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April 26, 2024 33 mins

Finding the joy in your own company is one of the most healing, rewarding and fulfilling things we can do. It's also really difficult in an age of FOMO, constant distraction, stimulation and fear of boredom or loneliness. In today's episode we break down exactly why you need to fall back in love with your alone time, the amazing benefits and HOW to do it. Listen now! 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Psychology of Your Twenties,
the podcast where we talk through some of the big
life changes and transitions of our twenties and what they
mean for our psychology.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
Hello everybody, Welcome back to the show. Welcome back to
the podcast, new listeners, old listeners, wherever you are in
the world. I am so glad to have you here
for an episode for a topic I'm really really passionate about.
It is possibly one of my strongest opinions. I don't
even think it's a controversial one. I want to talk

about why I believe so deeply that one of the
best things we can do in our twenties is fall
in love with our own company, and I want to
talk about why that is, but more specifically, how we
can do that, especially in a world where we are
more addicted to social contact and engagement stimulation than ever before.

When I think actually having a moment of true solitude
is increasingly rare, it's still very much possible, and I
think it's a necessity if you want to deepen the
relationship that you have with yourself and as a result,
the people around you. Honestly, I think every aspect of
your life becomes more defined and sharper and intentional when

we value our own free time and our own company,
and we see that space and that time being alone
with ourselves as a source of peace, as a source
of contemplation and growth, rather than just as empty space
that we need to fill with social commitments, with work,
with anything of the sort. I think it comes back

to that very core foundational philosophy we have on the
show that the relationship you have with yourself is your
biggest and most important investment, and when you neglect it,
I think everything else in your life tends to suffer
as well. No one can sustain you can know you
like you know yourself, and so you have to make

that relationship a priority, even when it's not easy, even
when it's not convenient, even when it doesn't come naturally
to you. So I have always had, I think, a
really complicated relationship with loneliness, just to get vulnerable for
a second. And I think it really stems, quite honestly,
from being bullied as a child. I was a really

strange kid. I didn't have many friends. I was always
kind of made to play like the villain character when
we were playing make believe. I was a bit shy.
I was just a bit different, which is something that
I love now because I think weird kids turn into
interesting adults. But because there was this whole period in
my young dad years, in my formative years, where I

never quite felt like I belonged. I knew what it
felt like to be quite lonely from a young age,
and I did get really comfortable with my own company.
It was like kind of a bit of a superpower
for myself. As sad as it sounds, right like, you know,
I get that, it's very kind of get sad, like
you didn't have enough friends, so you had to be
your own best friend. And I really actually valued that

about myself. But when I got to UNI, I've spoken
about this before, but I really met my people. I
got to meet the people I still call my best
friends even now, And of course it was like the
best thing ever. This is what I always wanted. But
because this was such a new experience to constantly have
people I wanted to be around who made my life

so much better, who were really tied to me at
the hip, for a long time, I kind of forgot
how to be alone. You know, that survival skill that
protective mechanism. I developed a valuing my own company was
no longer useful in this situation, so I neglected it,
and eventually it was something that I had to relearn,

especially as I transitioned kind of out of my early
twenties when I was at UNI and I was surrounded
by people all the time to the situation I'm in
now where I was working full time. I moved to
a new city where I didn't have as many friends.
I was suddenly single as well. It felt so similar

to how I had felt as a child, but I
had lost my coping skill. I had lost I think
the reverence and the joy I felt in my own company,
and I really kind of began to notice that the
reason this was so difficult this transitionary period was because
for the last three or four years before that time,

