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Friday, January 11, 2008

How to LOVE Spending Time by Yourself

I find it hard to believe that I ever looked at time alone as a "bad thing" but when I was ill and in pain I definitely did. I read a lot but if I was ever alone for an extended period of time (we're talking a few hours since I have a husband and 2 young children it is never longer than that) I would feel lonely and just wind up in a sad state. Looking back I can see it was my chronic pain, "monkey mind", negative self-talk and lack of self-love that made me feel this way.

If you are ill, in pain or if you are in emotional turmoil of some kind -- time alone can be a scary thing. I was always wondering how the next batch of medical tests would come out, concentrating on "how bad I felt" or I was feeling badly about whatever I was "missing out on". I got so caught up in the negatives that unless I "escaped" by means of a fictional novel for hours -- I was actually in worse shape when my family got home.

There were a bunch of things I did that now make me not only LOVE my time alone but CRAVE it if I go too long without! If you dread time alone or just want more ideas for what to do the next time you get some alone time to have a great time -- here are a few things you can do that will make you LOVE and look forward to your time by yourself.

Express Gratitude and Proclaim Your Self Love
I have written about the importance of gratitude and it is still an integral part of my feeling well every day. When ill or in a negative emotional state it seems easy to worry or think about the "bad" things but what a difference it makes when you turn those thoughts around. Stop, be conscious of WHAT you are thinking and DECIDE to list the things and people you are grateful for. Then list the accomplishments or qualities in yourself that you are proud of. This puts you in a MUCH better frame of mind to decide how you will spend the rest of your alone time. It was difficult for me to find positive things to say about myself in the beginning but even things like "I try my best to be a GREAT mom, I can cook, I can dance....." ANYTHING at all you can think of -- the list will just grow as time, your self confidence and your self-love increases.

My favorite guided meditation, Dr. Deepak Chopra's "Soul of Healing Meditations" is still very powerful for me. Deepak's voice is calming as he has you focusing on what you are grateful for and also guides you through exercises that can show you just how powerful the mind is over the body. Whether you use a guided meditation or enjoy the quiet, take breaths and calm your monkey mind -- meditation is a great way to become conscious and relax.

Whether it is calming meditative music or music that makes you get up and shake your body -- music can dramatically affect your mood. Do you have music that makes you happy easily available? Now with all the radio stations online and free services such as Pandora you can make sure there is always music you like ready to play. Meditative music can definitely calm my monkey mind at times and put me in a good state but I usually benefit more from putting on some upbeat music and DANCING! Paula Kawal has a GREAT post called "Just Shake It: An Unconventional Way to Shift States". Thank you Albert of The Urban Monk for introducing me to Paula's great blog!

I have written on how walks heal me and this is still so true -- fresh air can work wonders! I think it is impossible for me to come back from a walk not totally invigorated. I have also used the alone time to put on an exercise video or watch an exercise program on TV. Whether it's gentle yoga stretches, 10 minute abs or a hip hop dance class -- exercising always gets my mood in a wonderful place.

This is a biggie for me because my writing styles and habits have changed so dramatically over the years. I have always written in a journal and written poetry. After college and especially during my illnesses the journal writing became more like a verbal spewing when I wasn't feeling great and I was just writing out all the negative things affecting me. Thanks to Susan Sark I look at journaling MUCH differently now. Write about the GOOD stuff. Write out your gratitude list. Write down your top 10 songs. Write about your top happy memories. Write out your goals. No one can write about your life and "your story" like you can. If you write these things down you can later read them and get further inspiration.

Take Up a Hobby/Learn Something New
I wrote about this in my last post so won't rehash it all.... But it is SO wonderful to feel your self-esteem grow while you are gaining knowledge in something that interests you. I have had friends take up knitting and every different ethnicity of cooking. I have tried a myriad of different activities such as belly dancing, yoga, Indian cooking and MANY more. I love reading to educate myself on topics I am interested in such as the mind/body connection instead of JUST using reading as an "escape". There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading something light to make you laugh or that you enjoy but there is something very valuable and rewarding in reading for education on something you love. I try and do a fair amount of fictional and non-fictional reading now and I also listen to audio books.

Exercise your Mind -- Play Puzzles or Games
We seem to always hear about the fact that you should get in the habit of exercising our bodies but what about our minds? It has been proven that doing crosswords, sudoku and similar puzzles will in fact sharpen your mind and keep it young. There are so many great sites online to print puzzles out (my favorite is Conceptis Puzzles) and there are also systems like the Nintendo DS that offer games like Brain Age to train your brain in memory, logic and cognition. My other blog is on kid's computer game recommendations (you'll find some adult recommendations there as well) so games and puzzles are very close to my heart. I love the feeling after I finish a particularly hard Sudoku puzzle! It feels like my brain got a work out!

