Some people hate spending time alone. Others claim they simply don’t have the time. They’ll say things like, “I don’t have time for myself. I have kids, a spouse, work, etc.”
Solitude has been stigmatized for an incredibly long time. You don’t often hear people say, “I’m spending the day with myself today,” or “I’m going to a restaurant by myself.” Being by yourself is considered unusual, and science has even linked it to negative outcomes.
A 2014 research study discovered that people can be so irked by solitude and thinking that they’d rather administer electric shocks to themselves than be left alone with their thoughts. However, in an article written in the Atlantic by writer Brent Crane, he points out that scientists are starting to approach solitude as something that, when pursued by choice, can be proven therapeutic. Sociologist Jack Fong, from California State Polytechnic University who has studied solitude, says:
“When people take these moments to explore their solitude, not only will they be forced to confront who they are, they just might learn a little bit about how to out-maneuver some of the toxicity that surrounds them in a social setting.”
Simply put, once you’re able to remove yourself from the social context of your life, you’ll be able to truly see and understand how you’ve been shaped and molded by that context. Solitude — when self-imposed, intentional, and fully appreciated, can have profound effects on your productivity and creative thinking. That said, here are 3 reasons why you should start getting comfortable spending time alone.
You’ll Get to Know the Real and Authentic You
When you’re by yourself, you can make decisions without any outside influence. Sociologist Jack Fong often likes to take monthly solo camping trips and says that spending time alone is as essential as exercise or healthy eating. It’s even necessary for a healthy mind.
“It really lifts you out of problems. It really, really has a powerful function for making you understand your predicament in this universe.”
Consider how often you make sacrifices when you’re spending time with other people. You might go along with whatever others want despite you wanting something completely different.
I’ve always enjoyed doing things like going to the beach, cafes, and even restaurants alone. My friends thought I was silly and lonely, but I felt that it centered me and truly made me enjoy and value my own company. In turn, skyrocketing my confidence. Emily Roberts, a psychotherapist, wrote a piece for The New York Times, saying:
Choosing to spend time doing things by yourself can have mental, emotional, and social benefits, but the key to reaping those positive rewards comes from choosing to spend time alone. In a culture where we often confuse being alone for loneliness, the ability to appreciate time by ourselves prevents us from processing the experience as a negative thing. In fact, getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.
By spending time alone, you’re then able to make choices on your own, and you’ll develop a much better insight into who you really are as a person and what you truly want for yourself.
You Can Tap into Your Creative Side
Psychologist Rollo May once said,
“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”
Creativity blossoms in solitude. It’s the only time you can truly hear yourself think and focus on your work. Distractions will often alter your thoughts and stop you from thinking outside the box. Spending time alone offers you the time to reflect and tap into your most artistic self.
Physicist, philosopher, author, and wildly regarded as one of the most influential and best-known scientists and intellectuals of all time, Albert Einstein says:
“On the other hand, although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.”
Nikola Tesla, inventor, and one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity, best known for all of his revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism, says:
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion, free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone — that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
Ideas and progress happen in times of individual creativity. When you begin to detach yourself from all the worldly influence, you start creating magic all on your own.
You Can Build Your Mental Strength
Humans are social creatures. Even introverts — however, by spending time alone, you can help build your mental strength. Psychotherapist Amy Morin says that the ability to tolerate alone time is linked to increased happiness, greater life satisfaction, and improved stress management. Overall, people who enjoy alone time experience less depression. Morin also writes in her book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” that they “don’t fear alone time” since it offers restoration and a chance for reflection.
For example, my alone time is typically in the mornings and late-night evenings. I wake up, journal, reflect on the previous day, how I feel at the moment, and I think about what I’d like to accomplish. It’s simply my time to be with myself. In the evenings, I read alone. I process the day, I think about the day or week ahead. It’s my time to decompress.
The New York Times shared an article written by Micaela Marini Higgs in which she shares that despite the social stigma and apprehension about spending time alone, it’s something our bodies will always naturally crave, and you shouldn’t fight it. Instead, learn to get comfortable with yourself, your ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
It’s hard to get comfortable with your own solitude. As an introvert with many extroverted friends, as well as an extroverted partner, I completely understand the struggle of spending time alone when all you want is to be with others. However, it’s beneficial for so many reasons outside of the three main ones mentioned above.
You don’t need to set aside hours to be by yourself; choose an appropriate amount of time that will benefit you and work for you. 20–30 minutes each day could be enough to rejuvenate you and make you feel better.
Whatever activity you decide to do in your alone time, whether that’s meditating, taking a walk, writing, reading, make sure to eliminate all of your distractions and allow yourself to be alone with just your thoughts.
If you’re not comfortable with solitude, the silence and lack of activity will inevitably feel uncomfortable in the beginning. However, setting aside some time to be alone is an essential part of understanding yourself, tapping into your creative side, building your mental strength, and living a rich and full life.