In a world filled with constant pressure to be out socializing as much as possible, spending time alone can feel taboo. Thanks to social media, we're exposed to constant reports about where our friends are and what fun things they're doing; and sometimes, we may detect some judgement from colleagues, friends, or acquaintances when we tell them that we spent the previous evening or weekend enjoying our own company. But, as it turns out, 85 percent of Americans value alone time — and studies have shown that most people find occasional solitude very enjoyable. In fact, their biggest worry is not fear of missing out, but rather fear of how their interest in spending time alone will look to outsiders. Many people fear that others will simply assume that they're spending time alone because they have no friends to spend time with.
Of course, we should strive for a healthy balance of socializing and alone time — and that happy medium varies depending on the person. Some of us are introverts who need solitude in order to stay sane, while others are extroverts who think alone time doesn't sound terribly appealing. But a little alone time can benefit even the most social among us; and many introverts are getting less alone time than they need, because the stigma against solitude leads many introverts to force themselves to go out and socialize more often than they'd like.
So whether we're introverts or extroverts, the bottom line is that we can all benefit from alone time — and we shouldn't be afraid to spend a Friday or Saturday night enjoying our own company, simply because society has conditioned us to think it's dorky or embarrassing.
Still not convinced? Here are six reasons we should bust the stigma about solitude and embrace alone time:
1. It Encourages Self-Sufficiency & Independence
It's natural that when we're surrounded by other people, we absorb some of their thoughts and ideas. This certainly has its positives — none of us are always right, nor are we the ultimate authorities about everything, and we can be exposed to all sorts of new ideas by hanging out with others. We can learn a lot from the people around us, and there's a time and place for that.
But alone time is important because it gives us the chance to reflect on our own thoughts, values, and beliefs. Though a 2014 Harvard study found that most people would rather suffer a mild electrical shock than be left alone with their thoughts, thinking on our own actually improves our lives, giving us a chance to form opinions without the influence of others or the fear of conflict if we voice a different viewpoint.
Plus, spending time alone forces us to be problem solvers and decision makers. This is especially important for individuals who tend to be shy or prefer to let other people figure things out in group settings. When you're spending time alone, you'll have to independently deal with any problem that arises — whether it's getting lost in the city or fixing an issue in your home or apartment. And you'll probably surprise yourself with your ability to be self-sufficient.
2. It Breeds Creativity
Being alone with your thoughts can initially be a little uncomfortable when you're used to being surrounded by people — but you'll quickly realize that it allows you to clear your head and re-energize. And since you don't want to just sit at home and stare at the wall, you'll have to brainstorm and figure out what activities you do want to engage in by yourself. Many solitary activities breed creativity — writing, art, reading, or playing an instrument are just a few examples.
3. It Makes You Value Your Relationships More
No matter how much we love a friend, family member or significant other, there is such a thing as spending too much time together and becoming unable to function on your own. Alternatively, if you spend all your time surrounded by the same people, they can start to drive you up a wall for no apparent reason — overexposure to a loved one can sometimes cause us to snap at them or communicate poorly.
So give yourself a chance to miss your best friend or significant other. Alone time will make you value the time you do spend with loved ones more — and you'll probably look forward to it more after you've had some personal space to explore your own hobbies and reflect on life in general. I'm not saying you should drastically cut back on time spent with the people you love — but it will feel more special after you've had some time to yourself.
4. It's The Best Way To Get To Know Yourself
Alone time allows you to be a little bit selfish — and sometimes, that's a good thing. When you have a day to yourself, you get to call all the shots. Where will you spend your time? What activity are you dying to do? What foods do you want to eat? Instead of trying to find a compromise that will make everyone in the room satisfied, you can figure out exactly what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Again, there's a time and a place for compromise — but you shouldn't feel guilty about giving yourself certain times to focus solely on what you want. Plus, people who know themselves tend to be more confident; regular time spent alone can actually make you a better friend, employee, and partner.
5. It Allows You Time To Think & Reflect
There's no getting around it — life is insanely busy and we're all juggling multiple obligations and priorities. Sometimes, even the unapologetic introverts among us have a hard time slowing down and taking time for ourselves. If you spend every free moment with other people, you won't have much time to reflect on your day or week because you'll be focusing on your company (and it's a little rude to simply zone out while someone is telling you a story!).
But taking time to think and reflect is so important — otherwise, we can find ourselves simply going through the motions of life without stepping back to assess what we do and don't find fulfilling. Reflecting can help you make better choices, and figure out what elements of our lives are and aren't working. At the end of each day or week, it's valuable to take some time for yourself and think about what truly made you happy and what you'd like to change.
6. It Can Be Super Fun
For a long time, I thought of solitary activities as the ones I could do in the privacy of my apartment, like reading and writing. But we shouldn't be afraid to use our alone time to hang out in public places by ourselves. For example, museums are often more enjoyable if you visit solo because you can browse at your own pace. Is there a movie you're dying to see but none of your friends are interested? Go anyway! Even traveling can be a great thing to do by yourself — although that probably shouldn't be your first step if alone time makes you anxious. When you think of "alone time," don't limit it to the idea of staying inside all day — playing tourist in your own city for the day can be a great experience.
Most of all, enjoy your alone time — because you'll probably realize that you're pretty great company.