Friends can make you happy. But what if you don’t have any friends? How to be happy without friends? Would that mean you can never be happy?
The answer is no. You can still be happy without friends, and this article will share tips on how to do just that.
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
Strong bonds with others outside of our family unit are important for living a healthy and happy life. Humans are wired to be social creatures, and having friends to share our joys and sorrows makes life a lot less lonely than it could be without these important connections.
However, friends aren’t always around forever. Usually, they’re with us for a short amount of time, from weeks to years, but eventually, people move on with their lives.
Some people have friendships that have stood the test of time, but they may not get to see those friends that often. Others had many friends when they were younger, but as life and the seasons have changed, they find themselves flying solo.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a social setting where we look around and struggle to identify who in that group we would call a close friend. We can feel lonely and friendless even in a large social group.
Some people find it hard to be without many friends around, so they may resort to hanging out with almost anybody just for company. They struggle with their sense of self or feelings of loneliness if they don’t have someone to spend their time with.
If you’re wondering if it’s at all possible to be happy without friends, this article is for you. We’ll explain how happiness without friends can be attained and how true joy is found within and does not rely on others.
Do you need friends to be happy?
While research has found those with strong social bonds tend to be happier than those without, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be happy if you don’t have any friends around.
Many people leave their friends and family behind to travel to countries they’ve never visited and have a solo adventure. Others simply cut down on contact with their social group because they want to spend some time alone to reflect.
Loneliness stems from feeling like you have no one to talk to or no one will understand you. When loneliness takes over, your risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety increases.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to have a best friend around all the time to share everything with – what’s important is that you have people to talk to (unless you’ve actively chosen to avoid others and practice a hermit lifestyle).
They don’t need to be close friends – family members can be great to talk to when you’re feeling alone, lonely, or just feeling like you want a chat.
Even conversations with strangers can help you reap the benefit of social connection.
Chatting with strangers in a coffee shop or on a train – someone whom you may never see again – can be fun and exciting. There’s a chance you’ll learn something new and be able to share some brief stories about your life.
The loneliness epidemic
A recent study found that millennials are the loneliest generation. The findings may be surprising – given the popularity of social media among this demographic, one may think that they can’t possibly feel alone.
However, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are not a cure or prevention for loneliness. They can even exacerbate the feeling.
Loneliness among millennials
According to the study, 30 percent of millennials reported feeling lonely always or often, while 20 percent of members of Generation X reported the same. Only fifteen percent of Baby Boomers, the generation preceding Gen X, reported frequently feeling lonely.
The YouGov study references another research at the University of Pennsylvania to suggest a possible cause of the high rate of loneliness among millennials. Melissa G. Hunt and her colleagues suggest a strong correlation between frequent social media use and feelings of loneliness and depression among millennials.
Hunt explains: “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
Hunt suggests reducing the amount of time you spend on social media as a means of countering the loneliness and depression that typically follow comparison. “When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you spend more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.”
How to be happy alone
There are ways to be happy even if you are by yourself.
1. Learn to enjoy spending time alone
If you’re used to having people around but now you find yourself alone, coping with your new circumstance can be challenging. Being alone may also be difficult even if you are used to not having many friends but still haven’t figured out how to love your own company.
The more comfortable you become at being alone, the happier you’ll be.
It’s important not to fill your alone time with unhealthy and toxic behaviors such as drug and alcohol misuse or social isolation. Instead, use your time to yourself to engage in health-positive, life-affirming behaviors such as exploring new places, getting out in nature, reading books, or developing a new skill.
2. Stop should-ing
If you think that you must have friends to be happy, then you’re not going to be happy if you find yourself without a friend nearby.
Telling yourself that happiness is only possible with friends creates and solidifies that belief and makes it true. However, if you accept that happiness is possible without friends, then that will become true.
A shift in perspective can change your life. The moment you stop thinking in terms of ‘should’ and accept your life circumstances for how they are, the sooner you’ll be free of comparison and the inevitable sadness and despair that often accompanies it.
3. Focus on yourself
Find your passions and joys in life, and follow them with vigor.
You may not have many friends right now, but if you can spend this time working on yourself, doing things you love, educating yourself, and generally up-skilling, you’ll become a much happier person and be all the more ready to enjoy whatever friendships come your way in the future.
Is there a hobby you’ve always loved or wanted to try? Or an area of study that sparks your interest and curiosity? Have you always wanted to get fit, run a marathon, or climb a mountain? Now is the time to do it.
Sure, these things can be enjoyable when done in the company of friends, but you don’t need to rely on others to enjoy them.
The more you do things you love when you’re on your own, the greater your relationship with yourself will be.