Do you have a drawer that always seems to magically get full with miscellaneous stuff? Are your kid's toys taking over the house? Do you still have your favorite jeans from high school because you know you'll be that size again at SOME POINT? Cleansing and de-cluttering are VERY healing. Put on some music so you can sing along as you do it and watch the time fly. Throw out unneeded stuff and make piles to donate or put on ebay. You'll feel SO good when it is over and you look at the area you cleansed.

So I've mentioned a FEW things you can do to enjoy the time with yourself. Here's what NOT to do:

Don't watch/listen to the news
The news is 99.9% BAD NEWS. It's great to be knowledgeable with what is going on around you but to sit and watch and listen to for more than 5 minutes is ALWAYS depressing. Instead try making your influences positive. When I wrote about positive influences a friend from Zaadz left a comment telling me about a GREAT site to bookmark 'Happy News" which is just as it sounds.

Don't feel lonely
Feeling lonely can lead to you feeling depressed and your thoughts spiraling downward. If you REALLY want to be around people and don't want to be alone -- do it. Call an old friend. Visit a positive social networking site. If you are feeling you need human contact -- don't torture yourself -- there are tons of ways to reach out and there are times when we simply need and want human contact. Sometimes a 10 minute conversation with a good friend can totally change your mood and you'll feel more positive as you get off the phone and feel more willing to try something else.

I am empowered now BECAUSE I showed myself where my strengths and passions lie and am nurturing them. I have shown myself I am worthy of my own love and can do LOTS of things when I have time alone. I make sure to show gratitude no matter what my mood -- remember just being able to wake up and experience another day is a reason to be grateful! I not only enjoy time by myself now but always seem to be wanting more of it! When you are good company for yourself and gain self-love you are GREAT company for others as well.


Jeniffer said...

Journaling, for me, was one of the HUGE things that helped me turn my life around.
Also, not watching or listening to the news. When I first started this one, my husband used to come home and tell me all the awful things that he'd heard about. Even he is now more selective about what he relays.
I also do not watch television. Too much negativity on the screen.
And I love to spend time by myself.
I have always been able to go off to dinner in a restaurant, go to movies, concerts, whatever I felt like doing when I had the time, and been comfortable doing so with just me (and sometimes a good book) for company. Of course, with two kids and a husband, I haven't done that for a long while, but I would still like to.

Jenny Mannion said...

Hi Jenniffer, Thanks for coming by and commenting. A good book or journal are WONDERFUL company! Growing up in NYC they were close friends! ; )As with you, 2 kids and a husband make it a little harder to get those moments. But my youngest starts kindergarten in the fall so I know those times will return soon. Only now I'll be in a quaint cafe in a beautiful town looking up at the mountains -- sounds heavenly! Thanks again, Good luck with your blog -- it looks great and I like your writing! Gratefully, Jenny

Ellie Walsh said...

Hi Jenny....

Today - I absolutely enjoy spending time with me! It wasn't always that way --

Years ago - I wanted all that noise around me... That noise hid the fact that I didn't love me - I didn't even know how to love me!

It is so great when you finally - find out who you really are - you come into you and self love.

By loving me - I have been able to truly love others - I have been able to love unconditionally!

I have done many of the things you recommend - I just wrote a similar article at my website - GIGO - Garbage In... Garbage Out...

We must be on the same wave length! ;)

Jenny Mannion said...

Hi Ellie, I just went and read our GIGO post and can see we definitely think similarly -- great minds think alike -- right? ;-)

I have gone through phases of being comfortable alone and phases of being lonely. When I was living alone in NYC, going to graduate school and working -- I was as confident as could be and LOVED my days in Central Park writing in my journal or reading... Then when I was ill I was too caught up in my own guilt and self-doubt to enjoy my own company. Now I am happier than ever when I even get an hour alone! It's not what can I do but what one of twenty things will I choose to do? It's an awesome feeling to love yourself!

I look forward to talking with you more. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!


Enhance Life said...

I like to take some time to do some physical activity. Go for a walk or better yet I love to swim !


Jenny Mannion said...

Hey Sham, Physical activity is a GREAT way to appreciate your alone time. As I wrote above my favorites are dance, walking, or some kind of exercise videos. Swimming is VERY relaxing and therapeutic! My husband being an ex-springboard diver we are lucky enough to have a pool -- but since winter lasts quite a while here we have that option from June - September. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Jenny

CG Walters said...

Congratulations, Jenny. Very good work---and thanks for sharing your successes.
Walking the mountains and writing are great benefits to me.
Many blessings to you and all you hold dear,

Jenny Mannion said...

Hi CG, Walking the mountains and writing are 2 of my favorites! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting. Gratefully, Jenny

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