Whether you accepted a job in a new city, just graduated from school or are looking to make a life change, you may consider living alone. The thought of living alone may be exciting to some people, but the idea can also be terrifying to others.
Living alone brings many new experiences and challenges, including independence and self-discipline, but can be a very rewarding experience that’s beneficial for your self-development.
If you’re contemplating living alone, we’ve gathered expert tips to not only keep you safe and secure but also mentally well so you can thrive.
Living alone for the first time
From excitement to nervousness, there are a lot of emotions involved when it comes to living alone for the first time. On one hand, you have the freedom and independence to decorate your apartment the way you want, leave your laundry in the dryer for days and even walk around your apartment in your underwear.
On the other hand, living alone means you have less social interaction and accountability, which can be challenging for many people. However, many experts say that living alone is a beneficial experience that should be done at least once in your life.
“Living alone can be a wonderful opportunity to develop coping skills and the strength to handle adversity,” Tamir Aldad, a psychiatrist and CEO of Mindful Urgent Care explains. “Individuals that never live alone, risk becoming dependent on those they live with and may lack the skills to overcome mild to moderate life challenges, that would otherwise be negligible.”
Still, Dr. Julia Ryan, a clinical psychologist, argues that the “one size fits all” approach to living alone really misses the mark. “People differ on the level of social connectedness they need,” she explains. “People should do what feels best and what makes the most sense for their circumstance, and then make the most of it.”
The bottom line: living alone can be the perfect way to get to know yourself and learn to become more independent, but it’s not always for everyone. It’s best to base your decision on your own personal needs and goals.
Pros and cons of living alone
As we’ve briefly discussed before, there are plenty of pros and cons to living alone. If you are contemplating the decision, Kelly Marzoli, a mental health specialist and founder of Mental Health Global Network, lists the advantages and disadvantages of living alone.
Advantages of living alone
Marzoli explains that there are plenty of benefits to living alone, including:
- Personal development
- Self-reflection and improvement
- Fewer distractions
The increased independence and quality personal time you receive from living alone is an empowering and developing experience that most people can benefit from.
Disadvantages of living alone
Marzoli also explains that there are disadvantage to living alone, including:
- Less accountability
- Less social interaction
- Lack of community support
- More indulgence in unhealthy behaviors
Furthermore, there’s also the chance to encounter depression while living alone. “Anxiety and depression thrive off of isolation,” says Marzoli. “If you live alone, it makes sense to feel anxious or lonely from time to time.”
If you are someone who struggles with mental illness or addiction, living alone may not be the best option. However, if you are in a position where you have no other choice, there are plenty of ways to care for your mental wellbeing while living alone.
Tips for living alone from mental health experts
Making sure you are properly taking care of yourself and your personal needs is the key to thriving in a solo living environment. Check out these top tips from mental health experts on how to stay mentally well and incorporate proper self-care while living alone.
1. Stay connected
One of the best ways to tend to your mental well-being while living solo is by staying connected to others. Humans thrive off of connection with others, so making sure you aren’t isolating yourself is a crucial part of staying healthy and balanced.
“Have regular get-together times with others at your place, and theirs,” says clinical psychiatry educator Elizabeth Powers. “This helps you stay connected to others, one of the key ways to help strengthen your inner life.”
Phoning or texting a friend, getting to know your neighbors and engaging in group activities with people who share the same interests as you are other great ways to keep in touch with those around you.
2. Keep your place organized
When you have no one else but yourself to hold you accountable, cleaning can tend to be pushed to the back burner. However, many experts believe that keeping your place clean and tidy is super important while you live alone.
“Keep your place as neat and clean as possible,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Nancy Irwin. “Many folks living alone (tend) to let that go, and this is an unhealthy way to live both physically and psychologically.”
Keeping your place organized and clutter-free has many psychological benefits. For one, it makes you feel like you’ve gained control over your environment while simultaneously boosting your mood and helping you find a sense of calm.
Make it a habit to clean up after yourself and put things away when you aren’t using them. Other great ways to keep your place nice is by letting in natural light, cracking a window for some fresh air and incorporating aromatherapy with candles or relaxing essential oils.
