5 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone
If you spend much of your time freely surfing the net, you have probably noticed that it has become all the rage to divide people into two groups: introverts and extroverts.
The main difference between the two is that the former would rather choose to be alone and the latter prefer spending time with other people.
Nevertheless, no person is exclusively an introvert or an extrovert.
Everyone needs to spend some time alone just as they need to be with other people.
No matter which group you mostly belong to, you should make a balance between these two options.
I feel that nowadays much importance is given to the extrovert aspect of personalities that is to spending time with friends.
This is mostly due to the consequences of the rise of technology.
Namely, as technology is advancing, we are getting connected better and better with the rest of the world through the internet.
This has been leading to people, especially teenagers and young adults, reducing face-to-face contact substantially.
Let us take a look at this phenomenon from a couple of scenarios. First, imagine a group of young friends sitting in a coffee shop.
You will probably see a picture where all of them are looking at their smartphones. It seems that each of them is alone with their phone, does it not?
Let us take a look at another scenario – a person is alone at home.
They are probably using their phones or surfing the net on their computers.
So, although they seem to be alone, they are most probably connecting with someone online. They are actually not alone.
I have come to realize that people (and I am sadly and shamefully including myself here) have lost the ability to spend quality time alone.
It seems that we have come to feel rather uncomfortable, or even lonely if we do not have someone to be in contact, any kind of contact, at every moment.
Therefore, this text aims to show you the lost art of spending quality time alone. I have had this skill, but it seems to have mysteriously disappeared.
I can promise you that this text will be my guide as well as yours.
I hope to recover the feeling of enjoyment and fulfillment that comes from interesting, soothing, and exciting activities which are to be done on my own.
It is my hope that you will find (or recover, like me) your own skills and use your alone time to the best of your possibilities.
Read on for the reasons why being alone is essential for becoming a functional and mature person.
TO BE A GOOD FRIEND
“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.” Diane Von Furstenberg
Even if you are an introvert, you need human contact. I myself am an introvert and often crave for meeting people, making small talk with an acquaintance, or confiding in a close friend.
When we speak of extroverts, they are obviously in constant need of others to be around them and to take part in group activities.
After you use a computer for a long time, it will surely heat up.
You will have to turn it off and let it cool down. In the same way, all of us need to cool off after spending some time with other people.
How much time that is depends on one’s preferences. My time is significantly longer than that of my best friend, for instance.
In the continuation, I will present some aspects which, improved by solitude, make you a better friend.
When one is in a group, they automatically switch to the group mindset and adjust to the mindset of the group. They are under the influence of the group, and they adapt to the expected behavior.
Spending time without other people helps you reboot your mind. Being alone helps you retrieve your individuality.
Your thoughts and attitudes are shaped after you calm down from the hassle of the influence of many people.
Those which have changed during your activity slowly find their place and make room to fit in.
Imagine making dough for baking buns. Kneading the dough is equivalent to what happens to your thoughts while you have a company.
The buns are your thoughts.
Before baking them, you have to leave them for a while to breathe and take up the space they need in order to be delicious after being ready.
The same applies to you. Spend some time alone and let your thoughts breathe before you take them out into the world again.
Being a good friend, companion or acquaintance consists of having solid, well-baked opinions. Only then can you joke, discuss serious topics, or give wise advice.
When you have your private time, ditch your phone, tablet, and computer.
Avoid social networks and online chats. Exclude yourself from the society and enjoy your own company.
This is the time to be free. Talk with yourself – aloud! In your language or in a foreign one. Go with the flow!
Laugh at your own jokes. Experience why people like to be around you. You will surely find yourself a very interesting person.
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
Despite sounding strange, you build intimacy while you are alone.
To take a short look at the quote from the beginning of this section, we can say that it is very important to forge a strong relationship with your own self before going out and forging relationships with other people.
Contrary to the popular belief, which is very often my own as well, intimacy with your partner does not entail spending all the time with them.
Being apart will enhance your desire to see each other, to hear about the other one’s day, to communicate and listen to one another.
The same goes for your family and close friends.
You need not be with them all the time. All of you ought to spend some time alone and grow to miss one another.