I hadn't really put any effort into the relationship I
had with myself. I was always prioritizing time and experiences
with others, and it eventually came at my detriment. I
think as a generation, all of us included, we have
a hard time spending time alone for a few reasons.
The biggest contributor is fomo. The infamous fear of missing out,

and the fear of missing out is twofold. Firstly, it
involves a perception followed by compulsion, So we really tend
to exaggerate the quality and the fun we think everybody
else is having without us. So in those moments when
we're not present, we really tend to expand what we

think other people are experiencing, and we tend to make
it seem a lot bigger and more golden and colorful
than it actually is. And this results in us never
wanting to miss an event, never wanting to be without
plans or excluded, which is a compulsion, right. We are
kind of compelled to constantly be engaged and constantly be involved,

almost as a way to soothe that fear that we're
missing out. Now, it should be noted that this term
fomo was first introduced in two thousand and four, that
is the same year that Facebook launched, and it began
to really take off in the early twenty tens as
a direct consequence of this increasing uptake of social media

and the opportunities it provided for people to constantly see
what others were up to and to compare that to
their own days and their own lives now more than ever.
At this point in society, we are exposed to so
many details, intimate details about what others are doing, and

that means that we're faced with this continuous uncertainty about
whether we're doing enough, whether we are getting enough social connection,
whether we know as many people as we should, whether
our friendships are as successful as we would want them
to be. So I think it kind of makes socializing
quite competitive. And if our aim is to always be

as busy as the next person and never let those
negative feelings of fomo into our lives, then we do
really deprive ourselves of the opportunity and the beauty of
cherishing our alone time. Researchers also believe that fomo makes
us particularly attuned to feelings of social rejection, whether that

social rejection is perceived or real. And we know that
on a psychological and emotional level that the pain of
rejection really mimics the same kind of discomfort we feel
in response to physical, physically painful stimuli and injury. So
we want to avoid it. But missing out on plans

won't ruin your life. It won't immobilize you the same
way that a broken arm or a fraction leg will.
If you are someone who freaks out at not having
plans on a Saturday night or spending even a single
evening alone, I think it's really time to consider whether
this is actually genuine loneliness, whether you actually need more

social connection, or whether it's fomo and you just need
to reframe your relationship with your own company. I think
it also comes down to the fact that as a
society we just don't have a healthy relationship with loneliness.
We see it as something to avoid, We stigmatize it,
we fear it, rather than actually holding space for it
in our lives and recognizing what it firstly has to

teach us, secondly how universal it is, and thirdly how
it can actually help us cultivate a richer and I
would say deeper in a world. Loneliness, let's get this straight.
Like it is just a cue from your body, the
same way that hunger is telling you it's time to fuel,
it's time to eat first, is telling you it's time

to drink. Fatigue, tiredness is telling you it's time to rest.
Loneliness is telling you that it's time to connect, or
it's time to sit with yourself and figure out why
it is that you feel that way. It's also important
to note that the more we excessively socialize, the higher
our threshold for satisfying social connection becomes. The more we

need kind of think about it this way. Right at
high school, you saw your friends every single day, most likely,
and one day apart felt really strange. When we get
into our twenties, especially our later twenties, our level and
our capacity for seeing other people naturally goes down a bit.
But if you have become if it's become very difficult
for you to spend time alone, if you're so used

to having people around you constantly, the more that you
sustain the urge to like book out your calendars, to
always be around people, to never have a moment for yourself,
the less you're able to tolerate the times when you
do have to enjoy your own company. You know there
will be periods in life where you are lonely, but

if you have never given yourself the opportunit to feel
that way, to adjust to that situation, to embrace being
a bit of a loner, a happy loaner for some time,
when you do eventually find yourself in that period in
that chapter, in that season of loneliness, it's going to
be so much more difficult. I think on a more

general level, we also fail to kind of appreciate the
value of our company because of societal and cultural expectations
that really emphasize the importance of social connection. And it
is really important, right. This isn't like a denial of
the value of friendship or the value of having somebody
to talk to or having somebody to catch up with.
It's more so that with our increasingly busy lifestyles and

the constant barriage of like stimulation from technology, it can
make it really difficult to slow down and actually enjoy
solitude because we have and we tend to equate being
alone with being bored and being unproductive, which are things
that as humans we're not quite you know, we're not

very good at managing. Those are not feelings that we're
readily going to accept as part of our lives. So
this really leads me to my main point really at
the center of all this, at the core in this
day and age, when distraction is the easiest thing you
can do, when you really never have to experience silence
or solitude if you don't want to falling in love

with your own company is one of the most radical
acts of self compassion and growth that we can find.
It isn't the easiest thing to do. It isn't you know,
the funnest thing to do always to like stay in
and journal or paint or read on a Saturday night,
to go to the movies alone, to go for a

