It's not selfish: why you should spend more time alone
Growing up an only child, I learned how to entertain myself. I was always content with my own company. So much so, that at times, if I’d had a particularly busy weekend filled with family, friends, sports, and group classes, I would anxiously tug on my mom’s sleeve and ask her to take me home so I could have my “only child time.”
As I got older and collected baggage, trauma and my fair share of complexities, my ability to be simultaneously alone and at ease slowly began to trickle away. I began to notice that in my relationships, especially romantic ones, I had become incredibly codependent. I have the tendency to invest so much of myself into my relationships, that I forget to nurture the parts of myself that make me me.
Recently, I’ve tried to implement more alone time in my life, and I’ve already noticed a change. A change in my happiness, my stress levels, and my ability to be there for the people I care about.
So here are 5 reasons why you should spend more time alone, and some easy ways to have more alone time (yes, it is possible).
1. It makes you a better person when you’re not alone
If you’re anything like me, constant over-stimulation and time around others can make you… well cranky. My mom and boyfriend certainly see the worst of it.
If I don’t have enough time to re-charge my social batteries I get cranky, and quite frankly, rude.
Spending time alone can’t be viewed as selfish if it only makes you more pleasant to be around. It’s not fair to the people around you; your friends, your spouse, your children, the people you love most in the world to feel the brunt of your overwhelmed wrath.
Taking half an hour to decompress and do something for yourself better equips you to be a parent, a friend, an employee, and human being.
2. It makes you more empathetic
When you spend a lot of time with others, it can start to feel a little bit cliquey. When you spend lots of time with your tight circle of 3 to 5 friends, you can begin to unintentionally develop an “us versus them” mentality.
When you spend more time on your own and in the world, you’re less likely to judge and more likely to try to see yourself in the position of others. Even total strangers.
When we spend lots of time with a particular person or group of people, we can start to feel like we’re on a team, and anyone outside of that team should be judged or not trusted or avoided.
Something as simple as going to a coffee shop alone, or on a walk through the park alone allows you to see yourself as part of the greater community and be more kind and patient with those around you.
3. It allows you to learn about yourself
One of the biggest benefits I’ve felt from spending more time alone is re-learning the things I love. The things I’m passionate about, the things I enjoy spending my free time doing. Where I’m happiest.
When you constantly bend over backward to suit the needs of others in your life, you lose track of what matters to you, what brings joy into your life.
It’s important and essential to nurture these things because you are not defined by your relationships. As much as we want friendships and romantic partnerships to last, nothing is guaranteed. If you spend all your time investing in others, what happens when one day those people are no longer there to invest in.
We tend to see this happen a lot in young relationships. I dated my first boyfriend for three years, and when we broke up, I remember asking out loud “who the hell am I?” I truly didn’t have an answer.
I had to re-learn that music, songwriting, grabbing a pint or coffee with friends, late-night drives, reading books by the fire, going for walks, and taking naps were all things that made me enjoy life.
You are your own person with your own needs, hobbies, interests, and passions, and it’s important to tend to those.
4. You have time to miss people
This was another big realization for me. I’ve spoken about my struggle with separation anxiety in other articles, and it’s something that I continue to face even now in my twenties.
In romantic relationships especially, I have a very difficult time being away from my partner and feeling okay. However, this comes at a price. When you spend all of your time with your significant other, you have no time to miss them. To feel what life is like when they’re not around.
Spending a few days apart gives you so much to share and talk about when you do finally see each other again.
Simple things like something exciting that happened at work, or the latest drama in your partner’s friend group. These allow you to have meaningful conversations that you wouldn't have otherwise been able to have.
5. Increased time to reflect
When you’re too busy with everyone else in your life, you barely have the time to eat lunch, never mind think about how you’re feeling.
Taking a few moments a day to be truly on your own gives you time to reflect on what’s making you happy, sad, anxious, or overwhelmed.
My alone time is often the time where I learn most about the goings-on of my life and how I’m feeling about them. If I’m having a difficult time, be it in a friendship or romantic relationship, if I’m falling behind at school or at work, spending time alone creates a space where I can reflect on those things, and actively come up with solutions.
Now, of course, this is all easier said than done. Life is busy. We’ve got spouses, children, parents, and friends to think about.
But sneaking away for some quiet time and creating moments to be alone doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here are some easy ways to give more time to yourself:
1. Turn off the electronics
In the moments where you think you’re alone, you’re probably not.
We live in a world now more than ever before that is constantly connected and plugged in.
If you pay attention, you’ll likely find that most of your alone time is spent mindlessly scrolling your newsfeed. Take this time instead to go for a walk, read a book, grab a coffee. Whatever makes you feel engaged and alive.
2. Get up early
Even 15 minutes or half an hour of quiet time before the rest of the house gets up can set your day on the right path.
Use this time to meditate if you’re into that, journal, or just sit outside and take in the sights, sounds, and smells.
3. Close the door
It may seem trivial, but closing your door sends a signal to the rest of the world - be it in an office or at home – that you’re busy.
So many of us have transferred from office work to at-home work and as such, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Closing your door during periods of productivity makes potential visitors think twice before knocking or barging in.
4. Make use of your lunch hour
And by “make use of your lunch hour” I don’t mean run errands or run a load of laundry. I mean take your lunch hour to yourself.
This is 30-60 minutes of extra time in your day carved out especially for you. Do yourself a favor and make it about you rather than your to-do list.
5. Pencil it in
I know, I know. Wild that we must literally schedule a time to be alone. But we do it with everything else. The next time you reach for your phone or agenda to mark down an appointment, a dinner with friends, or a commitment, think about also blocking out 15 to 20 minutes of your time.
What do you like doing on your own? How do you prioritize alone time? Let us know in the comments!