What comes after that is actually building intimacy with the person in question.
Intimacy comes from within, and before sharing it with another person, you need to find it in yourself. When you are alone, you do not think about yourself exclusively.
Maybe you think about something that happened to you in the past – an event, a sudden meeting, or a conversation.
You may watch an event unfolding in the form of your building and think about the social consequences it entails.
These are just some examples of how our minds grow ready for interaction with others.
“I had already found that it was not good to be alone, and so made companionship with what there was around me, sometimes with the universe and sometimes with my own insignificant self, but my books were always my friends, let fail all else.” – Joshua Slocum
“Apply yourself to solitude. One who is given to solitude knows things as they really are.” – Gautama Buddha
Most religions include seclusion as the means for reaching the highest form of wisdom.
No matter which religion one believes in or whether they believe in any, one may easily conclude that spending some alone time, especially if it is somewhere in nature, brings you some form of spiritual cognition not acquirable anywhere else.
Spirituality has a wide range of meanings, according to a person’s beliefs.
I will use this word to refer to refreshing your mind by absorbing positive energy and letting go of the negative one.
Major religious figures such as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha have spent time in seclusion and are believed to have brought wisdom to their respective followers, who in turn seek their own cognition in the same way.
Taoists believe that spending time in nature heals distortions caused by the pressure of society. Even the wise Master Yoda from the Star Wars franchise lives in a swamp on a distant planet of Dagobah.
Some people engage in meditation, some in prayer, some just let their mind loose and enjoy the view.
Whatever is your way to reach your inner peace is the best choice for you to achieve a higher level of tranquility which will, in turn, relieve your mind from the strains of everyday life.
You will be able to think more clearly and solve problems more efficiently.
Do you not feel refreshed after you come home from the seaside or the mountainside?
Are you not ready then to dive back in your regular social life with some new perspective and a fresh mind?
TO BUILD YOUR PERSONALITY
There are many ways you can work on growing your personality while being alone – and this is one of the great perks of high-quality alone time.
This is not a question of only being alone – it is a question of how that time is spent.
You should find an activity, or rather a set of various activities which are amusing, maybe informative if that is your cup of tea, or creative. Find something that you enjoy and that will help you develop personally.
If you have a creative hobby, make a present for a beloved person.
If you enjoy reading, buy a book and read it. If you like dancing, turn on your favorite song and cut loose, dance and sing – you will find your voice or your special dance moves!
Research has shown that a great number of Americans feel lonely.
But do not let this discourage you. Even if you belong to this group, it may not be that difficult to turn the situation upside down.
Here is one suggestion – find a new hobby. In time, you will connect with people with the same interest.
I, for example, enjoy knitting. This is not a social hobby, it is something that I do when I am alone.
But I do not feel lonely. I go to the store for supplies and talk with the people I meet there. I even got excellent pieces of advice from more experienced knitters whom I met along the way.
I joined some online knitting communities. I do spend much time alone working on my hobby. I develop my motor skills and creativity and make original presents for my family and friends.
I unwind and get to know my mind and thoughts. But I never feel lonely.
Most artists prefer to be alone during the process of creating a work of art. It is often said that they are odd and have unusual personalities.
Professor Csikszentmihalyi gave a solid explanation for this phenomenon in his 1996 book ‘Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention’. He wrote:
“Many of the peculiarities attributed to creative persons are really just ways to protect the focus of concentration so that they may lose themselves in the creative process. Distractions interrupt the flow, and it may take hours to recover the peace of mind one needs to get on with the work. The more ambitious the task, the longer it takes to lose oneself in it, and the easier it is to get distracted.
A scientist working on an arcane problem must detach himself from the “normal” world and roam with his mind in a world of disembodied symbols that now you see, now you don’t. Any intrusion from the solid world of everyday reality can make that world disappear in an instant.
It is for this reason that Freernarl Dyso~~ “hides” in the library when he’s writing and why Marcel Proust used to seclude himself in a windowless room lined with cork when he sat down to write ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’.
Even the slightest noise could break the thread of his teetering imagination. […] When distractions are out of the way and the other conditions for flow are in place, the creative process acquires all the dimensions of flow.”
