These Are The Long-Term Benefits Of Spending Time Alone With Yourself
Spending extended time alone—or in solitude—can sound boring, unattractive, negative, or even outright scary to some. The word “solitude” is often equated with “isolation” or “loneliness,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Time alone is not the same as loneliness. Solitude is not only something that can be positive, it’s also necessary for you and the health of your relationships.
So, what is solitude and why do you need it at all? Solitude is intentional time set apart to be alone and enjoy peace and quiet—something that’s getting harder and harder to do in today’s world, but not impossible with a little effort. It’s an essential practice for personal mental health and for the health of your relationships with others.
Yes, your time alone is going to help you do better in community. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Studies have shown that those who intentionally spend time alone do better with others. That intentional part is key. You want to make an effort to be part of a community and to spend needed time alone. So how exactly does solitude help you, and what are some specific ways to find it…
It Helps You Find Your Voice
As we grow and accrue more responsibility, it seems that life only gets busier. How can a luxury like alone time be truly essential? Being “too busy” for moments of silence and solitude is a sure sign that you’re in need of it. You need time alone to distance yourself from the chaos and outside influences to make room for your own thoughts that tend to get drowned out by the noise of daily life. Solitude helps you recover your own voice.
It Helps You Know Yourself
Seeking solitude and spending intentional time alone helps you to get more comfortable in your own skin. It helps you develop more insight into who you are as a person because you have a chance to examine yourself without any external influence. It will take a little time to silence the voices of others, but once you recover your own voice from among the tumult, you gain a better knowledge of yourself.
It Develops Humility
Don’t be discouraged if, in your efforts to seek solitude more regularly, you discover parts of yourself you usually leave covered because, well, you don’t really like what you see. Solitude develops humility, as it allows that honest “look in the mirror.” But this is essential to your own growth as a person, as well as the maturity of your relationships with others. Humbly acknowledging the areas you need to improve in your life is only going to make you a better person.
It Increases Your Empathy
With the humility aspect in mind, it’s not hard to believe that time alone increases your empathy… and empathy, as you can read here in Ways to Show Empathy to Your Partner (link to previous article), is an integral aspect of building and maintaining healthy relationships. A regular practice of solitude helps you develop compassion for others, because you are making more room for understanding yourself and others.
It Builds Mental Strength
Which sounds healthier to you: someone who looks forward to some quiet time alone, or someone who’s preoccupied with filling every moment with movement and noise so as to avoid any silence at all? It’s proved than those who spend deliberate time alone experience less depression. Your ability to spend time alone with your own thoughts is linked to better life satisfaction, improved self-management, and increased happiness. It shows endurance, which produces character.
It Produces Happiness
You read that right: time alone can increase your happiness, and indeed is even necessary for it. This is especially true for those of a more introverted temperament. We all need time for solitude, but for introverts, it is how they recharge. Happiness is a result of how well you relate to and accept the present moment. Solitude helps you to do just that by giving you opportunity to adapt to each moment.
It Reduces Stress
Yes, time alone, even for extroverts, can indeed reduce stress. Even just 15 minutes alone can decrease negative emotions and induce calm. Taking a moment to “turn off” for even such a short span of time can help you be more relaxed and less anxious. When you willingly spend time alone, you reap great benefits.
It Helps You Unwind
Many people think that solitude is equivalent to isolation and find the idea stressful. But in fact, spending some quality time alone can help you to unwind. Rest isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. Giving yourself space and time to relax and unwind apart from others will allow your body and your mind to rejuvenate.
It Reboots the Brain
Being constantly “on” isn’t good for anyone. If you don’t rest, your brain doesn’t have a chance to pause and replenish. Do yourself a favor and make it a habit to take regular mental breaks with no distractions, so that your give your brain a chance to clear, ultimately enabling you to think more clearly.
It Improves Concentration
It makes sense that if you remove distractions, allow yourself to unwind and reboot, you’re ultimately helping to improve your concentration. An intentional, regular practice of solitude, where you are giving yourself room to breathe, is going to enable you to better focus and more effectively assess ideas and problems.
It Enhances Memory
There have been studies on solitude and its enhancing effects on the memory. When you believe that you are the only one doing a task, you will remember things better than when you believe that you are only duplicating the tasks of others. As mentioned before, solitude increases focus, and thereby, it enhances memory as well.
It Makes You Better at Problem-Solving
It can be hard to think up solutions to overcome obstacles when you’re surrounded by distractions. Removing yourself from external influence, even just temporarily, can help you to be more rational and objective. Solitude gives you time to reflect and weigh potential outcomes, which helps you to determine your actions and ultimately make better decisions.
It Creates an Opportunity to Plan
Time alone also gives you an opportunity to plan. While it is said that those who have wisdom will seek counsel from others, it’s often a good idea to go to others with a plan already formed that you can run by them. Seeking spaces of intentional quiet can give you time to formulate well thought out plans without distraction.
