Tips for living alone

JpegWith Christmas gone, we’re in the depths of winter with no holidays or festivities to look forward to. Days are short, nights are long, and if you live alone (as I do), it can be particularly difficult to get through the day and keep smiling. Sometimes I get in from work and wish that I could simply turn myself off, like a light, to avoid having to find something to do with myself in the evening.

That, of course, is most definitely not the right way to go about things, so instead of dwelling on that, I thought I’d put together some helpful tips on how to get through the next few months if you’re living alone and feeling lonely.

Keep your living area clean
One of the worst things about living alone is that you’ve got no-one to keep you honest. When we’re around other people, we feel the need to keep things neat and tidy – put stuff away, wash up promptly, hoover the carpet. This is dull work, and when you’re on your own, the temptation can be to procrastinate – put it off until another day. Then another day. Then another day. Don’t. Keep tidying up. Not only will it give you something to do, but it’ll ensure that your living area is something to be proud of – a haven you’ll want to be in.

Seek your solace
Speaking of which, I’ve found it useful to create small ‘solace’ areas in my house – places I can retreat to where I can shut negativity out. I’ve got a little nook under my stairs where I store some of my favourite books. I’ve put some multi-coloured fairy lights around the book shelves and plan to squeeze in a comfy chair so I can sit and read. I’ve done the same with my bedroom. I could never find the right balance of light in there – both my main light and my bedside table were too bright. So I put some soft light fairy lights around the room, and now there’s a cosy glow whenever I go in there. It’s great to retreat into when I feel a bit low.

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Get out more
Weekends can be pretty difficult for me. From 5pm on Friday evening to 9am on Monday morning, I generally don’t have a single face-to-face conversation with anyone. Sure I talk to people on the phone, online, and briefly at supermarkets and coffee shops, but actual, real-life, extended conversations? Not so much. It’s tough, and the worst thing you can do is play into it by staying at home. Even if you’ve not got anything to go out for, go out. I write quite a lot at the weekend, but I try not to do it at home. Instead, I go to a coffee shop, buy myself a Vanilla Latte, and smash out a few blog posts. It keeps you vaguely sociable, gives you something to shape your day around and – hey – you never know who might come and sit next to you.

Use social media to your advantage
Social media is a double edged sword. It can be great for putting you in touch with people, but it can also convince you you’re being sociable when you’re really not. Worse, it can make you feel more alone by reminding you that there are people similar to you – they’re just half-way around the world. Work out what you enjoy about social media and focus on that, ignoring everything you don’t like about it. Engage with the people who you like and who like you, and try to ignore those who don’t. Social media is an excellent window into the world and can help you build relationships and boost confidence. Use it in a productive way.

Find what works for you
No two people are exactly the same. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not for your friend. Work out what you need and do it, even if it’s a bit embarrassing. As long as you’re doing no harm to others, it doesn’t matter what people might whisper behind your back. What matters is how you feel and helping you feel better. In that spirit, I’ll openly admit to cuddling my pillow at night. I appreciate that’s a bit weird and embarrassing, but on long, cold nights, I find it comforting. It does no harm, and if people judge me for it, I don’t really care. That’s up to them, cuddling a pillow is up to me. They’re as welcome to judge as I am to not care about their judgement.

And that’s it really. Hopefully those five hints help. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is listen to yourself and focus on what makes you happy. As I’ve said, as long as you’re doing no harm, it’s all good.

 

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On Shyness

Regular readers will know I struggle with shyness. I mention it quite a lot on here, and that’s not because I’m looking for sympathy or anything like that: it’s because I’m shy about being shy and I want to try to break out of that by talking about it.

Shyness is a frustrating state to occupy. While introversion has (gladly) gained a measure of understanding recently thanks to the hard work of writers such as Susan Cain (there is sadly still plenty of work to do though), shyness remains a blind spot for many.

Just get over it. Talk to someone. Go on! It’s easy!

I appreciate that attitude, because it’s hard to understand shyness. Talking is one of the most natural things in the world, and people are generally good. Why should anyone be scared of talking to them?

Well, the truth is, I don’t know. I’m as confused as anyone. All I can do is articulate the emotion of being shy and hope that leads to some understanding of the why of shy. So here goes.

Shyness is feeling like you’re under the microscope in every single conversation you ever have. For the love of God, don’t screw this up.

Shyness is fearing that you’re boring the person you’re talking to, even if they seem absolutely enraptured by what you’re saying. How could anyone be interested in you.

Shyness is believing that every time you speak to a member of whatever gender you’re attracted to that you need to impress them as they represent your only shot at romance. You won’t be able to talk to anyone else.

Shyness is hoping that you’ll find someone who understands you, rather than seeing it as a certainty that someone will. You’re just… too weird.

Shyness is lacking the confidence to be assertive enough to put your point across. Yep, you’re gonna lose another meeting debate.

Shyness is hovering over the reply button on Twitter, wondering whether to tweet to someone and what to say. They weren’t really looking for a response anyway.

Shyness is knowing that no matter how much you try to unlearn everything you’ve learned, the fear will always be there, lingering in your mind. It doesn’t simply disappear.

Shyness is… loneliness.

Shyness is all those things, and many many more. But… it’s also not all bad.

Shyness is not just the inability to talk but the ability to listen.

Shyness is not just fearing that you’ll be alone but the ability to value the people who are close to you.

Shyness is not just being scared of what to say but understanding that what you do say has impact, so be careful.

Shyness is not just believing that your chances of love are slim but knowing that love is a truly powerful and significant thing that’s rare for a reason.

And shyness is not just not being assertive but knowing how to find compromise and seek diplomacy.

Shyness is… understanding loneliness and why it should be avoided at all costs.

Do those positives outweigh the negatives? Maybe. Maybe not. But hopefully they at least shine a light on what shyness is. Maybe even someone will read this and take a little heart from it. Hey there, shy person. You’re pretty darned cool and so is your shyness.

This isn’t the last post I’ll write about shyness, but it’ll tide me over for now. In the meantime, here’s a Paperman GIF. Because sometimes, even if you’re not looking for it, the world can still bring you into contact with people in weird and wonderful ways.

Also, I super-love this film.

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