“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” – Ellen Burstyn
So many people equate being alone with loneliness, but those two words are actually not synonymous. Loneliness is a painful feeling people get from being alone because they haven’t learned how to enjoy their own company; being alone, however, is simply a state of being, neither good nor bad. When we have the experience of being alone, we can either take that time to relax and enjoy the solitude, or we can allow anxiety and discomfort to overtake us.
Many people fear the idea of sitting with their own thoughts without the numerous distractions available to them. They’d rather text someone, scroll through Facebook, or do something else to keep their mind busy than actually be alone with themselves.
Some people love spending time alone, while others dread it – it really depends on the individual; however, we ALL require some amount of solitude in order to maintain our sanity. Even the most extroverted people need a little time with their own thoughts to process their day or just life in general. No matter how you might feel about having “me” time, science proves that it does your mind and soul a lot of good.
Here’s why spending time alone is good for your well-being:
1. It gives you a chance to recharge
This world creates a lot of stress and anxiety on a daily basis, and we’d all go crazy if we didn’t retreat to a quiet, relaxing place every once in a while. Our brains have to process so much information throughout the day, and all the social interactions can easily drain us (especially introverts!).
“Constantly being ‘on’ doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself,” Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. wrote in an article on Psychology Today. “Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.”
However, it does matter what you choose to do with your alone time. Being on your phone or watching TV all night doesn’t allow your mind to rest the same way that doing creative, restorative things does. You want to try to minimize the amount of distractions so that you can truly get a relaxing, enjoyable experience from yourself rather than attempting to mask the reality of being alone with something that just keeps you busy.
For example, writing, drawing, coloring, or doing yoga will get your mind into a “flow” state, while being on technology generally will just bring more stress, make you lonelier, and overload your mind with information.
2. It helps you form a better connection to yourself
Most people don’t have much time to process their own thoughts because of our “always on” society. We have to answer to so many people throughout the day and deal with various responsibilities, and when it comes time to go home for the day, we really don’t have much time left for ourselves. This is why carving out some alone time in your schedule is vitally important, because otherwise, you run the risk of becoming disconnected from yourself, which can lead to mental health problems.
When you take time to reconnect to the “real you,” it can help you to uncover any masked feelings and get to the root of any issues. It can also help you to form a practice of self-love and self-care, which helps you stay grounded and promotes a positive mindset. Plus, a lot of times, we sacrifice what we really want to do in favor of what others want to do.
However, spending time alone ensures that you’ll get to utilize that time in a way that truly makes you happy, which will only deepen your connection to yourself!
3. Alone time gives you a chance to reflect
So often, we go through our days on autopilot, just trying to make it to the finish line. However, being so busy can make us lose sight of what we’re even running after in the first place. This is where solitude comes into play. Choosing to be alone for a while gives you a chance for some much-needed introspection, where you can think about where you’re at in life and how much that differs from where you want to be. This opportunity may give you some insight into changes you’d like to make in your life, or maybe, you’ll find that you’re perfectly happy with how things are going. Either way, without any alone time, you can’t effectively “check in” with yourself and have that important conversation.
Sadly, much of the world is suffering from a loneliness epidemic, which scientists think stems from our modern way of life. Technology connects us in some ways, but it also has largely replaced face-to-face interactions, which we absolutely need for our well-being. We feel more disconnected from ourselves and others, and yet fear connection at the same time. One study even found that some people would rather administer electric shocks to themselves than be alone doing nothing for just 6-15 minutes! This shows just how uncomfortable we’ve become with our own selves, and also proves that we need to reconnect to ourselves now more than ever before.