Whether you’re a woman who lives alone by choice or because that’s just the way things turned out for you, it can often be a lonely and even overwhelming experience. Going to bed alone, waking up alone, cooking alone, cleaning alone, looking after the finances alone, planning for the future alone — these things can indeed get old after awhile but I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that bad.

I say this because I am a woman who’s been living alone for a year (with no signs of things changing in the near future) and while I won’t lie and say that I’m necessarily happy about it, I have managed to come up with a few ways to cope and to make the most of it.

I sure don’t have all the answers, but here are a few tips of what’s worked for me in no particular order and I see no reason why some or most of these could not apply to men as well.

1. Get a dog.. or two.. or maybe a cat: After a bad day, sometimes you just want to come home to someone who will give you a hug and tell you that everything will be okay. When you live alone, this isn’t an option but getting a dog can help. While your dog will not tell you that everything will be okay and can’t really give you a hug either, it’s nice to come home to a creature whose entire world revolves around you.

As soon as I walk in the door, my dogs act like they haven’t seen me in years and even though they’re “just dogs”, it makes me feel loved and needed. I would recommend dogs over cats because in my opinion, most cats just sit there and don’t seem to care whether you exist or not. However, If you live in an apartment, you might not be able to get a dog in which case a cat could be better than nothing.

2. Keep it Clean: While it can be tempting to not do the dishes or scrub the floors because “who’s going to see them anyway?”, it’s not a good idea to let your housework go too long. The reason I say this is because it’s often depressing enough to come home to an empty house (even with dogs or pets), let alone to a messy one. I really have to force myself to keep up with the cleaning but I always feel better when I do. Sometimes it’s just a matter of picking something and doing it – a little dusting here, a little toilet scrubbing there – and before I know it, I’m on a roll and the house is clean. If you have slipped and let things go too long, hire a housekeeper if you can afford it. I’ve done this before and it’s really helped me to get back on track.

3. Find a Hobby: Having too much spare time on your hands is usually a bad thing especially when you live alone. I find that if I sit around for too long without doing anything, that I start ruminating over why I’m alone, what’s caused it, will it always be like this, what’s wrong with me, etc.

While a little soul searching can be a good thing, too much of it can leave you feeling bad. Find something,anything to get you doing rather than just thinking. I must say that I’m having a fair bit of trouble with this myself. I do like writing though which is why I joined hubpages. Photography can be fun too. I also like traveling but it can be expensive…

4. Don’t Isolate Yourself: Just because you live by yourself doesn’t mean that you have to live in your own little world. Make sure that you talk to friends and/or family as often as you can. Go out to dinner with them, go to the movies, invite them over, get yourself invited out of the house, etc. I’ll admit that my natural tendency is to act like a hermit (that could be why I live alone!) but it is not good for you to spend all day, every day outside of work alone.

5. Love Your Job: Whether or not you live by yourself, it’s important to like your job as much as possible because this is where you spend most of your time. I think it’s even more important to like or even love your job when you live by yourself. Let’s face it, when you live alone, unless you somehow manage to lead a very enriching personal life (and good for you if you do!), your job takes on another level of meaning. While a married mom with kids might be working for a living, us ladies who live alone are sometimes living for a working (excuse me if I’ve offended some but it’s the truth!). If you don’t like what you do, consider switching jobs or moving to another location that might have a job that you can be passionate about. The benefit of living alone is that we often have more flexibility than the family type so it can be easier to move around a bit and find work that we really enjoy.

6. Exercise… sorry: I hate to say it and I should really follow my own advice, but regular exercise is really one of the keys to feeling good especially when living alone has you down. I used to engage myself in hardcore exercise most days of the week but I fell off the bandwagon. Now I’m just trying to get my body moving at any level of intensity. I’ve recently discovered Yoga which I really enjoy (okay, so there’s another hobby) and it’s not as “out there” as I was expecting it to be. If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised and the thought of working up a sweat leaves you nauseous, you might want to consider Yoga. At the beginner level, it’s pretty easy and has the added benefit of being meditative. If you don’t like that, walking is always a good choice.

7. Know a few good take out options: Who wants to come home to an empty house and cook by themselves for themselves day after day? Not me! That’s why I know where all the good take out places are in town (trust me, there aren’t many) and I use this to my advantage. The downside is that eating out a lot can be pricey and if you’re not careful, it can be pretty unhealthy, too. The key here, like with anything, is moderation. Don’t become a stranger in your own kitchen – cook for yourself now and then – but let’s be honest here, take out can really be the better option when you live alone.

Well, there you have it. I’m sure there are many more tips for helping women cope with living alone, maybe even happily. I’d love to hear about what has worked for some of you ladies!