walk on your own. It does require sacrifice and it
does require discipline, let's not deny that. But the way
you get to know yourself, and I mean really know
yourself when all the screens are off, when it's just
you and your own space, I think that's really quite profound.
And it is awful at first as you kind of
work through the discomfort, and then it's magical and you'll

just find that you're kind of addicted to your own company,
that it actually is your first choice most diets. And
I think that it's then that we really get to
see the benefits. And I want to talk about those
for a second. So when a group of researchers sat
down to have a look into this, they wanted to
observe people who actively spent more time in their own

company compared to those who either shy away from it
or who just don't have the opportunity these people have kids.
Another example was people who worked in the military or
in the navy, so they go away for like three
six months at a time, they're constantly surrounded by others,
people in door rooms. Those are just a few examples.
And then they compared them to the people who, like

we said, really prioritized just able to spend more time alone.
So the people who had more space and time for
themselves displayed a greater level of introspection, they valued their
independence more, and they were more creative. The creativity aspect
is actually something I'm really drawn to. I'm really attracted
by that element of this argument. I remember when I

was going through this period of loneliness and isolation I
was just speaking about, especially when I first moved to Sydney.
I had never been more creative. I was painting on
my nights off. I was journaling like crazy. Some of
my most beautiful entries ever were then were written in
those moments of solitude, because there really was only so

much like TV I could watch, There was only so
much scrolling I could do before I actually wanted to
do something productive and expressive. You have this uninterrupted focus
when you value your own company, you have also the
mental space for daydreaming and for letting your imagination run off.
It's why so many authors go on like these solo

retreats or trips to finish their manuscripts, to finish their books,
because alone time is so important for our creativity to thrive.
So that is the main argument. I think, more introspection,
more independence, more creativity. The other huge benefit of falling
in love with your own company is that you don't

let others define you and the experiences that you have.
I think when we become to reliant on others for
a sense of validation or excitement to fill the empty
space we have in our days, perhaps out of a
fear of boredom or loneliness, it actually gives them a
lot of power over us in our decision making. Now,
it's not that they are necessarily going to exploit that power,

it's not that they're manipulating it. It's just that, involuntarily
they have an impact on our emotions because of how
much we tie our sense of self and our mood
to when we're able to see people and their availability
and the access that we have to them. If we
don't see people enough we can really notice huge changes

in our emotions and in our kind of mental wellbeing,
Whereas when we value our own company, it doesn't really
matter if people cancel plans, it doesn't matter if they're
busy or they're caught up with work, because hanging out
with ourselves is like an equally good alternative. The other
aspect of this is our ability to do things alone.

There are a lot of things that we have in
our bucket list, a lot of things that we wanted
to that, let's be honest, we would never consider doing
by ourselves. You know, traveling solo is a big example,
but then on a smaller level, going to the movies alone,
going to a gig by yourself, going to that new restaurant.
Those are things that we often want the company of

others to do, but there is so much joy in
having those experiences by yourself. I also think that when
we can't tolerate doing those alone because we're I don't know,
maybe embarrassed or whatnot, often that means that we miss out.
We don't see those things, we don't have those experiences,

we don't go to those places that we want to
go because we can't do it without somebody else there,
and therefore it's kind of like your experience is are
determined based on somebody else's presence, and unless you are
blessed to have a lot of yes friends, I think
that you know, if you're always waiting for somebody else

to think it's a good idea or to come with you,
or you're trying to sell them on it, what you're
actually doing is determining your experiences, yet again, based on
whether somebody else can come with you, rather than based
on whether you just want to go, rather than based
on just whether you know that you're going to have
fun and you can do it alone. I think the
final reason that we have to learn to fall in

love with our own company, especially in our twenties right now,
is because it is so protective. Now. I spoke about
this a little bit before, but there will come a
time when you are alone, when a relationship ends, when
your friends are all busy or away, and if we
have never practiced being happy in those circumstances when nobody

else is present, those times in our lives can be
particularly agonizing because we don't know what to do with ourselves.
I often think that our fear of being alone and
our inability to appreciate the freedom and joy of our
own company sometimes keeps us in relationships we know aren't working,
just because we are so reliant on others to make

us feel seen or to fight off our fear of
solitude or boredom. But you know, the thing is is
that when that relationship is failing, when you know that
you can't be with that person, when the spark is gone,
when the romance is gone, what if we can't leave
because we're just too afraid of being alone? You know?
I often think people question like, why do people stay?

