Most of us love to be connected and surrounded by friends, but sometimes being pulled in a hundred different directions makes you forget about the interests you would pursue if you were by yourself. If you feel this way, you are not alone – but you may need to be.
There are far more interactions and distractions in our daily lives than ever before, causing our brains to be on sensory overload. If meaningful, the interactions can make us feel connected. Being in a distracted state, however, can make us feel disconnected, which can lead to loneliness.
to rejuvenate by enjoying your own company is a great first step to reducing loneliness. Spending quality alone time can fuel your creativity, help you focus, de-clutter your mind, decrease anxiety, improve your social interactions and actually make you feel less lonely.
Here are a 10 tips to help you love, and long for, your alone time.
1) Know the Difference between Loneliness, Being Alone and Quality Alone Time
The ability to feel lonely is innate in all of us. As described in a study published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science and reported by Big Think exploring the origins of loneliness, we have physiological and psychological reactions pushing us to seek human interaction in order to survive. Because of this instinctive need to connect, we tend to measure our social success by how many friends we have online and offline and like to socialize with an entourage.
The volume of interactions we face today, however, means that even if we are not socializing and are physically alone, we are not necessarily getting the quality alone time our body and mind need in order to best function. Not turning “off” means we are still “on.”
2) Take Space to “Space Out”
Being “on” can be exhilarating but also exhausting. We need eight hours of sleep every night so our bodies can revitalize but when do our minds get refreshed? For every action, there is a reaction. While we are at work, in a conversation with friends, running errands, our mind and body are constantly reacting. If we allowed ourselves not to react, we would space out a lot more than is probably socially acceptable. Sometimes, it is good to be in full solitude to have the space to just space out.
3) Make it a Want Even if it is a Need
If you are an introvert or suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), quality alone time is not only something you seek but it is also essential to your health and happiness. Social interactions for introverts deplete energy whereas for extroverts, they boost energy. People with ADD tend to get overwhelmed by too many distractions and need more time alone than others do to give their busy brains a rest.
With ADD prevalence rising and the emergence of “introverted extroverts” who require a certain amount of solitude to offset social activities, the majority of us could benefit from making quality alone time a necessity.
4) Stop Judging Yourself
Society tells us that there are situations that are acceptable to be alone, such as in a library, and there are those where a lack of companion by your side means a lack of companionship in your life, such as a concert or weekend getaway.
Research shows that an important reason for people’s inhibitions from partaking in public, enjoyable activities alone is their concern that others will judge them if they do. Yet, we overestimate how many people will notice or care and anticipate significantly more negative reactions from others than we will actually receive.
So stop judging yourself and go see that movie that you’ve been dying to see that your partner has no interest in and all of your friends have already seen.
5) Focus on your Own Experience
You may be setting the bar too high to find friends or a partner that share every single same interest as you. Can’t find anyone to take a cooking lesson, join a volleyball league or take a dance class with you? Do it alone and you may enjoy it even more than doing it with someone who doesn’t share your same enthusiasm. Doing an activity you enjoy alone allows you to focus on your own experience instead of ensuring someone else is also having a good time.
6) Trust that Others May also be Alone
Chances are if you had the courage to go alone, someone else may have too. This is a great way to meet like-minded people that share a similar interest. We are more likely to meet new people when we are alone as we are more approachable and it seems more natural to strike up a conversation with a stranger. So in getting to know yourself you may, in the process, make a new friend that shares a similar interest.
7) Create Mini Vacations in Mundane Activities
In the same way that an employer encourages you to take your vacation days so that you come back to work refreshed, your family and friends need you to create mini vacations for yourself in your every day life. Turn your long commute home into a joy ride by using this built-in time alone. Allow yourself to reflect on your day without talking, emailing or texting anyone about it. “Taking time in solitude to reflect [on activities] is just as important as the activities themselves,” says Joseph Murray, an associate professor of education at Bucknell University who has studied development for more than 20 years. Your loved ones may miss you but they will be thankful for the state you are in once you reconnect.
8) Talk to Yourself
Don’t try this with others around, but we can get so lost in our thoughts that sometimes, it helps to say them out loud. Do this while driving and pretend like you’re on the phone. The good thoughts sound better and the bad ones sound worse. Just talk it out with yourself. Creativity flourishes in solitude so who knows, during this “self-therapy” you may actually come up with a few pretty great ideas.
9) Don’t Expect Too Much and Stick With It
Have you ever noticed how you need a few days into a vacation to unwind? We may need a few tries to actually enjoy alone time and to get its benefits. Expectations are a heavy thing. What I “should” be doing, what I “should” be thinking. It might take some time to remember what it is that you enjoy doing when no one is watching, when no one is expecting anything of you. Do that thing. It can be as little as catching up on your favorite show, getting your hair done or going for a bike ride.
10) Become More Sociable
Sometimes making social plans feels like an obligation if we’re running around from one thing to the next. Instead of wanting to be left alone, we start to long for social interaction if we’ve set quality time aside for ourselves. Social outings become something we choose, not something we have to do.
Nurturing your independence can also give you more self-worth, make you feel more capable and less needy in a relationship. Once you have found satisfaction on your own and allowed time to explore your interests and your partner has done the same, it is fun to re-unite. You’ll have more to talk about and will have allowed space to miss each other.
Once you have re-connected with yourself, you can connect with others in a more meaningful way.
Share to Help a Friend… Or,
Reprint (Photo by Hernán Piñera, CC)