Give yourself time to adjust to living alone after previously sharing your home with a spouse, kids or loved ones. You may find the perks of staying up late, controlling the remote, and eating all your favorite foods more appealing than you ever thought possible, especially if you haven’t had much me time. Living alone has hidden benefits, including giving yourself permission to do as you please!

There’s a good chance your solitude won’t last forever – so enjoy the peace and quiet while you can. Children that leave home for the first time rely on the unspoken rule that allows them to return to the nest if a lack of suitable employment and/or living arrangements become an issue – Gerontologists call that the failure to launch!!! No one wants to see a child suffer through the hardship of a failed marriage, break-up or job loss, especially since they often run back home, even if only to temporarily repair a broken heart, or regroup their career goals. It’s rare – these days – for a child leaving home for the first time to never look back, much less – never return to the family nest. This trend has picked up steam because of recent economic downturns that sends the boomerang generation back home with increasing regularity. State your intentions about future house rules, especially if you would rather your home didn’t have a revolving door. Clarify changes that you would like to initiate in the event of returning offspring, including cleaning standards, contributions for housing expenses and curfew rules. Weigh the advantages of living alone against the benefits of welcoming a returning relative back to the nest before making a spontaneous decision.

While the nest is empty, re-evaluate the good and bad points of living alone in your present home and weigh-in on all factors, including finances, security concerns, cleaning demands and regular home maintenance, to identify potential bumps in the road. An older, large home that was ideal to raise a family of four may have evolved into a high-maintenance money pit that will deplete your savings and a large amount of your time and energy. Aging bones don’t belong on tall ladders or rooftops, so factor in maintenance and labor costs when deciding whether to stay put in the family nest. Certainly nostalgia will play a part in the decision whether to move on, but I believe it should never be the determining factor.

If you do decide to stay put, evaluate your home’s space and adapt it to suit your favorite activities and hobbies. For instance, turn an empty bedroom into a multi-purpose media room and fitness center and include some of your favorite music and videos to inspire and energize you through daily workouts.

If you’re transitioning to single life for the first time, implement beefed-up security measures, such as a monitored home alarm service that includes a personal monitoring or security device with a panic button to summon instant help in the event of an emergency. Check locks on exterior doors and windows and make use of outdoor lighting to illuminate a dark porch, pathway or driveway. “Don’t speak to strangers” takes on a whole new meaning when living alone. When in doubt, don’t answer the door. If you feel threatened, call a neighbor or the local authorities for immediate assistance. Privacy, safety and security should always be a top priority when you’re living by yourself.

And by the way… being alone doesn’t have to result in your being lonely. Stay in touch with family and friends by arranging regular visits and phone calls. If your kids live fast-paced lives with tight schedules, offer to cook or arrange for a healthy takeout menu to ease their workload during the middle of a busy week. Grandkids and great-grandkids always enjoy a visit to their grandparent’s home, so make sure time is allocated or extend an open invitation for a visit.

To ease solitary life, extend your love and the comforts of your home to a pet companion. Pet bonding offers psychological and health benefits since pets have been known to reduce bouts of depression for those that live alone. In fact, recent research revealed pet owners had lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet-owners, even in instances involving those owners who smoked and/or had high-fat diets. The benefits extend well beyond the time that the pet is in the room with you. Tap into your compassionate nature to experience the joys of sharing your life with your new best friend.

Incidentally, it’s even been proven beneficial if you just hang out with the neighbor’s dog. The study also showed that positive psychological effects occurred after interacting with a dog for just 5 to 24 minutes, which is much faster than the drugs that are often taken to relieve stress. Just as an aside, if you are at all hearing impaired you may find comfort in knowing that another set of ears is always on guard for knocks at the door or unusual noises.

If a four-footed friend is out of the question, consider the benefits of owning a bird or starting an aquarium with a few tropical fish. But before pursuing the joys of pet ownership, designate one or more pet caregivers that you can rely on for those times when you are unable to care for your pet, especially if you travel regularly. I suggest that if you’re prone to isolation, avoid using pet ownership as a crutch to remain in seclusion or unavailable for friends and family get-togethers and out-of-town invitations. Seek out boarding kennels as an alternative to ensure you’re available for any outings, travels and adventures that you would otherwise attend.

Take advantage of your freedom and independence by pursuing activities and special-interest groups that cater to your talents or aspirations, such as a local photography club or a Thai cooking class. An empty nest also provides a good reason to take an extended vacation or visit with out-of-town friends and family. If you live in an extreme climate, such as the Northeast region, become a snowbird, and migrate south during the cold, bleak months to escape the winter blues; or head north to escape a sweltering summer with a travel buddy, instead of sitting it out alone inside.

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DR. ALEXIS

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