car, the yard and the taxes were new to her. She craved a vacation, but the thought of traveling alone scared the bleep out of her.

All of that is perfectly normal, especially in a world that promotes coupledom as the highest goal, and constant-companionship of a romantic partner / family / friends / pets / happy hour acquaintances as an inferior, but acceptable substitute.

Meanwhile, as the economy, social norms, and gender equality progress, we collectively chose more solitary lives. To wit:

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Americans increasingly prefer to spend time alone

Marriage rates are at an all-time low. The percentage of 18-to-64-year-olds that are legally joined hit a record low of 48.6 percent in 2016, according to the most recent Census Bureau data. If we were all really so happy being in this elusive couple, then why are we choosing single life? And yes, people can be committed and enjoy many of the benefits of marriage without legally tying the knot, but without a formal marriage certificate, you are more likely to split than with one. In short: Because people can afford to live alone, and women now can mostly choose whether or not to marry, and can afford to live alone if we choose — that is exactly what we’re doing.

We increasingly choose to live alone. In fact, the percentage of Americans aged 18 and over living alone has risen over the last few decades, from 7.6 percent in 1967 to 14.3 percent in 2017. This is a sign of a strong economy — historically, tough financial times forced more people into cohabitation in various configurations — and changing social norms (e.g. women are no longer social pariahs if we don’t live with a male protector).

As the economy increasingly improves overall (not just employment rates and GDP,  but women’s ability to be self-sufficient), Americans chose larger and larger living spaces (while home square-footage has leveled off, family size continues to decrease, so we all have more room to ourselves in our giant houses and apartments). In other words: We prefer less togetherness.

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Difference between loneliness, social isolation and spending time alone

There is a difference between loneliness, social isolation and spending time alone, as this article in Popular Science does a good job of explaining. You can be surrounded constantly by people — even people whom you love, and who love you — and feel lonely. You can also spend a lot of time alone, but not be socially isolated (because you chose to spend quality time with people you have a meaningful connection with).

Loneliness and social isolation are negatives, with higher risks of death, mental and physical health, and generally lower quality of life.

A lot of quality alone time, however, is so excellent for you in many ways. This NBC News article does a very excellent job highlighting all science that finds that while people are terrified of doing things alone (preferring electric shocks to being alone with our thoughts!), we also report so many benefits from solo activities. Some highlights from related studies on time spent alone:

Research on spending time alone

  • The Rest Test, a survey of 18,000 people from 134 countries, gave people a long list of activities, and asked to rank them in terms of being most restful. “Spending time alone” came out No. 3 — behind only “reading” and “being in nature.” Other activities that made the survey’s top 10 list were also solo activities: listening to music, daydreaming, taking a bath and meditating.
  • You are more likely to generate new ideas and generally be creative working alone, vs in a group.
  • Alone time can relieve stress and depression.
  • Time alone, including being disconnected from social media, improves our ability to connect with other people — and benefits our relationships.

“If cultivating a relationship with ourselves is not worthwhile, what other relationships would be?” asks Kozak. “While we are social creatures, our relationship to self is foundational to all other relationships, including that with the natural world, and a solid relationship to self is grounded in solitude — the capacity to be alone.” — Arnie Kozak, PhD, a psychotherapist and clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

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Alone time in a relationship

This quote from Sherry Turkle — a researcher and founder of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and author of  Alone Together:Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, sums up my observations from working with women coming out of relationships, and often relentlessly seek out companionship:

“You end up isolated if you don’t cultivate the capacity for solitude, the ability to be separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don’t have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive. When this happens, we’re not able to appreciate who they are. It’s as though we’re using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

Examining my own life, I have experienced a huge shift in how I experience time alone. When I was in my teens and 20s, I was often lonely, and would constantly seek out company for the sake of company — including:

  • Spent time with acquaintances or colleagues who I didn’t really like, because it was better than being alone
  • Hung out at coffee shops or bars solo, even when I felt bored, because it was better than being alone
  • Stayed late at the office because it felt less isolating than going home to an empty apartment
  • Dated guys I wasn’t really into because I was afraid of being alone

Fast-forward to today, and I spend so much time alone as a self-employed writer who works at home, sometimes my kids get home from long weekend with their dad and my instinct is to think: What are you doing here? You’re cramping my style!

I love my alone time, and I crave vast sums of it. In fact, learning to love and feed off my alone time has nurtured every facet of my life. Comfort in your solitude is the ultimate power, the ultimate freedom. How I spend my free time is dictated by choice, not fear. My relationships are nurtured out of a genuine connection, not the terror of being single or lonely — and deeper and more genuine as a result.

Today, if I spend time with you — whether you are a friend, a colleagues, a man — it is because I really enjoy your company. You are not a Band-Aid for loneliness. We connect, and I love your company.

Today, I am rarely lonely (even though that has its use. After all, how do you know you feel connected if you never feel lonely?), and it is because I listen to my need for frequent solitude.

This comfort in being alone has also opened me up to the world. I travel internationally and domestically solo (experience in Copenhagen below), and as I desire, feel very free to go on hikes (my latest obsession), dine where I desire, go to the theater and movies, and generally enjoy my life.

Including with other humans! I am fortunate in my wide circle of incredible friends, an amazing boyfriend and two cool kids with whom I share many adventures. But this post is not about my full social life. It is about solitude. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, per the above research, we all require quality alone time to grow our relationships.

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Alone time and women

Doing things alone takes on a different power as it relates to women. We have collectively been taught that there are many things we should not do alone: Go to a bar or restaurant, for example, travel or hike, negotiate the purchase of a home, car, brokerage account, insurance policy, fix stuff.

Doing these things takes some inner strength, for it calls on you to buck the patriarchy, and your related fears. But once you do it, you will never look back. In fact, you will look for more things you can accomplish solo.

Here are 17 things you should definitely try doing alone:

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1. Travel

Whether it’s international or domestic, traveling alone can be a rewarding experience. If you’re especially adventurous, go somewhere where you don’t speak the language.

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2. Hike and camp

Solo backpacking can be an adventure that takes you far away from the bustle of everyday life, and closer to yourself.

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3. Negotiate a car or home

Want a new car or home? Go into the negotiation alone and empower yourself with information and a clear goal. 

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4. Orgasm

Taking the time to learn your own body is not only fun, but can positively impact your relationships and general well-being.

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5. Live alone

No roommates. No partners. Get your very own place to call home.

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6. Go to a restaurant

Take yourself out for a date night. Try enjoying one of your favorite restaurants solo.

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7. Go to a movie

Try movie night alone just this once. 

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8. Go dancing

This one might sound intimidating, but a lot of people go dancing alone and get to dance with new partners. 

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9. Stay home and binge Netflix

Plan a night in just for you. Binge your favorite shows in your comfiest clothes. 

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10. Do some home improvement projects

Pick some home improvement projects to tackle on your own.

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11. Change a tire

Break out the tools and fix that flat yourself.

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12. File your taxes

It’s not the most fun activity, but you can take control of your finances by filing your own taxes.

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13. Spend a major holiday alone

Instead of visiting people or going out, take a major holiday off and use it for some “me time.” 

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14. Throw a dinner party

Do all the planning and work on your own and invite people to your dinner party.

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15. Fix your car

Look up how to do some basic car repair instead of taking your vehicle into the shop next time.

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16. Take out the trash

It’s a simple chore, but one often relegated to someone else. 

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17. Spend several days alone

Most of these tips can be done in a day, but try to take multiple days for yourself at least once. 

This article originally appeared on WealthySingleMommy.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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