Solitude tends to get a bad reputation. Experts emphasize the virtues of social connectivity; how it boosts our immune system, increases our resilience to stress and even our life expectancy.
Benefits of Spending Time Alone
In contrast, being alone is equated with social isolation and loneliness. Then we’re warned about how this does the exact opposite: weakens the immune system and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and even early death.
Yet research is gradually revealing that there are significant benefits to spending time by yourself. Solitary pursuits allow us to learn more about ourselves, enjoy activities at our own pace and reflect on our experiences. Having said that, it seems that being alone is not our comfiest state.
A 2011 study conducted by Harvard University in collaboration with the University of Virginia found that people would rather undergo a set of electrical shocks than be alone with their thoughts for 6 to 15 minutes.
Further studies show that we have plenty of reasons to overcome the anxiety that seems to accompany solitude. Although you don’t need to become a hermit, there are many benefits to spending some time alone.
Being Alone vs Being Lonely: What’s the Difference?
It’s important to note that being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Loneliness comes from being isolated despite craving social connection. If your isolation comes from issues such as anxiety, consider making an appointment with a psychiatrist.
In case you’re not comfortable with the idea of taking medication, you can see a psychotherapist and opt for natural alternatives like CBD isolate.
Some studies indicate that CBD is effective in reducing social anxiety and CBD isolate is a very versatile, concentrated form of the cannabinoid that you can mix in your coffee, tea or other beverages.
Choosing to be alone from time to time can be invigorating, but the key word here is “choosing”. In order to be enjoyable, it has to be voluntary, and you need to have the option of returning to your social groups when you want to. It becomes harmful when you feel excluded from social connections, or you perceive it as a punishment.
Your preference for spending time alone also plays a role in whether solitude has a positive or negative influence on your well-being. Introverts tend to enjoy being alone while extraverts dislike it. This, of course, doesn’t mean that if you’re introverted you want to be alone all the time and you don’t need any social connection.
Likewise, being extraverted doesn’t mean that you are incapable of enjoying your own company. Even though you’re naturally drawn by crowds, and you feel the need to seek the company of others, you can still learn how to enjoy spending a bit of time by yourself.
It Will Make You More Empathic
Studies suggest that some alone-time can actually help you feel more empathy for the people around you. Of course, we tend to stay socially connected even when we’re physically alone since technology has transformed the way we communicate.
A 2014 study found that children who spent five days without using their communication devices improved their ability to interpret facial expressions and the emotions of others.
Another 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology looked at the way our connection to our close social groups affect the way we relate to those outside it.
The results suggest that those who spend more time with close friends are less motivated to interact with others and display less empathy towards strangers.
It Will Help You Increase Your Mental Strength
We are social creatures so crave strong connections. Yet it seems that solitude may be equally important. Studies show that people who enjoy spending time alone experience less depression, and our ability to tolerate solitude is linked to better stress management and better life satisfaction.
Modern life is hectic, making it difficult to gain a deeper understanding of who we are and how we’re feeling. By setting aside some alone-time and removing yourself from the emotional noise the presence of others generates, you can think more clearly and consider your goals and the path you need to take to reach them.
You’ll Stop Searching for Validation
We often feel the need to get approval from others before we make a decision. We turn to them for advice on what to do next. Of course, there are times when getting an objective perspective and advice is necessary, but there are also times when we know we were perfectly capable of figuring things out by ourselves and yet, we needed someone else to give is the “OK” before we could take action.
If you start spending more time alone, you’ll notice that you gradually gain trust in your instincts and your ability to make decisions without validation from a third party. Likewise, when we’re surrounded by other people, we have a tendency to set our own ideas and desires aside to appease the group.
Spending time on your own, without having to worry about what others think or want, gives you a chance to discover what truly makes you happy. The benefits that come from not having to follow someone else’s lead are not limited to introverts.
It Will Make You More Productive
Although many companies have opted for open floor plans to make it easier for coworkers to communicate, research shows that being surrounded by people decreases productivity and a bit of privacy helps us perform better.
Also, when working in groups, we tend to put less effort into retaining information because we believe that the others will fill in any memory gaps. This phenomenon is called “social loafing”.
One study published in the Psychological Bulletin showed that people were better at recalling information individually than in a group. Working alone helps you focus, which improves retention and recall.
It Will Boost Your Creativity
Collaborative brainstorming sessions are often seen as the best way to generate fresh ideas, but research again contradicts this assumption and shows that people tend to perform better when trying to solve complex problems on their own.
Working in a group adds social pressure and the focus changes to fitting in and reaching a consensus, whereas independent work encourages innovation.
There’s a reason why authors and artists retreat to a cabin in the woods when they feel a lack of inspiration. Being alone with your thoughts gives your mind a chance to wander without distractions which helps with creativity.
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