You do not have to be a true artist to be entitled to this. All the people in the world have within themselves imagination and creativity.
They deserve the chance to express themselves. You may choose to show the whole world what you have created or to save it just for yourself.
The feeling when you create something successfully, even if it is not that beautiful, is irreplaceable. Do not deny this to yourself.
I have made a number of drawings and paintings which are ugly, to speak honestly. I am not very skilled with a drawing pencil or a painting brush.
But I must admit that the process was relieving, freeing. I felt accomplished when I made a full picture. I threw most of them away, but it was worth it.
I was free to express myself on paper and it was worth the time, the paper, and the pencils and colors spent!
When you are alone, you are bound to think about things that happened to you.
You remember how events unfolded, who said what, where you were, what you (and others) were wearing, etc.
You think about what was said to you and what you said, maybe even what you could have said. Your mind is busy replaying the event.
This is a very useful activity that helps you strengthen your memory and reduce memory loss.
But you should be careful here – choose to reminisce more often about the positive events, those that evoke good emotions.
This is not to say that thinking about bad things should be avoided at all costs.
Quite the contrary, it is beneficial sometimes to remember these as well.
You will learn how to deal with the bad feelings on your own. You may come to a sudden realization about what you should do next or how to react if you encounter a similar situation in the future.
Just do not let sad thoughts bum you down.
Be stronger than that, find a way to get out of a bad mood and get back on track to spend a great time alone.
One study at Harvard showed that people commit things to memory more effectively when they believe that they are the only person who is experiencing the given stimuli.
It consisted of pairs of people who had a few minutes to get to know each other and were then instructed to sit back to back.
They were given certain pictures to look at and after several days were asked to remember the pictures.
Some pairs were told that both people were given the same pictures to see and some believed that the pictures were different.
Those people who believed that they were looking at pictures which varied from that of their pair, remembered them better.
- It has already been mentioned that your attitudes gain strength during your alone time. But why does that happen only at that time?
- You strengthen your sense of intimacy while you spend time with yourself. Why is it done like that?
- Why is spirituality achieved through solitude?
- Creativity is something that you can express only when you are alone. Why is that?
- It also seems that we remember things better when we are alone. Why?
The answer to these questions is freedom!
“A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
A survey on the ‘benefits of solitude’ defines two kinds of freedom one gets when one is alone. These are negative freedom and positive freedom. Let us take a look at each.
Negative freedom is freedom from constraints.
When surrounded by people, or even accompanied by just one other person, you will in your actions, without exception, take into consideration that person/people. You will certainly not be as free to express yourself as you would if you were alone.
This is innate to all human beings.
Even when someone tells you that they do not have any restraints around other people, be sure that they do, but are probably not consciously aware of that.
Without this constraint, you certainly feel free to express yourself.
Positive freedom is the freedom to engage in desired activities.
While negative freedom is a question of the options which are available for you to choose from (therefore limiting you to certain actions), positive freedom incorporates the presence of internal and external resources for the activity (education or will and financial or material resources respectively).
Let’s take a college student as an example. He understands that it is very important for him to study and pass his exams with high grades, as it is his ticket to a great future.
However, he enjoys going out with his friends, playing sports, watching movies.
It is up to him to choose what his priority is – studying for the future or enjoying the present.
This choice is where his positive freedom comes to the spotlight.
There is great stigma around people who like to spend time alone.
Oftentimes one stigmatizes one’s own self in this way, as a result of peer pressure. I have to admit that I am one of those.
I tend to say that I am antisocial, and I often think this to be an insult to myself. But I learn from my experience.
This is not true!
You are not antisocial if you want to be alone! You need your space. Do not be afraid to use it whenever you feel it is necessary!
The purpose of this text was to show why solitude is beneficial. It helps you in many ways.
One way is helping you become better friends by strengthening your attitudes, intimacy, and spirituality.
The other is helping you become a better person – by encouraging you to express your creativity and improve your memory.
I hope that through this journey of my own, I have reached you as well. Writing this text has certainly reminded me of the value of my own time.
Let us try hard together to make the most of it!
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