Why don't they just dump him? Why don't they just
move on with their lives? I think a fear of
being alone and all of that empty time and empty
space is what's keeping us in those relationships. It's kind
of like, what kind of thoughts am I going to
have when this person isn't there to drown them out?
What have I been ignoring in my life that is
going to come to the surface. What fears do I

finally have to confront when I am laying in bed alone,
when I am sitting on my couch on a Friday
night and there is nobody there to distract me. The
antidote to that fear is knowing that you're never going
to be alone in your own mind. You have millions, billions,

kadrillions of neural connections and pathways and memories and secret
corners to experience that are always accessible to you. You
have this rich inner world that is just for you,
and that is so wonderful. You can make yourself laugh,
you can bring yourself immense happiness and joy. You can
be curious and kind to yourself. You can make life

interesting on your own and it's fascinating. Actually. Just to
bring in another psychological theory here into this, that we
often tend to value the things we own or which
are ours, more than the things that we don't when
it comes to our material possessions. So it's a bias
called the endowment effect. To say, for example, you have

a pair of shoes that you absolutely love, and you
bought them for seventy dollars, but for you they're worth
like one hundred, right, So somebody could be like, I'll
buy them for eighty, which is more than you bought
them for. But for you, because you own them, because
they're special to you, they're worth more. But our brain
is so weird. It acts one way in one circumstance
and then contradicts itself in the next. We don't seem

to value our own company as much as we value others, right,
So it's kind of like, Okay, would you pay fifty
dollars to hang out with yourself or one hundred dollars
to hang out with your friends? People are always like, well,
I want to hang out with my friends, even though
our own company is the thing that we should feel
is the most valuable. Once again, though, you can rewire

your brain into prioritizing those solo experiences, that alone time
through like intentional behaviors and practices. So that's what I
want to discuss next. What are the actual ways, practical,
tangible ways we can fall in love with our own
company and really embrace all the things that we can
give ourselves. Well, we're going to talk about all of
that and more after this shortbreak. Whether our alone time

is voluntary so we are intentionally prioritizing our solitude or involuntary.
You know, you really wish you were hanging out with people,
but you found yourself alone for the evening or in
a period of disconnect, you're not going to come out
of the gates. I think enjoying your own company. If
it's not something that you're used to, you have to
treat it like a ritual, like an almost kind of

like a spiritual experience, or a thing that you do
for your well being. The same way that you find
time during your week to see your friends or you
find time to exercise, you need to find time to
be alone. The easiest way to do this is to
choose either one evening or like a chunk on the weekends,
a morning and afternoon that is reserved just for you.

It's like you have a stand up meeting with yourself
each week that you can't shift, sorry to everybody else
you have plans. It's non negotiable. For me. I normally
take Monday evenings to myself because I feel like my
social battery has already been like spiked by the weekend.
Mondays are normally my busiest day because it's when I
record podcast literally what I'm doing right now, and so

I take the night for me. I have an established routine.
I always go to the gym and then I listen
to my favorite podcast is American Life. They drop the
new episodes on Monday, so I listened to that. Then
I go to the sauna, which, okay, I'm gonna be honest.
The sauna at my gym smells at the moment, and
there's like a cockroach infestation. But you know, after a while,
I can't tell whether it's your sweat or somebody else's,

so it's not that gross anyways, okay, Tangent. I then
do my everything shower, I make myself like my favorite meal,
it's like the sweet potato salad, and I watch Modern
Family or whatever show I'm on at the moment. And
at eight o'clock, this is crucial, I switch off and
I choose to do something that is going to fill
my cup that is not passive normally. That is something

like reading or journaling or painting. And I put music
on my record player and I just let myself sit
there for a bit, you know, if I don't need
to be like constantly writing or reading. Sometimes I just
honestly sit on my couch and just stare into space,
and I let myself daydream and I let my mind wander.