3. Develop a morning routine
Living alone brings you freedom, but be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking you can do whatever you want with an unhealthy structure. “Lack of structure inevitably leads to stress, as time flies by and you wonder what happened to your day. That’s why it’s important to have a morning routine,” explains licensed psychotherapist Michael Ceely.
Have a set time you wake up each morning and practice a ritual that makes you feel productive and ready for the day. Instead of sleeping in and scrolling through your phone for hours, try getting up early, making your bed and exercising or journaling.
4. Adopt healthy habits
When you live alone, it’s easy to stay up all night, binge Netflix and indulge yourself with too many cheese puffs — we won’t judge. Although, it’s important to instill healthy habits so you can avoid the negative effects that can come from doing that too often.
Stay on an adequate sleep schedule and diet to ensure you are keeping yourself healthy and happy. “When you live alone, it can be tempting to order food constantly instead of cooking,” says Dr. Bryan Bruno, the Medical Director for Mid City TMS. “This can have a negative impact on your mental health as well as your wallet. Cooking your own meals gives you an activity to implement into your routine and saves you money.”
Not only that, but exercising regularly, whether it be weight lifting, yoga or even a brisk walk around your neighborhood, are all great ways to boost your endorphins and relieve stress.
5. Get a companion
Everyone needs interaction. Even if you aren’t necessarily a “people person,” it’s great to have something to connect with. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Cali Estes, advises adopting an animal or even getting a plant. “Something that depends on you to live is important to have in the house. You can interact, talk and be alone without being lonely.”
Even if you don’t want the responsibility of a pet for the long-term, fostering an animal is a great option. If you aren’t an animal person or your apartment isn’t pet-friendly, get a houseplant to care for.
6. Be kind to yourself
You’re likely your own harshest critic. Psychotherapist, Michael Ceely, explains, “Everyone has an inner voice that produces a running commentary of our lives. This commentary, also known as self-talk, is typically negative for most people. When living alone, there is no other person to interrupt our self-talk, so it’s easy to get caught up in self criticism.”
It’s important to notice when we start to negative self-talk and replace it with something positive. Try listening to music, a podcast or a happy movie instead.
Mental health specialist, Kelly Marzoli, also suggests distracting yourself with things that make you feel productive. “Practice mindfulness, do breathing techniques, meditate and practice positive affirmations.”
Learning how to properly take care of yourself, both physically and mentally is an essential part of successfully living alone. Use this self-care checklist to help you keep track of your needs and mental well-being.
Is it safe to live alone?
Aside from the fear of being lonely, there is a lot of concern about whether or not living alone is safe. Yes, it is safe to live alone, but it’s always a good idea to take precautionary measures before deciding on a place to live.
Beverly Baker, a self-defense expert and founder of Asphalt Anthropology recommends that you should research the neighborhood you plan to live in by looking at the crime statistics that are available through most city databases and police departments.
“It’s important to look at the big picture and what type of crime,” Baker explains, as some crimes such as domestic violence are generally not to be of much concern. “While those crimes can impact those around them, you should be more concerned about multiple reports of robberies, break-ins, serial predators, etc.”
Questions to ask before moving in
Once you have found some areas that meet your requirements and you go for a visit, make sure to ask the property managers questions about the units as they pertain to your safety. Robert Sollars, an expert in home security, lists important questions to ask before moving into a new apartment including:
- What happens if the outside lights are not operative?
- If the door or window locks break, how quickly can they be repaired?
- Is the landscaping kept to code and “burglar proof”?
- What kind of locks are on the windows and doors?
- Is there a security officer on duty after hours?
If the answers to these questions are passive or don’t offer you a sense of comfort, consider other rental units. Doing your own pre-move-in security inspection is always a good idea, especially if you’re planning to live alone. Use this apartment security checklist so you can feel safe and secure in your new place.
Safety tips for living alone from experts
Feeling safe and secure in your living situation should be of utmost importance, so we’ve asked experts ranging from self-defense to security professionals on the best tips for living alone so you can have peace of mind.
1. Use discretion on social media
In the digital age, many people post about what they are up to each day and announce big life events on their social media platforms. Moving into a new place on your own is exciting, but refrain from posting about it on social media.
