Solitude: How You Can Benefit from Alone Time
Learning to enjoy your own company can be a process.
On average, we spend most of our time interacting with others. Whether it’s in a professional capacity at work, at home with our family members or roommates and even while running errands like picking up groceries, interacting with others is a large part of where our time is spent.
While there are plenty of benefits to being social and maintaining relationships, it’s important to note that spending time alone is essential to our mental health and well-being as well.
Spending time alone offers a much-needed break from constant social interactions, allows us time to decompress and explore our own thoughts and feelings about our experiences.
This article will explore the importance of being alone, the benefits of alone time and how to ensure you use your alone time to your personal advantage.
Why Is Alone Time Important?
There are a few reasons why spending time alone is so important. Here are a few core reasons why alone time plays an integral role in our lives.
Alone time offers time for creativity
Depending on the type of work you do, engaging in a group brainstorm may be something you’re accustomed to doing. While building off the ideas of others and collaboration certainly has its place and benefits of its own, exploring your own personal creativity through your own unfiltered outlet is important to do as well.
Being creative on your own allows you to tap into your own personal tastes and interests and gives your mind a break from the constant input and assessment of others. In fact, one study found that highly creative people tend to purposely disengage from social activity for certain periods of time in order to do this.
Alone time improves personal development
Constantly being surrounded with the presence of others means you’re always engaged with other people’s thoughts, opinions and perceptions. For example, think about the way you determine the activities you engage in when you’re with someone else or in a group of friends. You’re likely to do what the majority wants to do rather than what you truly want – especially if no one else is interested in the activity or hobby you’d like to try.
Spending time alone allows you to tap into the things that interest you, which expands your personal growth and development.
Alone time increases your social energy
Have you ever had a week that’s been particularly packed with social plans? Maybe it was a full week of work followed by after work happy hours, children’s activities and family engagements.
If that week left you feeling exhausted, you’re not alone. Engaging in social activities has its benefits – but spending all of your time conversing and interacting with others will likely leave you feeling exhausted and depleted of energy if you don’t have or make any time to recharge.
Spending time alone allows you to give your mind a break from constant conversation and interactions with others. For example, allowing yourself a few hours of alone time before the start of a busy week can leave you feeling recharged and ready to engage and speak with others – rather than exhausted by the idea.
Why Does It Feel Hard to Spend Time Alone?
If spending time alone is good for us, why does it sometimes feel hard to do? Here are a few reasons why it may initially feel hard to spend time alone.
You haven’t had much experience with spending time alone. Anything you begin to do for the first time can feel challenging – and spending time alone is no exception. If you’re constantly used to being in the presence of others, suddenly spending a large amount of time by yourself can bring negative feelings to light. Being cut off from the constant stimulation of others can feel upsetting. In this case, it may be best to start with short amounts of time and gradually ease your way into spending more time solo.
You feel that being alone is a bad thing. We’ve been conditioned to believe that being alone is a bad thing. Sitting alone in a park, eating out at a restaurant solo or even seeing a movie by yourself tends to get looked down on in society. If this is the case, spending time in a non-public venue may be the best starting point before venturing out.
You have distressing thoughts when you’re alone. If you haven’t spent much time alone and have gone through something hard or distressing recently, being alone can eliminate distractions and cause these unprocessed thoughts and feelings to present themselves. Though it may be uncomfortable, it’s important to sit with these thoughts and process them instead of continuing to distract yourself with constant social interaction.
How to Spend Time Alone
Spending time alone can be easier said than done – especially if your work life and living situation leave little room for doing so. Here are a few tips to help you get started and benefit from alone time.
Take a walk. Taking a walk forces us to be present in the moment. It gets us out of the house and away from others and eliminates distractions (especially if you opt to leave your phone at home). Taking a walk is also an activity that’s socially acceptable to do solo, so it can be a great starting place for those who feel uncomfortable with the social stigma of being alone.
Set time aside. Find time within your schedule that you can block out to be alone each day. This can be as minimal as blocking off a lunch hour on your calendar where others know not to disrupt you or taking the long way home from work to have an hour to yourself before returning home to roommates and family.
Stay away from your screen. Whether in public or private, it’s important that alone time isn’t spent on a screen scrolling through social media.
Make a plan. In order to minimize distractions and benefit from alone time, plan what you’re going to do during the block of time you’ve set aside. This can be reading a new book, taking a walk in a new neighborhood or engaging with a new solo hobby.
Spending time alone is just as important as social activity when it comes to our mental and emotional health and well-being. It’s important to strike the right balance between spending time with others and allowing ourselves to rest, recharge and process our thoughts and feelings on our own.
In order to capitalize on the benefits of alone time, consider starting small – especially if spending time alone initially feels uncomfortable or unappealing. Learning to enjoy your own company can be a process – one that takes time and intention. But doing so not only has personal benefits but helps improve your social interactions and relationships with others as well.