I’m a very big fan of ‘me time’. Time on my own, solitary time, call it what you will, it’s an absolutely necessity for my mental health. I’m not an unfriendly person, I enjoy time with friends and family, and I have to do a fair amount of interaction at work with clients and staff, but I schedule time regularly to be on my own.
Sadly though, in today’s social media connected society, finding time to be alone seems less and less acceptable. Our culture seems to link a desire to spend time alone to people who are unfriendly or antisocial.
There are those who feel the exact opposite; they consider the state of being alone, even for a few hours, an uncomfortable experience, and something to be avoided at all costs. Of course, if being alone is something that is forced upon us suddenly, perhaps because of a loss or a breakup, that is a very different situation; In this post, I’m considering one’s general prevalence to enjoying alone time… or not.
Throughout my life I have experienced some adverse reactions to my need to have some alone time. It hasn’t made me the most popular person, and I know I have been perceived occasionally as unsociable and aloof. In 1980, Joan Armatrading had a huge hit with Me Myself I, a song which resonated with me very strongly. Even at that age, (14), I was aware that time on my own was something to be treasured.
What makes someone crave being alone, while others need company to feel fulfilled? And is either extreme good for us in terms of our mental health?
Being alone, but still connected to the internet, communicating on social media and chat rooms, or gaming and a host of other internet activities, is not going to offer the benefits of genuine time on your own. It is not easy to be thoughtful, reflective and self-aware if you have the constant distraction of the internet.
I appreciate that it’s always nice to get lots of texts and messages and feel needed and involved by others. But sometimes it may be wise to consider why its necessary to require this level of attention/validation.
When I was counselling, I can remember working with a number of clients who were visibly uncomfortable about the notion of sitting in relative quiet, being reflective and contemplating thoughts and fears. Some even looked looked as if they were actually weighing up the pros and cons of making a dash for the door. “I can’t sit still,” was the usual complaint. “I need to be doing something.” The problem with constantly being busy, or being distracted with the ever constant internet, is that it doesn’t give us the chance to relax and think and process what we need to.
Sometimes, if we are feeling low, we do things to distract ourselves and forget the pain that we are in. Unfortunately, we only exacerbate the problem, because we then feel doubly bad, firstly from the original cause, and secondly the pain we’re causing ourselves by avoiding processing it.
There has been research in the last couple of years showing that people who choose to schedule some alone time on a regular basis, are more likely to have levels of increased contentment, more satisfaction with their lot and an improved ability to deal with stress and problems as they crop up. Even more interestingly, people who enjoy their own company are likely to have a much lesser chance of experiencing depression.
So, if you are one of those people who does prefer their alone time, you can feel rest assured that there is no need to suddenly force yourself into lots of unwanted social situations, though of course neither should you burrow yourself into a hole, and never have any human contact.
For those who think that some more alone time would be beneficial, don’t imagine you need to sit in your house alone and stare morosely at the wall. Go and get a coffee, have a walk around your town, or take a book to the park. All of these will be beneficial, and the time on your own will help you gain a clearer insight into who you are, what you want and increased clarity around choices you need to make.
If, on the other hand, you cannot bear to be alone, if the thought of time by yourself is terrifying, it may be time to consider why, and whether you are avoiding processing certain thoughts or feelings. A counsellor or therapist can help you gently uncover what you may be unconsciously trying to hide.
Alone should not be confused with lonely. There are so many benefits that can arise from a decision to spend scheduled time alone. From forging better relationships, to being less affected by stress, to heightened creativity and development. But most importantly, alone time can put you in touch with your true thoughts, and therefore raise your self awareness which will be a step on the path to becoming your best self ❤️
“To truly chart our own path or vision, we have to be willing to sequester ourselves, at least for some period of time.” – Susan Cain