Even if you have a private account that only friends and family follow, John Garden, from Real Self Defense Magazine, advises that it’s always a good idea to avoid posting anything that communicates:
- You are alone
- You’re leaving the house
- You have valuables
This means you should avoid posting about your solo wine night, 10-day vacation to Florida or your new 5K 80-inch flat-screen TV, no matter how tempting it might be.
2. Lock all doors and windows
Making sure you have sufficient locks on your doors and windows is crucial before moving in, but it’s important to remember to actually use them. It’s easy to forget to lock your window after letting in some fresh air or not to lock your front door after carrying in a load of groceries.
However, you should get in the habit of locking yourself away in the case there might be an intruder. Zurraine Bennet, a personal protection expert, advises that you should always double check to make sure everything is locked, especially before leaving or going to bed, otherwise your property becomes an easy target.
Bennet also recommends having a second lock on your front door. “These locks can be placed on the door once the person is home. The Defender Security U door reinforcement lock is great for home security. They strengthen the door security.”
3. Invest in security camera or doorbell camera
It’s important to ensure your apartment has adequate security, but having your own personal home security is a good idea. “Video doorbells are becoming increasingly popular because they allow people to feel safer at all times of day. However, any type of security camera is a plus. Even a sign stating that there is a security camera can be of benefit,” says Bennet.
Not only that, but a doorbell camera can allow you to monitor who is at your door. Never open the door to people you don’t know and always utilize a peephole or doorbell camera when someone is knocking on your door.
4. Leave a light on
Before you leave your apartment, get in the habit of doing a walk-through to ensure your place is secure. Always double-check to make sure your doors and windows are locked and blinds are closed to avoid anyone spotting an empty home full of valuables.
Other things you can do to help deter any potential intruders is to leave a porch light on, keep a TV or radio playing and have a lamp near an entryway lit up for when you arrive home.
5. Get to know your neighbors
Knowing your neighbors not only makes you feel more connected in the community but also offers a lot of comfort. This way, you have someone within proximity in case of an emergency. Exchange contact information and keep in touch so you can have peace of mind knowing someone has your back.
6. Have easy access to emergency numbers
In an emergency situation, the last thing you want to do is scramble to find the sticky note where you wrote down emergency numbers. Of course, you’ll want to call 911 in a dire situation, but having easy access to emergency contacts, such as on-site security or nearby trusted neighbors, is a good habit.
Store these numbers in your phone by adding them to your contacts or make a list of numbers in your smartphone notes so they are all in one place.
7. Share whereabouts with someone you trust
Being in close contact with someone you trust is important when you live alone. You won’t have roommates or family members to monitor when you’ve arrived home anymore. Therefore, sharing your whereabouts with a friend or family member is a good habit.
The information can be basic, meaning you let them know where you’re going and what time you expect to return home. Think of it as just a quick check-in.
8. Try self-defense training
It’s never a bad idea to invest in self-defense training. Martial arts is a great way to sharpen your reflexes and improve strength which can be very useful in an emergency situation. Self-defense training can teach a person basic skills to protect themselves as well as boost self-confidence.
9. Learn situational awareness
Even if you aren’t confident in your ability to physically defend yourself, having situational awareness is an extremely valuable skill. This includes being aware of your surroundings, especially while walking to your apartment or your car. Look around, take note of any suspicious behaviors and don’t be texting, scrolling through social media or having earphones in as you walk to your destination, especially at night.
10. Have an emergency plan
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but ensuring you have an emergency plan in place in case of a dire situation is always a good idea. In emergencies, you have to act fast, so plan a thorough escape route from your apartment or property.
If escaping isn’t an option, having a place where you can hide and lock yourself away to call for help is a good plan B. You just have to train yourself to recognize items that can be turned into a weapon, including knives, steel pans or even wasp spray.
When you live alone, safety should be a priority. Following these tips will help you keep your apartment safe, secure and make you feel at ease so you can enjoy living alone without any anxiety.
Find an apartment that you feel comfortable in
Living alone offers many advantages and challenges, but overall, it’s a great experience that most people will benefit from. Making sure you’re taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically, as well as practicing safety precautions are key components to thriving while living alone. If you’re searching for the perfect place to call your own, Apartment Guide is dedicated to helping you find the best apartment that you’ll feel happy and secure in.