People are typically social creatures, and research indicates that social connections are essential for physical and emotional well-being. Still, alone time, sometimes called solitary or private time and means spending time with yourself, is also necessary as it plays a positive role in your mental health.
Being around other people can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful. You may worry about people’s thoughts or change your behavior to avoid rejection to fit in with the group. While this might be the cost of being part of a social group, some challenges show why alone time can be so vital.
Benefits to alone time.
Having time for yourself allows you to break away from social pressure and tap into your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Finding time to be alone can also have numerous key benefits. One benefit is improved personal exploration. Becoming comfortable with your own company can give you the freedom and time to explore your passions without interference. It can be a way to research topics that interest you, acquire knowledge and even practice new forms of self-expression.
Giving yourself time alone means you can explore these topics without the judgments or pressures others may impose. Having alone time is essential for growth and personal development. Instead of worrying about the interests, needs, and opinions of others, alone time allows you to focus on yourself.
Another benefit of alone time is increased creativity. Alone is an opportunity to strengthen your imagination and let your mind wander. Without interacting with or caring for other people, you can focus inward and ignore outside influences. Research suggests that being alone can lead to brain changes that help fuel the creative process. One study found that people who purposely withdraw to spend time alone also tend to be creative. When left without social stimulation, the brain increases creative networks to fill the void. One last benefit to alone time is more social energy. However, researchers have discovered that people living alone may have more social energy and richer social lives than those who live with others.
Having alone time isn’t easy.
Alone time can be difficult for some people for various reasons. One study discovered that many people would prefer to give themselves electric shocks instead of sitting alone with their thoughts. Some of these reasons people might strain with being alone include a lack of experience being alone. Some people might not be accustomed to being alone because they’re used to being around others. The absence of social stimulation can leave people feeling disconnected or detached.
Another reason people may struggle with being alone is distressing feelings and thoughts. Focusing inward or being alone can be painful or challenging. People may find this introspection uncomfortable or engage in worry and rumination. One last reason people struggle with being alone is social stigma. Stigmas about being alone can also shape how people feel about solitude. For those exposed to negative attitudes towards being by themselves or seeing it as antisocial behavior or social rejection, isolation can seem like punishment.
Loneliness versus aloneness.
Before the pandemic, experts warned of a loneliness outbreak that threatened the wellness of people of all ages. Research indicates that people experience more loneliness now than in the past. One 2018 report found that half of Americans sometimes feel lonely, while 25 percent report constant loneliness. There’s abundant evidence that loneliness can have destructive health consequences. It’s been linked to hastened cognitive decline, elevated blood pressure, an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and social anxiety.
However, it’s also important to remember that being alone doesn’t equate to loneliness. Loneliness is marked by negative feelings linked with isolation, alone time involves finding inspiration, freedom and rejuvenation in solitude. Most recently, researchers have started exploring the idea that a specific amount of quality time with yourself can be as essential for physical and emotional wellness.
Signs you need alone time.
It’s not always easy to see the signs that you might need time away from others. Some signs to watch include getting easily threatened by minor things, feeling short-tempered, losing interest in doing things with others, having trouble concentrating, and getting anxious about spending time with others.
The good news is that even if you’re struggling with these signs, a little alone time can have a significant therapeutic effect. One study found that people who reported spending 11 percent of their time alone experienced fewer negative emotions in subsequent demanding social experiences.
Ways to get alone time.
If you’re thinking of spending some time with yourself, it’s essential to do so in ways that benefit your mental well-being. Being alone is beneficial when it’s voluntary. It’s also crucial to feel like you can return to your social world when ready. Figure out when you want to spend time alone, plan it into your schedule, and ensure that other people know they shouldn’t interrupt you during your alone time.
It would be best to work on eliminating distractions, particularly ones that invite social comparisons. Your focus should be on your interests and thoughts, not what others do. Everyone isn’t comfortable spending time alone, so planning what you want to do might be helpful. This may involve exploring a favorite hobby, relaxation time, or reading a book. Research has found that being outside can have beneficial impacts on your well-being. If you’re feeling stifled or cooped up by too much social interaction, a change of scenery can have therapeutic effects.
Being alone can sometimes get mistaken for being lonely, but it’s clear that having time alone now and then is essential for mental well-being and health. If spending time by yourself makes you feel uncomfortable or bored, try starting with spending small chunks of time alone that allow you to focus on a specific task. As you get better at enjoying your company, you might realize that this alone time helps you feel inspired and renewed when you go back to your social circle.