The Benefits of Spending Time Alone and How to Make the Most of Your Alone Time
Do you feel bored, restless, or lonely when you’re by yourself?
You want to do something to fill the time, but you can’t seem to focus on anything.
Instead of feeling relaxed and content, you feel sorry for yourself for having to spend time alone. And you’d do anything to get rid of this uneasy feeling.
If this is you, you’ll want to read the rest of this post.
I Used to Hate Spending Time Alone
As the only child to busy parents who worked around the clock to make ends meet, I had to spend what seemed like endless hours alone while growing up. I would always get this dreadful pang of loneliness when I was by myself.
I thought things were going to get better once I started going to university. And they did for a while. I was widening my social circle and even began my first relationship. I felt I was finally leaving that lonely feeling behind.
Then of course, cancer came out of nowhere and ruined the party. For 3 years during the height of my youth, illness confined me home and forced me into solitude. It was excruciating.
For most of my life, spending time alone was a prison sentence. It was the last thing I’d want to do by choice.
But as time went by, my aversion to solitude began to fade. I began to accept—and at times—even look forward to spending time alone. Now in my early 30’s, I find joy in moments of solitude and would seek out opportunities to do things by myself.
I’ve learned that spending time alone isn’t as bad as you think. In fact, it’s actually good for us.
Why We Need to Spend Time Alone
“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I once read somewhere that being able to enjoy one’s own company is the hallmark of true maturity and a prerequisite for happiness.
When you’re a full-fledged, self-reliant adult, you’re comfortable sitting with your own thoughts and need no one else to serve as a distraction. You look for peace and contentment within yourself rather than in others. And that’s where you’ll find true happiness.
Psychologists also agree that spending time alone—in moderation—has many benefits that impact our wellbeing and self-growth.
- Improved creativity and mental focus
- Relief from the ill effects of constant connectivity
- Better self-awareness and self-knowledge
- Enhanced problem-solving abilities
- More energy and time into taking care of one’s own needs
Now the question is how can you learn to embrace solitude? Here are a few simple and practical tips to help you not only enjoy spending time alone, but also get the most out of it.
7 Tips on How to Enjoy Spending Time Alone
1. Change How You Look at Alone Time
Did you know that our language can influence our perception, memory, and attention?
So what words do you associate with solitude? They will determine how you perceive spending time alone and what you get out of it. Instead of looking at alone time as a “last resort” because you couldn’t find anybody to spend time with, reframe it as:
- a good way to unwind;
- productive time to do your best work, or;
- precious moments to get to know yourself.
Rather than calling the experience “lonely” or “boring”, describe it as “introspective” or “relaxing”.
If you change the way you describe your alone time, you might view it in a whole new light.
2. Proactively Plan Your Alone Time
Do you struggle with what to do when you’re by yourself? You’re not the only one. One of the biggest things I used to hate about spending time alone was the process of trying to figure out what to do on my own.
When you spend a disproportionate amount of time coming up with things to do instead of actually doing them, it can lead to feelings of restlessness and frustration. Not to mention it’s super unproductive.
The key is then, is to plan out your alone time in advance. You don’t have to create a detailed description of what you’re going to do hour by hour—just having a few ideas lined up beforehand will go a long way.
Now try this:
- Spend 5-10 minutes brainstorming activities you can do next time you’re spending time alone.
- Ask yourself what you will need to make these activities possible. For example, if you want to try making a new lasagna recipe, make plans to obtain the ingredients ahead of time.
- Write these plans down in your notebook or input them into your online calendar.
When you make actual plans ahead of time to do something instead of thinking about it on the spot, you’re more likely to carry through with it.
3. Set Small, Achievable Goals
On one hand, if you don’t do anything besides watching Netflix all day when you’re by yourself, you might feel unproductive and bored. But on the other hand, If you try to cram too many things into your alone time, it can be overwhelming. Neither boredom nor stress will make you love spending time alone.
Here’s a simple tip to help you find the right balance between feeling relaxed and that your time was well spent:
Set small and achievable goals.
Instead of aiming to finish the entire book you’ve got in front of you, set a goal to read 3 chapters. Instead of decluttering the whole house, focus on one area of your home. Once you’ve got the hang of these mini-goals, you can expand them bit by bit.
By setting small, achievable goals that you can build on, you get the sweet taste of accomplishment without tiring yourself out. You’ll enjoy your alone time more and look forward to spending time by yourself instead of dreading it.
4. Shake Up Your Routine
Are you always doing the same things over and over when you’re by yourself? Don’t be afraid to shake up your alone-time routine and try new things.
I’m not saying you have to go skydiving or bungee-jump off of a cliff. It could something as simple as trying a new beverage at the local cafe or getting your feet wet in a new hobby—things that don’t require a ton of money or self-convincing.
When you try new things, you open the door to new possibilities.
You might learn something new about yourself or the world around you. You might find the answer to a long-standing question. And you just might fall in love with a new experience—and with spending time by yourself.
5. Unplug From Social Media
Do you check your social media all the time? If so, your habit may be the reason why you feel bad about spending time alone.
Many studies show that social media is bad for our mental health. When you scroll through picture after picture of people having a great time with their friends, it’s hard to not feel like you’re missing out.
So the easiest and quickest way to feel better about your alone time is to cut back on your social media use and follow my next tip.
6. Practice Mindfulness
One of the best things about spending time alone is the opportunity to practice mindfulness—being present in the moment by focusing on what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. It’s something we rarely get to do when we’re with other people, and yet so important for our health and happiness.
Mindfulness has many excellent benefits including reducing anxiety, preventing depression, and improving concentration. Mindfulness can also enrich our lives by opening our eyes to the details around us. Things we took for granted. Things we were too busy to notice.
I used to cringe at the thought of sitting down at a restaurant (a real restaurant, not a fast-food chain) to eat by myself. I’d always had company when I dined out so the idea of eating at a restaurant alone made me crawl in my skin. But one time I drummed up enough courage to give it a go. And guess what? It was amazing!
Why? Because I was paying attention.
I was able to focus on what I was eating and all the sights and sounds around me. I enjoyed all the flavours and textures on my plate without any distraction. I ate every bite with all of my senses and felt truly satisfied.
You can incorporate mindfulness in just about everything you do—whether it’s when you’re walking, eating, or sitting still. So remember to practice at least a few minutes of mindfulness whenever you’re alone!
7. Give Yourself a Treat
Last but not least, make your alone time extra special by giving yourself a treat. You don’t have to spend money either—reward yourself with a bath containing your favourite essential oils, followed by a DIY stress-relieving acupressure massage. When your alone time feels this good, you’ll want to do it over and over again!
What do you like/not like about spending time alone? Let me know via the comments below!