Social connections are vital for our physical and emotional wellbeing as humans are social creatures by nature. Yet, alone time is also crucial to mental health.
There are benefits to spending time with other people, but there are also disadvantages. You are concerned with what people think and for fear of rejection and to fit in with the rest of the group, you tend to alter your behaviour.
Despite some of these challenges being a part of a social world, some of them illustrate why alone time is necessary. By taking time for yourself, you are able to break free of social pressures and express yourself freely.
The Benefits of Alone Time
Finding time to be alone can have a number of key benefits. Some of these include personal exploration, creativity, and social energy.
When you become comfortable in your own company, you have the time and freedom to explore your own passions without distraction. This can be the perfect way to learn new things, experiment with new ideas, research interesting topics, and develop your creative skills.
By giving yourself alone time, you can explore these things without the pressure and judgment of others. It is important to have time for yourself for growth and development. During alone time, you can focus on yourself rather than the thoughts, desires, and opinions of others.
Spending time alone allows your mind to wander and strengthens your creativity. Whenever you don’t have to interact with others or care for them, you can focus on yourself alone.
In a 2020 study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers found that perceived social isolation led to increased activity in the neural circuits related to imagination. When left with a lack of social stimulation, the brain ramps up its creative networks to help fill the void.
Living alone is often viewed negatively. Despite this, researchers have found that people who live alone may actually have richer social lives and more social energy than those who live with others.
The Challenges of Being Alone
The concept of alone time can be challenging for some people for various reasons. According to one study, many people would prefer getting painful electric shocks instead of just sitting alone with their own thoughts. People may struggle with being alone for the following reasons:
Lack of experience being alone
Some people might find it difficult to be alone due to their habit of being with others all the time. They may feel detached or disconnected when suddenly deprived of social stimulation.
Distressing thoughts and feelings
It can be challenging or even painful to be alone and to focus inward in other situations. Some people might find this introspection distressing or engage in ruminating and worrying.
The stigma surrounding loneliness can also have a profound impact on how people perceive solitude. Solitude can seem like a frustrating form of punishment to those who grew up with negative attitudes towards solitude or learnt that being alone was antisocial or a sign of rejection.
Differences Between Aloneness and Loneliness
There is an abundance of evidence showing that loneliness can have devastating health consequences. It has been linked to elevated blood pressure, hastened cognitive decline, social anxiety, and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Loneliness is linked to a wide range of negative health consequences including a higher risk for depression, anxiety, obesity, high blood pressure, and early death.
However, it is important to remember that being alone is not the same as being lonely. A time alone is characterized by the freedom, inspiration, and rebirth that comes from solitude, while loneliness is associated with negative feelings associated with isolation.
More recently, researchers have begun to explore the idea that a certain amount of quality alone time can be just as vital for emotional and physical wellness.
The Signs You Need Alone Time
It’s not always easy to recognize when you need some time away from others. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Feeling short-tempered
- Getting easily irritated by sometimes minor things
- Losing interest in doing things with other people
- Feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated
- Having trouble concentrating
- Getting anxious about spending time with other people
No matter which of the above symptoms you are experiencing, some alone time can have a huge impact on your health. One study found that individuals who reported spending approximately 11% of their time alone felt fewer negative emotions when faced with demanding social situations.
The Best Way to Spend Time Alone
You should spend some time alone in a way that is beneficial to your mental health if you plan to do so. When being alone is voluntary, it is most beneficial. It’s also crucial that you feel like you can get back into your social world whenever you want.
Pick a time
Decide when you’d like to spend some time alone. Plan that time into your schedule and make sure that other people know that they shouldn’t interrupt you during that time.
Turn off social media
Eliminate distractions, especially those that invite social comparisons. Think about what interests you and not how others are doing.
Planning what you want to do ahead of time can be helpful, since not everyone is comfortable spending time alone. It may involve relaxing time, exploring a hobby, or reading a book.
Take a walk
Spending some time outdoors by yourself enjoying a change of scenery can be restorative if you are feeling cooped up from too much social interaction.
Develop the Right Mindset
If the thought of being alone makes you fear that you’ll end up feeling lonely, research suggests it may be helpful to reframe time spent alone as solitude. In nutshell, there’s no correct amount of solo time that works for everyone. Make a list of things you’d like to do by yourself, and practice doing them. Trying to strike a balance between solitude and social time that works for you will help you meet your individual needs. There are some people who need only one-minute breaks from their jobs now and then, while others may need longer stretches of alone time.