The world can seem awfully obsessed with talking and socializing — being there and not missing out.
From group nights out to lunch dates to gym buddies — and all of the social media and texting in between — it seems that we simply can’t opt out of the never-ending conversations we have all day, every day, with our friends, our family, our acquaintances, colleagues, love interests — and whoever else pops up.
The good, the bad, and the just plain awkward. Whatever it is that we are saying, and whoever we are hanging out with,— we never really stop.
Sure, social interaction is not only good for us but it is crucial — but you can, of course, have too much of a good thing.
Just as we need our social time, we need our alone time too.
Incorporating “alone time” into modern life
Gone are the days where you could just close the front door, or put your phone down, and seamlessly transition from social mode, to a restorative and necessary period of time of solitary self-reflection.
Indeed, our unmatched digital connectivity combined with the hyper-social culture of modern life means that we are expected to be perpetually reachable. And to never fully detach ourselves from these constant chunnerings and interactions that fill our days.
Social media only adds insult to injury, by making us all feel like it is normal to be constantly socializing, always with something to say, captions to write and people to tag.
This can be overwhelming — especially for fellow introverts who just need some time alone once in a while to feel sane.
Combat the fear of loneliness
Speaking of introverts — they may be teased for their affinity for this precious alone-time. Whether it’s the obligatory bubble bath after a long day, a morning meditation ritual, or every introvert’s guilty pleasure for a cozy night in with no one but themselves.
But in truth, we could actually all benefit from more of these opportunities to spend some quality time alone — even those more extroverted among us, who crave the presence of others at all times. You aren’t exempt!
Get to know yourself
It may seem like knowing your own thoughts is a no-brainer. However, most of us get so caught up in the day-to-day — working, talking, worrying, planning, and so on. Whether we’re at our desks, working out, or in the shower, some of us still can’t calm the back-chatter of our pressing responsibilities. Unless we’re asleep (and sometimes, not even then!) we never truly switch off to recharge.
In fact, most of us forget it’s even possible to just be; to just see where our thoughts will take us when we don’t force our attention into the next incoming activity or concern.
It’s actually alarming how little true reflective thought we do during the day. Day-to-day distractions and low-level stresses mean that our bigger thoughts are often pushed to the side to make way for the task at hand, or the person we are engaging with. But these thoughts — however inconvenient we may deem them — only come back to haunt us once our eventual solitude, usually as we lie awake at night, leaves them nowhere to hide.
So take some time out from your daily routine and habitual social engagements to invite these thoughts into your full attention. Allow yourself to think through all of the concerns and ponderings which you would usually push away. It may be tiring or unappealing, but you will feel much better for it.
The benefits of alone time
There are also benefits of this divisive solitary time that stretch to other areas of your life.
For instance, spending time alone helps you develop more compassion for people who may not fit into your ‘inner circle.’ According to Forbes, this is because when you spend time with a certain circle of friends or your co-workers, you develop an “Us vs. Them” mentality.
Furthermore, being alone with your thoughts gives them a chance to wander and flourish, which can help you become more creative and productive.
Spending time alone can also give you a chance to reflect upon the purpose behind your daily hustling and bustling; the direction behind your day-to-day activities. This higher awareness of your more private intentions behind the version of you that everyone else sees can ensure that you remain focused on your goals, and can better plan your life to align with them.
Overall, being alone from time to time helps you become more comfortable in your own skin. It allows you to relearn how to make choices without outside influences. This will help you develop more insight into who you are as a person — once you separate yourself from all outside distractions we are so used to tying to our sense of self, what is left?
Who are you, really?
Spend more time alone for your wellbeing
Of course — we’re social creatures and it’s important for us to have relationships and connections with others. However, a healthy portion of solitude is just as crucial for our emotional wellbeing. In fact, studies show the ability to tolerate alone time has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, and improved stress management.
People who enjoy alone time experience less depression, as they are more in touch with themselves, and tend to have a greater grasp of what they truly want and need. Not to mention that it takes away this dependence on the company of others to feel whole. You will still cherish your time with others — in fact, even more so — but you will also learn to cherish time with no one but yourself.
So try to set aside even just a few minutes each day to be alone with your thoughts. Turn off your electronics and allow yourself to simply think. Just see what comes to mind.
If you find the unfamiliar absence of external mental stimulation excruciating, then help yourself to refocus by guiding your alone time with a journal, where you can physically write down or draw whatever your consciousness provides.
If you aren’t used to experiencing solitude, it can feel uncomfortable at first. But creating that quiet time to be alone could be key to becoming the truest and most self-aware version of yourself.