Over time, you’re likely to revel in your own company and be a stronger and more independent person for it, even when new friends eventually come along.
4. Cut down on social media
Social media is a comparison machine. It’s not all bad, sometimes it helps people stay connected with others and may reduce feelings of loneliness, but it can also have the opposite effect.
If your feed is inundated with people you once knew or barely know posting pictures of themselves hanging out in bars or clubs or in sunny resorts with all their friends having a vibrant social life, you may end up feeling like you’re missing out.
Melissa Hunt of UoP and researcher in the YouGov study mentioned above, admits: “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely.”
If you’ve got some spare time on your hands that you would otherwise be spending with friends, use that time to help others. Try your hand at volunteering. It could be at a homeless shelter, a youth group, an animal shelter, or an environmental care project.
Benefits of volunteering
Volunteering not only helps others – it also helps you. Research has found that people who engage with volunteer programs and projects tend to experience greater life satisfaction.
Further research points to the mental and emotional health benefits of altruism.
Aside from being a great way to spend your time and a practical tool to improve your well-being, volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and make new friends.
You may be without friends now, but you’ll likely meet people who also volunteer who share the same passion for helping others. They may soon become your friends, but don’t forget to follow the rest of the advice in this article and focus on learning how to be happy alone.
6. Look after your mental and physical health with exercise
If you’re without many friends right now, that’s ok. It’s entirely possible to be happy and fulfilled without a social group.
Still, friendlessness can lead to loneliness, which can have a damaging impact on your physical health.
Some research has linked loneliness to increased stress, which is toxic to the body when it lasts too long. Other research has linked loneliness to an increased risk of brain and heart disease and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
To combat the effects of loneliness and prevent them from impacting your well-being, keep yourself fit with exercise.
Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of lifting weights at the gym or training for a marathon. There are so many different ways you can exercise that you’re bound to find something you enjoy.
Running and weightlifting are fantastic, but you can also swim, walk, rock climb, and dance. If you like team sports, check in your local area for a football or basketball team. If you live near the coast, try a water sport like surfing or wind sailing.
Team sports are also a great way of making friends. Even if you don’t become that close with other players, they’ll still be acquaintances and may be happy to chat and hang out from time to time.
The science behind the benefits of exercise
Research proves that even light aerobic exercise like walking and jogging has a profound positive impact on mental health and well-being. In one study, participants who engaged in regular aerobic exercise – at least three times a week – had reduced the risk and experience of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Needless to say, your physical health also receives a significant boost when you exercise regularly.
Research shows that regular exercise significantly reduces a person’s risk of obesity, heart disease, and other cardiovascular issues, improves lung capacity, reduces the risk of injury, and improves oxygen flow to the brain.
So, if you’re feeling lonely, put on your yoga pants or lace up your sneakers and get active.
7. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is a superpower. There isn’t much else that can create life satisfaction, fulfillment, and a sense of abundance as much as gratitude. So, what exactly is gratitude?
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation for your life.
Unlike comparison, gratitude doesn’t focus on what you lack but on those things you already have in your life. You can be grateful for an infinite number of things, such as sunshine, your health, a job you love, even the fact that you have a roof over your head.
Research proves the profound positive impact that gratitude has on mental and emotional health and well-being.
One study found that participants who wrote in a gratitude journal consistently for three weeks self-reported greater feelings of happiness, peace, and contentment than those who wrote about negative things or trivial experiences.
Keep a gratitude journal
To get started with your gratitude practice, keep a journal. It’s best to buy a fresh new journal rather than one you use for other purposes. Every day, or at least as often as you can, write in your journal. Start small by writing down 2 – 3 things each day for which you’re grateful.
It doesn’t have to be long or complex – a sentence or two on each item is enough, to begin with. Over time, try to extend your list. Move to five or ten things each day that make you feel grateful.
That may seem like a lot at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will be to identify things in your life that make you happy. You may even find yourself returning to your journal more than once a day to add to the day’s entry!
At the end of the week, look back over what you wrote that week to cultivate an even stronger appreciation for all those things that made you feel good.
Whether you’re spiritually-minded or not, meditation is a powerful tool that can help you feel comfortable and grateful for being alone.
To those who are spiritual, meditation can be a method of reconnecting with one’s higher self or a deity of great significance.
Many forms of prayers in various religions are a type of meditation. If religion and spirituality aren’t for you, you can still reap the benefits of meditation – it is for everyone.
Mediation is the practice of letting go of your thoughts and desires, centering your focus and attention on your breath, and simply being in the here and now. It calls upon the meditator to pay attention to themselves and notice when thoughts and desires arise, but not to follow them like a carrot on a stick.
