February is when I fully relish in the dark quiet of winter before I start itching for longer days and warmer temps. Lots of hearty meals with friends, lengthy novels, frosty morning walks, snowshoeing at this beautiful spot, and cozy nights in front of the fireplace are on my agenda this month. There are so many things to love about winter, and I try to remind myself of that when I’m cursing the bone-chilling cold and watching the sun go down even when it feels like it just rose a few hours ago (if it even shines at all).
I hope this wintery month is filled with enjoyable moments for you.
Let me ask you something.
When’s the last time you took yourself on a date?
I mean a date where no one else was with you: not your partner, not your kid, not a friend, not family, not even a podcast host in your ear. It’s just you, hanging out with you, fully present in whatever environment you find yourself.
In my mind, a true self-date is time you intentionally set aside to do something for fun, by yourself, outside of your home. It’s not tied to productivity or checking things off the to-do list; its sole purpose is enjoyment.
So, running errands by yourself, stopping for a coffee on your way to/from somewhere, going on a solo walk or a run, hanging on the couch when no one else happens to be home—though all nice moments of alone time—don’t count. In my mind, there’s a difference between alone time as it relates to productivity, transit, exercise, and happenstance and intentional solo dates that you carve out time for.
I try to approach solo dates in the way I’d approach a first date (if I was still dating):
You give yourself the same attention and respect you would give to a person you’re getting to know.
You’re not buried in your phone distracting yourself with the details of other people’s lives or documenting yours.
You spend time asking and answering interesting questions (in your head or on paper). Maybe about your community, your hobbies, your relationship with work, your hopes, your dreams, and things that you’re excited about.
You likely wear something you feel great in or do your hair, just for you.
You go to a beloved restaurant or café, or a new one you’ve been wanting to try.
You check out a museum or a concert or get out in nature.
You’re observing, reflecting, and enjoying—all in your own company.
The last time I went on a solo date was a few months ago, when I got pho at a spot in Seattle’s International District that I’d been wanting to try since I first moved here. I threw on some jeans that made me feel good, grabbed my journal and a book, and had a luxurious long lunch on a cold rainy Saturday. Afterward, I grabbed cheesecake to “take home”, ended up eating the whole slice at the café, bought myself a new book at a local bookstore, and then took a rather soggy walk through the park to see my favorite trees. It was amazing, and yet, I haven’t done something like that in a while.
If you can remember a time when you took yourself on a date, great. If you can’t think of the last time, let’s make this month different (we’ll get to that in a bit). If the thought of going on a date with yourself makes you shudder in discomfort, I get it.
This week, we’re diving into the discomfort and beauty of alone time, the importance of dating ourselves, and a little prompt for all of us to embark upon this month.
A story on alone time
I have this visceral memory of learning that my dad, who traveled for work constantly, sometimes ate meals by himself on business trips. My younger self, who did not yet realize the value of voluntary alone time, was appalled and saddened by the idea of my extroverted dad sitting at a table for one, while everyone around him buzzed in the company of others.
“You just…eat alone?! That’s so sad!” – Me in high school, insecure and not understanding the beauty of solo meals.
To which my dad answered—to my shock at the time: “Why is that sad? I love having time to myself.”
While I thought he was nuts then, I get it now. Having voluntary time to yourself and with yourself can be glorious. I now crave it, seek it, relish it. And I think of that memory regularly, especially when I’m enjoying a solo meal or drink in public, alone with my thoughts, on my own timeline. Or when I start getting antsy—or worse, grumpy—and know myself enough to realize that I’m overdue for some quality time…with myself.
I’m an ambivert (otherwise known as an extroverted introvert or introverted extrovert), so while I enjoy alone time, I also derive energy from being around others. Knowing what I need—alone time or time with others—and listening to that need is a muscle that I’m learning to strengthen. It’s also one I’m learning to challenge—you know, when you want to do one thing but know that the other is what you actually need.
But strengthening that muscle, and then learning to challenge it, requires getting to know who you are when it’s just you: without your partner, kids, friends, family, coworkers, pets, technology, and home comforts to rely on for company. It requires you to date yourself. Easier said than done, right?
A passage from a book I finished recently, The Power of Ritual by Casper Ter Kuile, touched on this:
“Making time for ourselves is more and more difficult. Our digital devices distract us, offering a life where everything is available at the recognition of a fingerprint, and being “busy” is likely the first thing we tell people when they ask how we are.
This makes it difficult to even be aware of our inner life, or how we’re really feeling. We can go for days without noticing that we’re angry and resentful, for example, or that we’ve spent the last weekend particularly anxious, until that “difficult conversation” that we were anxious about has passed.”
Beyond the distractions of digital media and the enjoyment of others’ company, making time for ourselves can be hard when we’re juggling competing life responsibilities and when our mental and physical health affects how we are able to move through, and show up in, the world.
It can be especially difficult if you don’t have a great relationship with yourself, or if you don’t know yourself very well. Both of which are normal and okay—we’re all a work-in-progress, and those things can always change.
But that’s why it’s especially important to seek out solo time: not only for enjoyment, but to understand how we’re truly feeling—and to develop a relationship with ourselves that’s rooted in trust, care, and growth. It’s the longest relationship we’ve ever had and will ever have, so we should probably invest time and love in it—much like we do in our relationships with partners, kids, friends, and family.
Taking yourself on regular dates is a great way to invest in that relationship.Doing so allows us to better understand what we like, need, and want, which makes our alone time, as well as our time with others more enjoyable.
And of course, when we show up for ourselves, we can better show up for the people around us.
Let’s go on a date! (with ourselves)
So here’s what I’m proposing: over the next month, plan a date for yourself.
Set aside dedicated time, even if just for an hour, when you can be free from responsibilities. Turn off your email notifications, get someone to watch your kid and/or walk your dog, and go take yourself somewhere you’ve been wanting to go but just “haven’t gotten around to it.” It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Resist the urge to blow it off (set the time aside 2 weeks in advance if you must!). Prioritizing yourself, no matter what anyone says and no matter who’s vying for your attention, is—and always will be—important.
Once you’ve gone on your date, I’d love to hear about it. At the end of the month, I’ll anonymously share a few of the amazing dates you went on (including my own), to inspire this community with all the ways spending time with ourselves can be fun—and to celebrate ourselves for making the time in the first place.
Until next week,
There is some overlap here, like taking yourself on a hike or to a yoga class you’ve been wanting to try; going thrifting or estate sale shopping; spontaneously taking yourself on a date in a neighborhood you happen to be in for some other boring reason (like a doctor’s appointment!), etc.
But not for long: Claps for my dad (David) who’s retiring this week after 42 years!
So is therapy!
I was dreaming so much of pho that I mislabeled my photo. That photo is, of course, a bowl of ramen—not pho :)
Wow! Your Dad retired! Great news. Now they can come visit more often.🥰