Not Everyone Needs a Partner to Thrive—Here's How to Be Happy Alone

Whether you're single by choice or circumstance, experts share their top tips for flying (and thriving) solo.

How to Be Happy Alone: one woman Hiking around Moraine Lake.
Photo: Getty Images

For many centuries, being part of a couple was essential in order to survive and thrive. Two incomes meant a better ability to gain financial success, and gender inequalities prevented women from owning property or opening bank accounts without a man. Luckily, times have changed significantly, and now, it's no longer a requirement to be married or part of a duo to live a fulfilling life. Even so, being alone can carry a heavy stigma—and a lot of people wonder how it's possible to be happy alone.

As Paula Flidermauz, MHC-LP, mental health counselor at Empower Your Mind Therapy, explains, many of us grow up thinking there must be something wrong with us—or that there's no way to be truly happy—if we're not in a romantic relationship. This is largely thanks to societal pressures, media influence, and unwelcome comments from friends and family members. "More and more people realize they can find happiness outside of partnerships," she continues. "It says nothing about your worth as a person if you are or are not in a relationship—despite what your Aunt Shirley may think."

Flidermauz says there are many reasons people choose not to be in coupled relationships, whether it's in reaction to a negative past experience or simply comes down to personal preference. These might include:

  • You just came out of a long-term relationship and want to reconnect with or reestablish your identity as an individual outside of a couple.
  • You were in a co-dependent, abusive, or generally unhealthy relationship in the past, and now you suffer from trigger trauma responses.
  • You simply enjoy your alone time, and you don't want to share it with another person.
  • You prefer to focus your energy on your work, career, and time spent with friends.
  • You identify as asexual or aromantic, and you may not necessarily feel the need for a relationship to experience emotional fulfillment.

Sound like you? You're not alone in being alone, since a Pew Research Center study from 2021 found that almost half of single individuals today are choosing not to be in a relationship. If you're part of this crowd—or considering cutting out the aspect of traditional dating/coupling—here are some helpful pointers on how to nurture your best self and be happy alone.

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Invest in your platonic relationships.

Even if you don't crave the company of a romantic partner, making social connections and being part of a community are an essential part of maintaining your mental health and living a long, fulfilling life. That's why Flidermauz says, to cultivate happiness alone, it's vital to invest in your platonic friendships, including friends and family members—and yes, this also includes pets.

"Make some time in your schedule for calling and seeing people who are important to you," she continues. "People appreciate when you think of them, and a phone call can do much to strengthen your relationship with them. Instead of going on dates with a partner, why not go on those dates with a friend—or your dog? It's just as fun."

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Do an annual life review—and make a plan.

True: It's unnecessary to have a partner to build financial wealth, purchase a home, set goals, or create a retirement account. Also true: You do have to plan to make the life you want. That's why conducting an annual life review and strategizing monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals will help you build confidence, says Rachael Evans, founder and CEO of The Workshop Whisperer.

She recommends listing out your achievements, lessons learned, what you did well, what didn't work so well, and the things that got in the way of achieving any previously set goals. Then take time to reflect by asking yourself questions like these:

  • Were those goals really important to you, or were they things you thought you wanted but turned out not to be that important?
  • What did you enjoy doing either by yourself or with others?
  • What filled you up?
  • What took away your energy?

Then, you can create your plan for the year ahead. "With a clear list from the previous year and some time spent in reflection, create your new plan for the year ahead, being mindful of the things that may have derailed you previously," Evans says.

To guide your thinking, consider what you want to achieve this year in the areas of health and wellbeing, career, travel, community service, and friendships. "While thinking about this plan for the future, remember to indulge yourself in thoughts about what will truly fill your cup," she continues. "One of the benefits of being single is that you don't have to compromise your wants and needs for someone else's. Dream big—and then do big."

RELATED: A Singles Guide to Successful Retirement

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Cultivate hobbies you love.

Being part of a relationship is a significant investment in your time, energy, and emotions. (Partners aren't referred to as "significant others" for nothing.) So when you don't have that other person to fill up your days and mental space, you're left with more time for your needs and interests. However, if you don't actively choose activities and hobbies that bring you joy, you could end up feeling lonely, depressed, or aimless. Flidermauz encourages those who choose to be alone to dabble into something they used to love doing but haven't had time to do in a while. It could be rollerskating, crocheting, cooking, working out, painting, writing—you name it. "There's a whole world of things you can do that can spark your interest," she continues. "What's more is that you can build a sense of community around any of these activities. There are classes, clubs, groups, meet-ups, and forums you can join to meet other like-minded people."

RELATED: I Did a Hobby Every Day for a Year and This What I Learned

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Contribute to the greater good.

According to Makhosi Nejeser, a human potential expert and the founder of The Royal Shaman, one commonly overlooked human need is the desire for purpose and legacy. "While many people find meaning in supporting their significant others or children, you can still contribute in important ways to humanity and genuinely feel good about making a difference in the world," she explains.

To do this, seek out organizations that align with causes that are meaningful to you and your values. And remember, you don't need to donate in the triple-digits to make a difference. As Nejeser says, simply volunteering your time and skills or finding creative ways to promote the change you want to see can go a long way in supporting others and keeping you happy.

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Prioritize self-care.

When building a life just for you, you won't always have someone to nudge you to drink more water, suggest you splurge on a weekend getaway, remind you to get your physical, or be your buddy at the gym. Everyone needs to prioritize self-care, but for those choosing to live alone, it's vital to set the standard for how you want to feel and be treated, Flidermauz says. This looks different for everyone—taking yourself out to dinner, getting dressed up, booking a massage. But it's small, yet truly powerful investments that enrich your well-being. "

"We all have some idea of self-care looking like spa days and getting your nails done, but sometimes self-care is as simple as remembering to shower, eat, or make your bed," she says. "These things can seem like real feats when one is experiencing depression or other mental health issues, and being able to do them is an accomplishment worth noting."

In short? Remember to pat yourself on the back—be your own friend and cheerleader when it comes to taking care of yourself. "Celebrate all your accomplishments, even the smaller ones," she says.

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