It Gives You Clarity
If you’ve ever been in a leadership role, you know how important it is to have clarity… and how hard it can be to find it sometimes. With so much pressure in daily life, and often many voices chiming in, it can be hard to determine the right course of action. Time alone to get quiet can give you clarity, and that clarity can go even deeper than good decision making into a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses.
It Allows Deep Thinking
Contrary to popular belief, busyness and constant motion does not equal productivity. In fact, constant motion is what actually leads to burn out. We all have a to-do list that seems endless and daily responsibilities, but don’t let those things inhibit you from making time for deep thought and mindfulness. Those are the things that will actually make you more creative and more productive.
It Increases Productivity
Think you can’t afford the luxury of alone time because there’s just not enough time to go around for all that? Studies have consistently shown that people perform better when they have some privacy. It’s not hard to imagine that removing interruptions from your day by being alone can help you to do more in less time.
It Sparks Creativity
The artistic community is well known for its emphasis on the importance of solitude. How many writers, artists, and musicians emphatically insist on consistent practice alone? And with reason! This is because time alone creates space for inspiration to spark. It removes the fear of judgment from the equation, allowing you freedom to explore.
It Protects Your Health
It’s already been mentioned that solitude can reduce stress and increase happiness. It’s also conducive to meditation. And meditation is known to be a beneficial form of self-healing, as it boosts your body’s production of serotonin, dopamine, DHEA, and GABA, all of which increases your immunity and capacity for healing.
It Helps You to Reconnect
By spending time in solitude, we get the chance to reconnect with our thoughts, desires, and emotions. The strength of your relationship with yourselves determines in large part your ability to connect with others. You must first be able to fearless connect with yourself and be your own “good company” if you desire to connect with other people in a healthy way.
It Improves Self-Esteem and Confidence
How many times have you heard a child proudly proclaiming that they did something “all by themselves”? The effect of accomplishing something on your own has vast effects on your self-confidence. But time alone of itself can increase your self-esteem as you learn to accept yourself in a deeper and more meaningful way than ever before.
It Helps You to Be More Self-Reliant
Self-reliance isn’t all about doing everything yourself. Nor does it at all imply shouldering hardships all alone. It has much more to do with your ability to think independently, embrace your individuality, and courageously strive toward your personal goals. Spending thoughtful time alone is going to help develop this unique resilience.
It Enhances Relationships
With all of these things in mind: reduced stress, increased happiness, clarity, humility, confidence, empathy, endurance, and much more, it’s no wonder that spending time alone would enhance your relationships with others. How could it not? In fact, spending intentional time away from others in order to reset is foundational to your relationships. So, what are some simple ways to create space for solitude in your daily life?
Tell Other People
The practice of silence and solitude can already be a little frustrating, even awkward, in the very beginning. We are so used to noise and activity that truly slowing down can give you a little mental vertigo. Maximize your efforts by letting others know that you’ll be spending designated time alone. And reinforce to yourself and others that not only is this time away good for you, it’s ultimately good for them, too.
You don’t need to go away on some silent retreat for an entire weekend to reap the multiple benefits of solitude listed above (although, if you’re game, go for it!). The important thing is consistency. Start small and stick with it. As mentioned before, even just 15 minutes of quiet a day has been proven as beneficial.
Set a Time
The best way to ensure a regular time alone is to schedule it. That might feel weird or even silly, but if you want to give it a solid go, you need to make the space for it in your day. That’s the only way to guarantee the chance of forming a new, helpful habit. Soon, it may become second nature to find that time for yourself, but in the beginning, give yourself the boost of scheduling it. And don’t let other things push it out of its spot! It’s important!
If you’re really going to do this, you’ve got to commit. That means no scrolling on your phone or lounging in front of the tube during your 15 minutes of “quiet time.” Just because you’re not speaking doesn’t mean that you’re being quiet. Solitude is more about a quiet of the mind. Turn off your phone, the music, the TV and laptop and start with some deep breaths.
Take as Little as Possible with You
Anything you bring along with you may prove to be a distraction. If you already know that you’re addicted to your phone or laptop (honestly, how many times a day do you check it without even realizing what you’re doing?), then put it on do not disturb or just don’t bring it with you.
Get Up Early
Want a way to instantly implement a habit of daily solitude? Get up earlier… and avoid the temptation of checking your phone first thing. That time is for yourself. You and you alone. Embrace it. It may take some trial and error (and definitely a hefty amount of commitment) to find the right ritual for your mornings, but the rewards of that daily practice will be well worth it.
Use Your Lunchtime
No way that you’re going to be able to get yourself up any earlier? (Or maybe the mornings just aren’t the best for you to implement a practice of quiet and presence?) Try using your lunchtime instead. Get creative. Consider it a date with yourself. You are practicing an important habit of self-intimacy—you’re not afraid to spend 5 minutes alone with yourself. In fact, you enjoy it!
