By living alone as an introvert, I have found ways to fill the silence without feeling the pressure to socialize.
Around a year-and-a-half ago, I moved back to my hometown and began to rent an apartment in anticipation of buying my own place. It was the most exciting and nerve-wracking thing I had done in a long time — as well as leaving behind years of friendships, I was moving into an apartment by myself. For the first time.
I had always lived with family or roommates, and this was my opportunity to finally live my introverted dream of not having pressure to socialize in my living space. The possibilities flashed before me as I packed up my belongings: no more forced chit-chat in the kitchen; no more awkward bumping into roommates on the way back from the shower; no more socializing after a long day at work. It sounded like bliss.
I made the 170-mile move to my new apartment. And for a time, I loved it. I had nonstop alone time, the silence was refreshing, and I didn’t have to put on my socializing mask in my own home. I felt free.
From Embracing the Silence to Not Knowing What to Do With It
Then something began to shift. I started noticing how quiet it was at night: the echoes in the hall; no bumping into anyone on the way back from the shower; and the absence of chatter at the dinner table. The reality of living alone started to sink in, and when I began to think that living alone might not have been the best idea after all, COVID-19 hit.
I went from being alone at home, but being able to meet people outside, to being isolated all the time. For months. I’d just lost my job, so there were no mandatory work Zoom calls, and I’d left most of my friends behind. I was unprepared and overwhelmed.
I tried everything I could think of to not have a quiet home all the time, like Zoom calls with friends and having the radio on during the day. My introverted side hated that I was trying to constantly socialize, which I’d never liked before, and I grew bored with the sheer amount of ads and the same songs playing over and over again on the radio.
I didn’t have a Plan B, so something had to change, and fast. I tried many things to fill the quiet void, and these are the things that worked for me living alone as an introvert.
8 Ways to Fill the Silence Living Alone as an Introvert
1. Watch ASMR videos.
When I first moved into my apartment, I found it difficult to fall asleep. Everything was so quiet, and my mind started thinking about the little noises I could hear. Was that a creak on the stairs? It was probably my neighbor downstairs, but that didn’t stop my mind from racing.
So I started watching ASMR — Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response — videos on my phone in the evening: these whispering, relaxing videos that feel like an intentionally quiet person is tiptoeing around your house, but also giving you a haircut. If I’m ever in the mood for something more personal, a whispered ASMR reiki or healing session does the trick too, and has me snoring like a baby.
2. Play audiobooks.
Like most introverts, I am an avid reader. I read everything and anything I can get my hands on. At home, to mitigate the quiet, I tried to listen to music while reading, but I became so preoccupied with the right playlist that I barely read anything at all. And then, out of the blue, I properly discovered audiobooks. I had downloaded my local library’s borrowing app, Libby, with the intention of picking up a new book, and lo and behold, the app had a ton of audiobooks. I chose a recent Booker Prize winner (Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo) to listen to while having dinner that evening, and didn’t stop there.
I began listening to audiobooks in all the quiet moments where my hands were busy, like when I was washing the dishes, trying to find the final sock to pair from the laundry, and while brushing my teeth. The audiobooks that worked best were those that were more conversational or on a nonfiction topic, so I could dip in and out for 20 minutes at a time. All of a sudden, I had something to look forward to in those quiet moments, and it was an actual lifesaver for my sanity.
3. Listen to podcasts.
As much as I love audiobooks, I can’t listen to them nonstop. Once I realized I needed some variety, I began to listen to podcasts and rotated them with audiobooks, depending on the time of day and mood I was in.
I found so many topics to choose from, and picked topics that fascinated me, like writing and authors talking about their books. Listening to them first thing in the morning as I ate breakfast fuelled me mentally for the day ahead. During my work breaks, they helped me stay focused while still taking time away from my computer.
4. Use workout apps.
Sitting down at a desk all day had my body aching, but the thought of an online workout class filled me with absolute dread. Having to make an effort to look presentable, and then getting all sweaty in front of a virtual room of people? No, thanks.
But then I found the perfect solution by downloading an app on my phone, Down Dog, that allowed me to customize workouts and yoga classes to my needs. Having an instructor give guided instructions and video demonstrations enabled me to work out in my sweatpants without having to work out in silence. It helped keep my social batteries full while still experiencing the adrenaline rush of a workout or some much-needed restorative yoga.
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5. Say goodbye to the radio.
When I grew bored with the same songs on the radio, I set up a playlist of a few songs on YouTube Music and listened to those instead. Then a curious thing happened — the playlist continued after the songs I had chosen. I knew YouTube had an autoplay function, but as it’s a video sharing platform, it plays music and other videos.
As YouTube Music only plays music, the autoplay function selects songs based on what you’ve just listened to, which effectively means a personalized playlist. I found I could simply pick a song I was in the mood for and let the app choose the rest. I’ve now got chilled, upbeat, and everything-in-between playlists, without repeated songs or radio chatter, at the touch of a button.
6. Say hello to gaming.
Some of my favorite video games have a role-playing format, which means they are lengthy with considerable grinding required (I’m looking at you, Dragon Quest). If I was working on something, like writing a to-do list or planning my week ahead, I would pop on a game in the background, set the characters’ AI on, and do some grinding while doing my usually-quiet task.
I found this worked better than audiobooks and podcasts when doing tasks like this, as it meant my mind could focus, but I still had something happening in the background. I also managed to level up considerably in that time, which was a bonus, and I could look forward to playing the game when I was off the clock.
7. Try guided meditations.
My mind tends to wander, but even more so when I’m alone. In an attempt to fill the silence, my mind gets busier, which, as someone already dealing with anxiety, is a recipe for disaster. I found that five minutes of guided meditation a day using an app on my phone, like Down Dog’s calming meditation app, was just the ticket.
It both helped me still my busy mind, and have a warm, comforting voice sitting with me, telling me to breathe and providing me with beneficial affirmations, like “I am strong and I believe in myself” or “My mistakes make me who I am today.” I don’t meditate daily, but having an option that doesn’t involve sitting with strangers in the park is ideal.
8. Listen to coffee shop sounds.
When I realized I missed the buzz and atmosphere of occasionally being in a coffee shop, I found excellent videos on YouTube to simulate the environment. It’s different from the radio because the sounds are intended to be background noise, and the babble effect isn’t distracting in the way that some music can be: There’s a gentle clanging of a bell, coffee cups clinking, and murmured chatter in the background. I found it perfect when I wanted to focus on a particular activity, and mentally it was like I had gone out somewhere for an hour.
Living Alone: From Surviving to Thriving
I have now lived alone for over a year and a half, and have learned so much about myself. I’ve not only survived, I’ve thrived, and it’s given me the confidence to finally look at buying my first-ever apartment, because I’m not afraid of living alone anymore. I have found ways to fill the silence, which works for me as an introvert, without feeling the pressure to socialize.
Even as lockdowns begin to ease, I know that I don’t have to open up my home for social gatherings, unless I want to. I am excited to see my friends again, but having my own space to recharge my batteries? Now that is bliss.
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