There's no one waiting on me, there's nothing to do,
there's no one I need to call, because this is
like the time that I've reserved for me within that.
What you may have noticed is that everything I do
is something I actually like doing. It's my favorite podcast,
my favorite meal, my favorite show, my favorite activity. That's

because enjoying your own company, as simple as it sounds,
means actually doing something you enjoy while you're at it,
and equally doing something that is actually nourishing. You might
think that you're spending alone time and enjoying your own
company when you're doing your laundry or at the grocery store,
and it is still really valuable time, but it's not necessarily,

you know, meaningful time. It's labor, it's chores, unless you're
someone whose hobby is cleaning. I think there is a
difference between really like consciously being like, this is going
to be a time and an evening where I feel
my own cub and this is just like an activity
that I just have to do alone, so let's just
call it my alone time. I think the same way

that you would really want to spend quality time with
your friends or your boyfriend or your girlfriend, you need
to do the same with yourself. If your entire relationship,
you know, with your partner, for example, consisted of sitting
in front of the TV or lying in bed and
scrolling mindlessly on TikTok next to each other. That is
not quality time with your partner. Your relationship would suffer.

You never would really connect or deepen your bond because
you're distracted, you're doing something mindless. So why do you
expect the relationship you have with yourself to not suffer
if you're doing the same thing. If every time you
have a moment to yourself or an afternoon with no plans,
you spend it in a way that is quite passive

or draining. Now this isn't to say that sometimes we
don't benefit from just brain rot. Like my boyfriend calls
it scratching his lizard brain when we just we've had
a hellish day, work has been really tough. We just
want to switch off for a second and watch like
some garbage TV. That is honestly so valuable. But if
that becomes your norm, the status quo of how you

spend time with yourself, I think you're missing out on
some of the other really rich and deep experiences and
things that you can do during that period that would
be maybe more valuable. So this brings me to this exercise.
This idea, this concept of ritualizing your alone time so
that it's something that you are looking forward to. I

have a friend who does this really, really well, and
I have to give them a shout out in this
episode because everybody that I have in my life, they
spend their alone time the best. They love their own
company the most. And the way that they have kind
of learnt to do this because they weren't always like this,
was to have a date night with themselves once a month.

They choose a different Italian restaurant in Sydney. They get
a glass of wine and they get a bowl of pasta,
and of course they dress up for themselves because it's
date night. You have to look nice, you have to
play the part. And then they sit there on their
own and they ask themselves the same five questions in
like a specific journal they have just for this purpose.

The five questions are what did I do today? And
how am I feeling about myself? What's something I'm looking
forward to, what's one thing that I've been proud of recently,
what's on my mind? And what is one thing I
want to change in the next month. I think that
this is such a sweet practice to do to really
like find time one evening in the next thirty days

that's just for you where you were at the center.
You are consciously thinking about your life. You are consciously
dating yourself, spending time with yourself, being intentional about where
you're going, but also kind of finding a way to
I don't know, not worship yourself. I think that's successive,
but celebrate who you are and your progress and what's

going on, and it's just fun. Like it's actually really
fun to just have this like little ritual that you
do all for yourself, to dress up for yourself to
go and just like kind of splurge on a nice
meal the same way that you would do that for others.
Right when you're dating people, when you're going to see
your friends, you know you make time for them, that

is quality time, You look nice for them, You spend
more money than you want to for them. You can
do that for yourself. Another way I think to really
sync deep into your own company is to just do
stuff alone even if no one wants to come with you.
Now we spoke about this before, but if you want
to see that movie, if you want to go to
that comedy show, if you need to buy a New Janes.

