If I spend too much time with people, I feel like I’m going to explode. I’ll start to feel extremely irritable, anxious, and accidentally snap with an attitude. While our situation is somewhat different now, that’s still how I know I need alone time, and I need it stat!
I still love having my alone time, and as an introvert, I crave it. However, not everybody feels the same way. I know plenty of people who simply cannot be alone or do anything alone, and I’m sure you do, too. In fact, a series of studies found that some people would actually rather electrically shock themselves than sit by themselves alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Seriously.
Regardless of whether you love alone time or hate it, there’s no denying that there are many benefits to spending time by yourself.
6 Ways Alone Time is Beneficial
Over the years, researchers have conducted a slew of studies to determine the effects of time alone, and the verdict is in: having alone time is good for you. Below are some of the specific benefits and how you can embrace them.
It relieves stress
A 2017 study that was part of the “Solitude Project” found that those who actively choose to have alone time experience stress relief and relaxation when they spend their time alone. When we’re alone, the pressures of pleasing others and social interaction are off, which can be big stressors for some people. Plus, many people choose to use their alone time to engage in relaxing activities like meditation, crafting, or yoga.
It gives us time to reflect
Alone time is a time to reflect. Often we get so caught up in daily life that we don’t even have a moment to process what’s going on in our lives currently, or what just happened in thepast. Alone time is the perfect opportunity for you to catch up with yourself and what you’re feeling. Journaling can help with this process, and is a great activity for when you’re embracing some time alone.
You can count your blessings
On top of reflecting on whatever may be going on in your life, you can also use alone time for practicing gratitude. It’s easy to get hung up on the negatives — trust me, I know! But spending some time alone and thinking about all the good things in your life can be a great mood booster. One study showed practicing gratitude leads to a more positive outlook on life and a greater sense of wellbeing.
You’ll be more productive
Sure, while we all miss chatting and joking around with colleagues, if you’re really looking to buckle down and get work done — whether it’s related to your day job or otherwise — studies show that we are more productive when we’re alone. Set a timer and dedicate some of your alone time to whatever important project you need to work on, and after that use the rest of the time to do something more enjoyable.
You can increase your mental strength
“Being alone can help you build mental strength,” says Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CFTP, and Talkspace Senior Therapist. This is especially true after mastering the art of alone time over the long haul. And it’s very important for our current struggles with COVID-19. Being able to sit with your thoughts, fears, anxiety, hopes, dreams, and all the other emotions that may arise will make you mentally stronger and more prepared to deal with whatever life hands you.
You get to do what you want
My personal favorite benefit of alone time is that it’s a time when I don’t have to compromise and can do the things that I love! There’s no meeting someone halfway and no having to put up with activities you aren’t interested in. With the pressures and responsibilities of everyday life, how often do you get to be in a situation where it’s really all about you? Embrace this opportunity to do what makes you the happiest. Maybe it’s a new hobby, reading, or working on a home project you’ve been wanting to accomplish.
Balancing Alone Time and Social Time
Depending on a person’s individual needs and lifestyle, their balance between alone time and social time will look different. For example, introverts tend to need more alone time than extroverts do. Catchings says there’s no “right” amount of solo time we should aim to have. “There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for the amount of alone time we need,” she states.
It might take some trial and error to figure out the right balance for you — and it might not always be the same. During certain times, now for instance, you might actually require more social time than usual, or vice versa. Life is always in flux.
Finding balance might also mean learning how to make time for yourself in the first place. Get comfortable telling partners, your roommates, or family members that you need some time to yourself. Alternatively, it could mean reaching out and asking for company — whether virtually or with someone you’re quarantined with — when you’re spending too much time alone and feeling more lonely than empowered.
What To Do If You Feel Uncomfortable Being Alone
While some people absolutely love alone time, others feel really uncomfortable spending time alone. If you’d rather do anything other than spend time by yourself, dig deep and ask yourself why you feel that way. Is it because you’re afraid to be alone with your own thoughts? Have you experienced trauma that makes it difficult for you to be by yourself? Are you scared of feeling lonely? Or maybe, are you simply just used to constantly being around people, and unsure of how to spend time alone now that many of us are practicing social distancing?
As with anything else, practice helps. “The best way to get more comfortable with something is to practice it,” says Catchings. “If we appreciate and use the time wisely, being alone can become an activity that we can learn to enjoy and use to grow as individuals.”
Remember that being alone doesn’t have to mean you’re not doing anything. It can be quite the opposite. While you certainly can use your alone time as an opportunity to just be, you can also use your alone time to do things that you love, work on your well-being, or learn something new. Catchings says, “Feeling comfortable being alone is a skill that benefits us in many ways; we have more time to do things for us, we can practice self-care, we can learn a new language, we can rest, or we can practice mindfulness.” Think of all the possibilities!
If you believe your discomfort in being alone is due to mental health conditions, trauma, or the coronavirus pandemic don’t hesitate to bring it up to your in-person or online therapist so you can work on it together — because everybody should be able to reap the benefits of alone time.