The Difference Between Feeling Lonely & Being Alone

What happens when you are in-between intimate relationships or identify as single? How do you spend that time?

What about if you are currently in a relationship, but your partner is out of town, long-distance relationship or you’re experiencing a long stretch of separation? What comes up for you?

When you look around, catch your reflection in the mirror, and notice its just you and yourself here, the question of “feeling lonely or being alone” may cross your mind.

adult alone back view countryside

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

Companionship is a treasured part of our experiences as people. And intimate partnership is a special connection that comes between folks that are romantically attracted to one another. In the same breath, we are sometimes pressured to be in a relationship by our families, our associates or by societal standards. It’s fair to say there is a certain status that comes with being “taken”.

In recognizing those pressures, spending time with one’s self is often taken for granted and even devalued as time well-spent. This begs the question if spending time with only yourself is considered “being alone” or “feeling lonely”?

woman wearing white off shoulder blouse

Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca on

Let’s take a closer look at these two concepts:

Being alone can be viewed as simply a state of being. A fact. An observation, if you will. Being alone is the state of being where you are spending time with yourself and only yourself. Being alone can be a choice. We can choose to spend time with ourselves and we are then in control of who is around our space.

Feeling lonely is exactly that, a feeling. To feel lonely can mean to feel disconnected, unsocial or wanting to be with others and not having the opportunity to do so.

According to, loneliness is:

  1. Affected with, characterized by or causing a depressing feeling of being alone

  2. Destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc.

While being alone is a state of being, feeling lonely is a feeling that is usually determined by others and social opportunities.

We associate being alone with choice, being in control and also having the desire to put energy into our relationships with ourselves. When we think of feeling alone, we think of feelings associated with feeling out-of-control, left out and isolated.

With reflecting on these two concepts, when do you feel lonely and when are you being alone?

In learning to build healthy relationships with ourselves, there are moments where we prefer to spend time with ourselves, and other times where we spend time alone by default. Our work is to notice when we are feeling imbalanced with experiencing too much or too little of either.

photo of woman looking at the mirror

Photo by bruce mars on

What helps is being mindful of how loneliness and being alone shows up for us. It’s natural to feel both, but its important to recognize what choices we have when the opportunity to be with only ourselves comes up. It can be fulfilling, necessary and down-right fun to get to kick it with you and only you! And it can be exciting, worthwhile and enjoyable to spend time with others. Tap into your self-awareness and reflection when you get the opportunity to only be with you.

My absolute favorite things to do when I am alone are:

  • At-home spa day: I’m talking a DIY pedicure, face masks and body scrub galore. I can pay attention to the parts of my body that need some extra lovin’ during this time.
  • Retail therapy: I love giving myself a guilt-free budget and shop alone. I can focus on my opinions only and enjoy what I like without distractions.
  • Take myself out on a dateI will grab coffee or get a table at a yummy restaurant to treat myself to some good food. And nope, I don’t want to sit at the bar. I want a table. All to myself. 🙂

Looking for more ideas? Take a look at this list of things you can enjoy by yourself by Jo ChunYan.

What do you like to do when you are spending quality time with yourself?


  1. theultimatepsyche says

    Hey Michelle! Nice post!

    Learning to be comfortable is an incredibly vital skill to possess. Its ​a great way to help someone build more self-love as well. This happens in moments where we very mindful of our current state and truly appreciate our own companionship. As you said, taking yourself out for a coffee.

    Instead of making your emotional and mental well-being dependent on being surrounded by friends or being in a social situation can be very easy, but also dangerous.
    Learning to be alone in this sense, will make you less afraid of taking a new step in your life (e.g. moving to another town) or a ‘risk’.

    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to reading more from you! 🙂

    • Michelle says

      Thank you so much! That’s exactly right, finding peace with being alone is a sure way to take the next steps in your life and take safe risks. Thank you for reading and sharing!

  2. Victoria Bear says

    Hi Michelle! I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m someone who definitely needs and enjoys alone time, but I totally agree with what you said about finding the right balance; everyone needs to find what amount of social and alone time works for them!

    • Michelle says

      Oh awesome, thank you Victoria! I’m with you, time with myself is enjoyable and it’s helpful to do what works best for you. Thank you for reading!

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