If you want to go out for breakfast and no
one's around, great, you're around, You're free, Off you go.
I think this feels quite awkward at first, especially when
we become so accustomed to the presence and the noise
of others in our lives. But I think that one
thing that really does hold us back is thinking that
we're going to be judged as well. I promise you

no one is looking that closely, and even if they are,
human memory is very fallible and it's very short, they
aren't going to remember you. And to just add to that,
the only time I think I've ever noticed people who
are doing things alone, like at dinner alone, or at
a cafe alone, at a movie alone, is when I've
been thinking about how much I admire them for something

that it's taken me years to do. I'm like, wow,
you must be a really cool person, Like there's some
really amazing power in this action that you're doing, in
this choice. When you do feel the twinge of loneliness
that I think is only human and natural, sometimes I
think that it's important to take a moment to just

notice it and to observe it, and I mean, make
your loneliness like a physical presence, like a little character
in your mind, or a butterfly in front of you,
and just watch it move through your space. This like
fluttering object. That's your loneliness. It's not going to hurt you.
It's just there. It's just fluttering about. You don't have

to respond or react, and eventually it will fly off
and bother somebody else. If we squash anything that makes
us skittish or fearful or uncomfortable, we shut off from
a lot of the world. You lose out, like you
genuinely do if you're always motivated by something that you fear,

and that means that you avoid circumstances that would activate
that fear. For example, you're afraid of feeling lonely, so
you never take the risk to, I don't know, go
to that country by yourself, or go out for dinner
on your own. That's not doing the thing that's best
for you. That's doing the thing that fear wants you

to do. So Finally, instead of the fear of missing out,
I think we need to switch to the joy of
missing out. I'm sure you've heard this phrase before, but
it's a concept that I love. It was originally introduced
to me by Tanya Dalton. She's an author who wrote
Like the Ultimate Guide on this. If you look her up,
her book is amazing and Jomo the Joy of missing

Out is basically like the emotionally intelligent and like mature
antidote to FOMO, and it's essentially about being present and
being content with where you're at in your life, focusing
on what you gain by saying no to plans, by
switching off, what you gain by ignoring the needs of others,

and the need to compare and think about what you
know everyone's expecting from you, and just really noticing how
much peace it brings you to just do what you
want to do. I think the older we get, the
more we understand the joy of missing out, like as
a concept, you know, we understand the joy of a
friend canceling the plans that we made when we had

a lot more energy, And we understand the joy of
getting to set our own agenda, to choose what we
want for dinner, what we want to do with our evenings,
to choose to reply to messages when we want to,
rather than feeling like we always have to be engaged
and clocked in and locked in with other people. There
is immense beauty in that, and there is also a
lot of freedom. I think sometimes we think that if

we're not constantly present with others that they'll somehow forget
about you. Trust me, they weren't. They weren't a few
missed evenings, a few rescheduled plans, a few times you
say sorry, I can't make it. I actually think that
it's going to do more for your friendship, right because
the time that you do spend together is very much

quality time. You're really engaged. You feel like your own
cup is full, rather than kind of running on empty
and feeling very much at the behest of your plans,
feeling very much responsible to others rather than to yourself
first and foremost. So I think the final reminder, the
final thing to take from this is the relationship you

have with yourself is your biggest investment, because it is
the only one you will have alongside you your whole life.
You are spending every single second with yourself. That might
feel like quality time, but sometimes you really need to
have a check in and be like, Okay, do I
like where I'm at? Am I enjoying who I am
when nobody else is around, can I find the fun

in my own company? And my hope is is that
firstly you see that that's a valuable thing, and secondly
that you do find the joy and the love in
your own company. So thank you so much for listening
to today's episode. I actually hope that you've got something
out of this. I hope that it's convinced you or
persuaded you to adopt these rituals and this technique and

this appreciation for yourself, because you're a lot of fun,
and you can have fun with yourself, and you can
laugh at yourself, and you can bring joy to your
own life without needing other people. As always, if you
did enjoy this episode, share it with a friend and
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it helps expand the community, and it helps me out.
So if you do get joy out of this, if
it is part of the ritual that you have for
spending time alone or just part of your daily life,
I would really really appreciate it. And as always, we
are always looking for new ideas, episodes, suggestions, feedback, discussions, contributions.

Over on Instagram, you can follow us at that Psychology Podcast.
We would obviously love to hear from you, and until then,
until our next episode, stay safe, be kind to yourself,
and we will talk soon
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