In today’s incredibly interconnected world, being alone may seem like an idea that not many will actively seek out.
At the click of a button or tap of a screen, we can see what our latest friends are up to, where they are at, or who they are hanging out with.
We can send a text, make a phone call, or video chat just as quickly, so the idea that we are never really “alone” has become the new norm.
However, being alone is essential to growth and it’s important to understand why alone time is so important. Time alone allows us to destress, unwind, and tap into our creativity and productivity that might have otherwise been suppressed because of more pressing matters of our day.
Alone time allows you to be alone with your own thoughts and to think through situations and aspects of your daily life that may be affecting your mental health. This time can be incredibly beneficial when trying to change life habits or locate the cause of stress, sadness, or general unhappiness.
It may be hard for you to spend time alone because of how it comes across to others.
When we say we want to be alone, it usually makes others feel as though it has something to do with them, that we feel uncomfortable in their presence, that the conversation has gone badly, or that we don’t enjoy their company.
However, often the case is that we just need some more alone time to recenter ourselves and soak in the many benefits that being alone can give us, which we’ll discuss later.
First, there is the matter of differentiating between loneliness and alone time.
What’s the difference between loneliness and time alone?
Loneliness and being alone are not the same concept.
Being lonely is a feeling of sadness from not having companionship or people around them.
Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, whereas actually being alone is about making a choice to purposefully be by yourself.
One does not necessarily cause the other, as in, being alone does not cause loneliness, and loneliness does not stem from being alone. Each has their own separate factors that contribute to one or the other and should not be easily assumed.
So, what are the benefits of spending time alone? Let’s take a look at the advantages in the next section.
Why alone time is so important and the benefits of spending time alone
Now that we know the difference between loneliness and time alone, we can talk about the following benefits of spending time alone:
When we are alone, we tend to get the most chores done.
Think about it: if your friends or family members are over your house, even if you aren’t engaged in an activity with them, you are more likely to put off important things that need to be done in solitude.
A research paper that needs to be written, dishes that need to be put away, clothes that need to be folded, these are all seemingly small tasks that we can put off because we are around others. Alone time gives us a better opportunity to get things done.
Being alone allows our brain time to think freely, which in turn, can lead to some of our best discoveries. When you remove yourself from all distractions, you can benefit from clearer thinking that will allow you to be more creative.
For example, if you’re a writer, you may find that being in a crowded cafe full of distractions doesn’t allow you the quiet you need to be productive.
Rather, being alone allows you to focus on the task at hand. You might also find that it helps you navigate problems or obstacles faster when you don’t have as many people around.
Better mental strength and health
Alone time can allow you a few moments of solitude to work through any feelings that you may have lingering underneath the surface.
Often, when we are out with our friends, it’s easy for us to slip into a mode where we put on a good face for others.
It’s a common response to dealing with the blues or just things about our life that annoy us, maybe we had a bad meeting with our boss, or we are dealing with issues at home within our relationship. It’s okay to want to put those things to the side for the time being.
But “putting things aside” continuously is essentially a coping mechanism, a negative one, at that.
Being alone with ourselves can give us some much-needed solo time to sort through the things that are bothering us and really attempt to understand and better our mental health and focus on our wellbeing.
You can unwind and relax
Social gatherings and being around others doesn’t allow a lot of time for our brain to relax. Even if it’s just listening to one of our friends tell us a story, we have to be engaged, or we will come off as rude.
Solitude can help us shut our brains “off” and allow us time to distance ourselves from social interaction and some of the stress it can cause. Even extroverts who love to be around others still need time for themselves!
Your relationships are better
Being alone can help you process emotions better, as well. Being alone allows us to focus on ourselves. We are able to find our personal voice and later project our opinions better when the opportunity arises.
If you are a person that normally goes with the flow within your group, try spending some time with yourself to find out what you truly want. You can gain confidence while also understanding yourself and your goals better.
Ways to spend time with yourself
While working, especially if you pull long hours or overtime at the office, it can be a bit difficult to navigate alone time. Here are some ways to get in a few minutes with yourself if your busy schedule allows it:
Get up earlier
This is useful if you’re unable to carve some time out after work because of other responsibilities. Try getting up earlier. It can be just 10 to 15 minutes to sneak in a bit of solitude. You can use this time to make breakfast or have your morning coffee, as well.
Use your lunchtime
Lunchtime, for many people, is time spent alone at work. Whether you take your lunch to a solo space within the office or you grab something that can be eaten in your car, take this time to decompress and spend a few moments alone with yourself.
If you’re having a stressful day, it can help you recenter and get ready for any other lingering tasks that have to be done before you clock out.
Close the door to your office
Creating a physical separation between you and others is an excellent method to spend time alone. If you need to concentrate on a certain task, try shutting your office door.
This way, others can’t come in without knocking or talk to you through your open doorway, creating a better space for you to spend a few moments in solitude.
Take a small break (5-10 minutes)
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, try stepping back from your desk and the task at hand. Get some fresh air and walk around the building or take a trip to refill your coffee mug.
You can also try some of the tips below for some daily alone time:
Turn off your phone
Set aside your phone and really disconnect from the world when you want some alone time. Our phones are a huge distraction.
Their constant pings with text messages and emails from others are an easy way to bring us out of our alone time to answer “just one” more message before we actually relax. It’s best to turn it off completely, as well as your computer or tablet, and focus on yourself for a little bit.
Have lunch or dinner
If you’re comfortable being out in public by yourself, try treating yourself to a nice lunch or dinner. You can sit in a booth, and people watch so you don’t feel too isolated from others during your alone time.
See a movie
Seeing a movie is another great opportunity for alone time. If you aren’t too keen on being in public by yourself, for example, eating alone at a restaurant, a movie is a nice way to spend a little time concentrating on something else, while also getting some solitude.
Read a book
Reading is a relaxing and de-stressing activity that you can use as another way to “shut off” your brain. Reading fiction books transfers our thoughts into another time and another character’s story. It can also allow us to make connections with ourselves and the book that we are reading.
Of course, you don’t have to just read fiction books to get some of the personal benefits. You can try poetry, nonfiction, self-help books, or magazines.
Have a spa day
Treat yourself to a nice bath and do a skincare routine after a stressful day or week at work. Self-care has been linked to better mental health in research studies.
It can often be done while completing other relaxing activities on this list. For example, you can combine watching a movie on your laptop while painting your nails or reading a book while letting a mud mask dry.
Take a walk
Make time to enjoy a walk in nature. Going alone can give you a chance to connect with your body, as well as go at your own pace so that you don’t slow anyone else down.
We tend to think of exercise as a social aspect of our lives, we feel more motivated when there is someone there with us, but it can also be an activity that we enjoy in solitude.
Although our everyday lives are filled with connections and people, it’s okay to spend a little time alone with ourselves once in a while. Time alone is important for our mental health, to reconnect with ourselves and our feelings and decompress from busy days.
Being alone with your thoughts can also be extremely beneficial to those who usually avoid thinking too deeply or are extroverts at heart and find themselves uncomfortable when they are not surrounded by others.
You can get solitude from many different activities, such as reading, taking a walk, or going to see a movie alone. Try whatever gives you the best sense of peace without making you feel lonely or isolated.