Close Your Door
If you find that it may be easiest to find quiet while you’re at the office on your break, then do yourself the added favor and close your door (if you have the luxury of your own office). You can do this at home, too. Create that private space that allows you the freedom to really relax without fear of interruption.
In order to harvest the benefits of time alone, you’re going to have to purposefully slow yourself down. You might be shocked to find how fast you’ve actually been running once you intentionally pull back the pace. The whole point of time alone is to give yourself a breather. In order to do that, you’ve got to slow down. No checking off to-do items, no multi-tasking. Quiet is not a waste of time, but false quiet will be.
Nature is the natural habitat of silence and solitude. It’s true, there can be a lot of clamor in nature, too. Thunderstorms certainly aren’t quiet. But the kind of sounds you experience in nature are a lot more like music than noise. Nature increases your present awareness rather than distracts from it. When’s the last time you sat on the porch and listened to the rain or found a place to watch a sunset start to finish?
Watch the Clouds
Think about things that you did as a kid, or any time that your felt incredibly present where you were, a sense of really being there. Simple things that may even feel like “doing nothing” can be wonderful ways to slow yourself down and quiet your mind. Try finding a park, lying on your back, and just watching the clouds for a little while.
Many people have an idea that meditation is a concentrated effort to empty one’s mind of any thoughts, that quietness is a fight against any new invading stimulation. But in fact (and this is especially true when you are first starting to practice quiet time alone), you need to give yourself permission to allow your mind to wander. Don’t fight it. Let the thoughts flow until they, eventually, ebb into silence.
Don’t Worry if You Fall Asleep
While your goal is ultimately to achieve a quiet, mindful presence that gives you space and time to breathe, rest, and recharge, don’t be alarmed if in some of your tries you find yourself dozing, or even having fallen asleep. If your body is jumping that quickly at a chance to rest, it’s telling you that you probably need silence more than you even realize
Run, Walk, Bike
Finding it hard to quiet down by sitting still? Physical activity can be solitude’s best friend. Not only does taking a run, going for a meditative walk, or riding your bike lend you an opportunity to get a new perspective (literally and figuratively), but it can help clear the mind as well.
Center During Monotony
Use your time wisely. There are plenty of activities you do as part of your daily life and routine that require little to almost no thought from you. Chores, like washing dishes, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn are a great example. Instead of using those times to listen to a podcast, play music, or some other form of distracting yourself from the monotony, use that time to center and purposefully quiet the mind.
Drive or Park It
Driving is another good opportunity for alone time, especially your daily commute. You’ve done it literally hundreds of times, and while you obviously want to pay attention to the road for your own safety and that of others, you can certainly spare a little brain space to treat it as quality solitude. And if traffic or whatever is simply too stressful, the parked car can still be a wonderful little space to have a few private minutes of quiet each day.
Reading, particularly fiction, is proven to be a great solitude habit. Those who are already readers know what a treat it is to have uninterrupted alone time with a great book. Reading a novel is a wonderful way to allow the mind a temporary escape—and therefore, a quick reset. Try visiting your local bookshop or library and going on a “blind date with a book” as one of your next alone time activities.
Go to a Museum
Much like the library, a museum is a naturally quiet space to begin. It’s a great way to get yourself out of your regular setting and around things of beauty (especially if the weather doesn’t permit a nice walk out of doors). This is your time, so there’s no rush or agenda. You can spend the entire time seated before a single piece that speaks to you or peruse an entire collection and be amazed at how time flies.
Start a Hobby
Still looking for more ideas on how to find time alone for yourself? Or perhaps you’d feel more comfortable with a better “excuse” to friends and co-workers than “me time”? Start a new hobby that will give you space to be alone. Try something like fishing or golfing, painting or pottery, cooking or baking… There are so many things you can enjoy on your own.
It may seem difficult to spend time alone in the beginning. Don’t give up! Embrace this journey and allow it to show you that your worth and value go far beyond your job, family, and social life. Happiness begins and ends with the contentment you can find on your own. It’s not that the other things don’t have value. But your capacity to know yourself, show yourself grace, and enjoy your own company will help you succeed in all other areas.
Most importantly, you want to build boundaries for your time alone. It’s been said again and again, but your time alone isn’t just good for you, it’s good for others in your life, too. No one can begrudge you 15 minutes to yourself a day. Make sure you set sturdy boundaries for protecting your time alone. Everyone needs space to enjoy quiet and relax, including you.
There are so many ways that you can create space for enjoying time by yourself. Silence and solitude and essential to living a well balanced and fulfilling existence. Give yourself the time to enjoy them and you will see so many benefits, chief among them being improvement in your relationships with others.