If you’ve never meditated before, getting started can feel a little strange. You may feel like you’re doing nothing or procrastinating, but understand that you are doing something significant and beneficial to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
“Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.“Pema Chodron
9. Take yourself out on dates
If you’re used to the dating scene, you know that it can be exhausting at times. The search for a nice place to impress your date, the nerves, the excitement – they all take a toll on your energy levels.
A great way to date without getting the fatigue associated with it is to take yourself on a solo date!
What you do on your solo date is entirely up to you. You can go where you like to go, eat what you want, and dress however you feel comfortable.
You don’t need to worry about a lull in conversation because you only have to entertain yourself.
Is there a restaurant, hilltop, or cozy coffee shop that you’ve always wanted to visit? When you’re on your solo date, treat yourself as such.
Try to hold back on negative self-talk or rumination – act as though you’re really on a date, but the date is you. Treat yourself kindly, splash out, and offer yourself compliments.
10. Spend time with family members
You may not have a large group of friends around you these days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have people in your life who love and care about you.
Instead of focusing on your lack of friends, focus your attention on your family relationships.
No family is perfect, and many people experience relationship strains within the family, but even if there’s one family member you like to talk to, then don’t hesitate to reach out and hang out with them.
Even if there are strained relationships, could you take this time to work on them? To repair the damage and re-establish a strong connection with your mother, father, brother, or sister?
It may feel strange for some to consider family members as friends, but they’re the ones who were there from the beginning and will be there until the end.
Perhaps you have a sibling or parent who lives by themselves and is maybe feeling a little lonely? Can you reach out to them? Can you offer them some company and friendship?
Try asking family members to join your own adventures, such as walking in nature, hiking up a mountain, or simply going to a restaurant for a nice meal, or checking out the latest releases at the movie theater.
11. Be mindful in your romantic relationships
When we don’t have a lot of friends, but we have a romantic partner, there’s always a risk of leaning too heavily on that partner for the fulfillment that we will otherwise get through friendship.
Your romantic relationship must also be a strong friendship, but if you rely too much on one person, then you risk both of you becoming exhausted and possibly even resentful within the relationship.
Don’t be overly reliant on your partner
Turn to your romantic partner when you need to, but remember to speak to other people such as family members, coworkers, and even strangers too. Your relationships will benefit from the space, and you’re far less likely to experience resentment and relationship fatigue.
If you’re feeling lonely
Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. Still, it’s not always easy to be alone, and many people who find themselves in such a situation also notice a deep and uncomfortable feeling of loneliness.
Loneliness isn’t always bad – it can remind you of the things in your life for which you’re grateful and make you appreciate the smaller details of the everyday.
‘Loneliness adds beauty to life,’ says singer and activist Henry Rollins. ‘It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.’
Loneliness and mental health
Still, too much loneliness can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and well-being. Research has found the people who struggle with feeling lonely face a greater risk of depression, stress, and drug abuse than those who don’t feel as lonely.
Sleep and even life longevity are also affected by loneliness. Its effects are far-reaching, which is why it’s so important to look after your physical and mental health as much as possible if loneliness is something you experience regularly.
Exercise and proper nutrition are two powerful tools in your arsenal that can help you stave off the negative effects of loneliness. Combine these with mediation, learning how to enjoy your own company, and regularly improving yourself through education and upskilling, and the health risks associated with loneliness will significantly decrease.
If you’re feeling lonely, make sure to reach out to someone you can talk to. If you can’t think of a friend with whom you can share your worries and difficulties, try talking to family members.
If that’s not a feasible option, then don’t hesitate to speak to a therapist or counselor.
Let go of any stigma surrounding seeking professional help for your mental health. The impact of loneliness is such that it can pose a serious health risk and may even be life-threatening, and in this context, prevention is far more effective than any cure.
Find a therapist or counselor in your area or search online.
Many online therapy services offer expert-led sessions to anyone who reaches out. These services have helped many of those hit by loneliness and continue to improve accessibility to professional help for millions of people worldwide.
Is it possible to be happy without friends? Absolutely? Does that mean you can get by without ever talking to anyone and staying at home all the time? Not so much.
Happiness is a feeling of peace and contentment with one’s life. This peace and contentment can be cultivated through self-awareness and positive, healthy, and growth-oriented actions such as kindness and altruism, passion, and connecting with others.
You don’t need to have a group of friends around you all the time.
What’s most important is that you develop a loving, kind, and compassionate relationship with yourself. Once you can do that, you may find it a lot easier to make and maintain friendships in the future.