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Guide to Living On Your Own… And Staying Happy

Guide to living on your own... and staying happy

Whether it’s your first time, or you just moved across the world, living on your own can be daunting. There are a lot of struggles that come with the territory (i.e.: how the hell do you use an automatic screwdriver? Or what do I do if my drain is clogged?) My first ‘living alone’ attempt was a difficult one, back in Colorado. A series of unfortunate events occurred, and I blamed myself for them. I internalized them and ended up getting really sad, really quick. Outside of work, I didn’t have much to do, so my mind got the best of me. When I moved to England, I decided to make a few changes to my “living alone” style, and they have been pivotal. These changes/realizations have made my experience enjoyable.

Whatever the difficulties may have been, living alone has been an incredible adventure thus far. Here are a few things that helped me stay happy, whilst living on my own (and abroad).

1. Spend some time in making your house feel like your home.

When I moved to Hull from Colorado, I had, what literally felt like, nothing. I came with 2 suitcases full of clothes (ok, one was full of clothes, the other was full of shoes). I couldn’t bring any of my room decorations or plants or whatever made my old room feel like home, because it just wouldn’t fit. I didn’t have a bed for my first month in my new house, and it really took a while before I felt truly comfortable. As I can attest to, most of the places you will live will probably not be your dream home. My current home has a lot of things I would change about it. However, being adventurous means you have the capability to make the best out of any situation. I have accepted I may not be living in a luxurious London flat, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be extremely proud of my home!

purple bathroom

{My cozy bathroom}
purple orchid

In order to feel happy living alone in your new home, it’s so important to have things that make it “homey”. I put up a few photos on my walls, bought myself an orchid (similar to the one I had at home), found some purple (my favorite color) bathroom decor and found a really simple, yet chic, bed set. Even if all you have a is a tiny bedroom somewhere, adding a few meaningful (but personal) touches makes coming home feel more inviting.

I find that adding some nice color to a room really helps it feel less frigid (which comes in handy in the UK during winter!). One of the ways I do that is by separating a bouquet of flowers into a couple vases, and placing them around the house. If flowers aren’t your thing, paint a wall a color that is tied to a good memory (example: light pastel blue for the color the sky was on your favorite beach holiday, or a deep red to remind you of a summertime sunset). Add a couple bright pillows or candles, and for next to nothing, you have something that’s a bit more cheerful.

2. Discover your hobbies.

Living on your own forces you to be, well, quite alone. At times, it’s easy to get lost in your head and forget that there is a world outside. I am an extrovert, so I constantly need to be out doing something: either interacting with people or keeping my mind very busy. Otherwise, I fall into the trap of starting a pity party for a party of one.

This is why hobbies are important. Not only do they keep your mind occupied, they also give you something to work for. I decided to run a 10k shortly after moving into my new place. This gave me a reason to be outside running every day after work, rather than sitting on my couch and moping about why I was so lonely. It was not only great for my health, but also, when I did complete the 10k, I felt like a star. I also happened to run it in 1:00:31. Not too bad for a first race ever! Not only did I feel accomplished, but I also discovered a love for running and exercising in general.

start at Hull 10k

{Right before the start of the Hull 10k}

After the race, Hull 10k, ASDA Foundation, 2015

{Me, at the finish!}

girl running, castle howard triathlon

{My 10k inspired me to run in a relay triathlon with some friends a month later!}

IMG_0086

{My new hobbies: Running and Fitness!}

I have also discovered how much I love cooking. When you live alone, eating out is not always a possibility. I have been cooking for myself frequently. It is so therapeutic to have some dough between your fingers or to mix a bowl of soup methodically. Eating out is so fun, especially with friends, but discovering cooking has been so rewarding for me. I love making myself a meal, discovering new recipes, and sharing them with friends. One of the benefits it that you save money cooking in, AND it’s generally healthier. I’ve been using more simple ingredients and exploring different ways to make my favorite recipes.

vegetables, purple onions, courgette, cutting board

Attempt at making tortilla espanola

{This is me, attempting to make a “Tortilla Española” for the first time}

Whether you take up painting, reading or whatever it may be, having something that you look forward to each day is essential to being happy.

3. Make some friends.

I know that sounds easier than it’s done, especially in a new place. However, humans are instinctually communal. Even if we consider ourselves introverts, we always gravitate towards other people with the same interests. Having a good support group close to home will keep you very happy. I admit, it’s not difficult for me to connect with people. I am a very approachable person and am usually the first to say hi. I can appreciate that not everyone is like me, and making friends at a new place can often be very, very difficult. Try finding a MeetUp group of people in your own area with similar hobbies. You could also join a gym and take a few classes, such as Zumba, or you can volunteer some place (i.e.: an animal shelter). You will be bound to find like-minded people and that’s how you can start branching out.

girls, friends, spiders, hull

{Me and the girls from work on a night out}

I made a lot of friends at work, because I work with a lot of people my age. I recognize how lucky I am. But whatever the situation is, you can always meet new people, if you put yourself out there. Having a friend to grab coffee or a pint with on Saturday or someone you can drag along to gym class with you, really goes a long way in making you feel less alone, and ultimately, more happy.

4. Get out of the house… a lot.

queen victoria square, city centre, hull, uk

Living on your own does not mean “sitting at home bored”. Living on your own gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. My first few weeks in Hull were very exciting, and I was hardly ever back in my room. Instead, I was exploring the city, making new friends, and trying new restaurants. This was done all by myself. It was nerve-wrecking but also made me extremely happy. I was finally living my dream, and embracing adventure and the unknown. Now that I’ve been here a year, and things are a bit more settled in, I choose hang on to that initial feeling of excitement. There should be things that get you out of the house. On Saturdays, I try to go into town and grab a coffee, or if the weather is nice, I go on a nice long run at my favorite park. During the week, I work and then go to the gym. By the time I get home, I genuinely want to be there. Being “bored” is not something I ever want to get accustomed to.

  1. Get to know yourself.

"You cannot be lonely if you like the person you are with", Wayne Dyer

You’re pretty great. My British friends are probably rolling their eyes at how “American” I sound right now (yes, I’m looking at you), but loving yourself is not exclusive to one country. Being alone is a wonderful time to really reflect on who you are and who you want to be. I am constantly changing, and this positive change is facilitated by actually getting to know myself. I have spent this last year spending some time journaling, meditating and focusing on my health.

This year, I’ve discovered, even though I am an extrovert, I also really crave to be by myself occasionally. I have also learned that my body is worth treating right. I have started working out regularly and watching what I eat – not just because I want to lose weight, but because I want to run faster and longer, swim better, lift more weights and look pretty amazing in a swim suit. I am WORTH being treated well, especially by my self.

You’ll never learn so much about yourself than being on your own, with no parent or comfortable surroundings to depend on. When life hits you hard and you have no one to lean on but yourself, you learn a lot about yourself. You learn your weaknesses and your strengths. The key is, you need to accept the parts that are weak, and work on them and love the parts that are strong and let them flourish. The main point to take away: You can be alone even in a crowd of people.  Learning to live on your own and finding your happiness is not impossible, if you start internally.

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