Most people cringe at the idea of eating alone at a restaurant. I admit I was one of those people. After all, who wants to be their own date? What I soon discovered, albeit by accident, was that dining alone can be a very rewarding experience.

One evening I was to meet a friend at an upscale dining establishment. I arrived at the restaurant a few moments before our reservation and after waiting fifteen minutes, I checked my phone in case there was a message.   Lo and behold, I soon realized I would be having dinner alone. By this time, I had already ordered my wine and thought perhaps I should ask for the check. But then I hesitated and decided to make the most of my evening. I informed the server that I would be dining alone so he cleared the other place setting and that was the start of a beautiful evening which changed my mindset forever.

Eating Solo is Empowering

The idea of walking into a restaurant and asking for “a table for one” is never something I would have done before this experience. But as I soon discovered, dining solo can be immensely empowering. It may seem overwhelmingly frightening the first time, but trust me, others are not focused on you dining alone. Think of it this way. When we’re at the gym, we often tend to think we are being looked at but there is nothing further from the truth. We are all there to work out and focus on ourselves. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”  Whether you’re a traveler or simply wanting to get away from ordering in and eating in the front of the TV, eating alone is absolutely empowering and once you get over that first time, it’s actually easy and enjoyable, and something you will begin to look forward to. Some days when I come home from work, I’m utterly exhausted and sitting solo with the television blaring is no way to unwind from a hectic day. I’m lucky enough to be in an urban area with restaurants that are walking distance so I’ll often venture out and pick one that strikes my fancy. If it’s your first time, pick something small like a family-owned diner, for example, or a time of day that’s not too busy. Eating alone after work means I don’t have to socialize if don’t want to and this time becomes my time only, something that seems to be a rarity these days. I can be present with my thoughts, think about the day, future plans, my goals, or nothing at all if I so choose. It’s my time and a way to get in touch with myself. It’s a truly empowering experience and one that builds confidence.

Dining Alone Enhances the Food Experience

When we eat with others, we often pay very little attention to what we actually eat. If you’re alone, you will notice food more. In other words, the textures and tastes are enhanced because our senses hone in on the food we are consuming and not on the person we are having a meal with. We use our senses to a greater degree to truly experience the nourishment and ingredients before us. When dining alone, we eliminate the distraction of listening and answering the entire time we are eating. We tear apart crusty bread and smother it in extra virgin olive oil, noticing the yellowish hue as we take that first bite. We savor the texture of garlic-laden shrimp scampi while biting it off the tail. We savor the freshly squeezed lemon juice on the oysters, tasting the ocean as we slurp it out of it’s shell. We hear the crunch of the brussels sprouts drizzled in balsamic vinegar. Dining alone enhances our food experience and in turn encourages us to try new combinations of food. You might even order dishes you never thought of trying when someone was with you.

Dining Solo Rids Us of Pressures

We all enjoy spending time with friends, our partners, and our families, but sometimes not doing so can allow us to experience a great sense of freedom. You don’t have to make compromises or accommodations when you dine alone, enabling us to let go of the stress that sometimes comes with that. You can eat wherever and whenever you want, and order whatever your heart desires. You don’t need to feel rushed if you think the other person is bored or tired. By eating solo, you can simply be a witness to your surroundings, observe the rhythm of the restaurant, and completely let go of any pressures to entertain a date, coworker, or friend. Besides all of that, you feel immensely liberated, ignite self-confidence, and acquire a boosted sense of self at the same time, which can positively impact other areas of your life.

Eating Alone Enables Us to Better Understand Humanity

Eating alone enables us to strike up conversations with strangers if we so choose. It might be people sitting at the table next to you, the server, or even the restaurant owner. I recently had an encounter with the owner of a barbeque smokehouse, a small place in Canmore, Alberta, who shared his passion for cycling across country. While doing so, he also visited numerous barbeque restaurants to learn about smoking  and cooking various types of meat, another passion of his. He spoke of his experiences and how that all led to the opening of his own restaurant. He shared photos of his trips and even gave me some cooking tips! I got to meet his family and in the process learned so much. If we think about it, food and drink have their own deeper story connected to people, to culture, to lands they inhabit and those we may never see. Stories emerge within these places whether it’s a roadside smokehouse, diner, café or trattoria. Experiencing these stories and being exposed to new people and experiences can open up our minds while simultaneously creating a sense of gratitude. I took some beautiful photos that day of the place, the food, and the people behind it, and realized that when I went with the flow, I surprised myself at the depth of experiences and the beautiful spectrum of people I met.

So as we enter the new year, get out there and experience life. As Mark Groves of @createthelove puts it, “Date yourself. Take yourself out to eat. Don’t share your popcorn at the movies with anyone. Stroll around a museum alone. Fall in love with canvases. Fall in love with yourself.”