When it comes to making weekend plans, you probably feel the need to fill both days with one activity after the other — brunch with friends, movies with your SO, nights at the bar with your roommate. But did you know that spending time alone on the weekend is actually a good (read: healthy) thing to do?
Taking those two days to yourself — to indulge in hobbies, to sleep in, to stare pensively out the window — is incredibly important for your mental health. And yet, so many of us struggle with the very thought.
"People have an idea and a fear about what the weekend means," says Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, in an email to Bustle. "They either fear they are going to miss out on something, or that the weekends are supposed to be about going out and doing something significant."
Of course there's nothing wrong with seeing your friends, or making plans. But every now and again, you have to ignore the almighty FOMO and indulge in some downtime. Not feeling convinced? Then check out the list below for some healthy benefits of alone time.
1. Your Busy Brain Will Reboot
If your mind is going a million miles a minute, then some downtime is probably in order. "It's an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time," said Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., on Psychology Today. After one or two days of R&R, you'll likely feel like you have a brand new brain.
2. Your Memory Will Improve
Speaking of brand new brains, how about improving that old memory of yours? Recent research has shown that being alone can increase your ability to remember images and words, according to Anna Guerrero on Inc.com. We can all use a few more memory synapses, especially on Monday morning when faced with an epic to-do list.
3. You'll Get To Know Yourself
The week is all about everyone else, so naturally the weekend should be all about you. (Right?) Giving yourself time to do exactly what it is you want is a great way to get to know yourself better. What is it that you'd do with a free afternoon? If you don't know, it might just be time to find out.
4. You'll Be Better At Problem Solving
Set aside some "me time" each weekend, and you may find yourself solving your life's greatest dilemmas. That's because solitude can help you work through problems more effectively, according to Carter. When distractions are gone from your life (i.e., no demands from your boss or friends) you can zero in on your problems and have an easier time coming up with solutions. (Yay!)
5. Your Relationships Will Improve
A funny things happens when you give yourself some distance. You might realize that all those friends and acquaintances who take up your time are simply not worth it. "By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you're more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around," Carter said. "You also may come to appreciate your relationships more after you've spent some time alone." Amen to that.
6. You'll Lessen Your Anxiety
OK, so chilling with your thoughts sure won't be a cure-all for anxiety. But it could help. "Spending more time on your lonesome will allow you the opportunity to set your mind straight and rid yourself of unnecessary negative thoughts, alleviating your anxiety," explained Paul Hudson on EliteDaily.com. It's definitely worth a try.
7. You'll Feel Less Dependent On Others
One of the worst things about having plans 24/7 is that you never learn to rely on yourself. And that's obviously not a good thing. As Hudson said, "The fact is, most of us are dependent on others for our happiness." If this sounds like you, it is possible to learn more self-reliance by simply forgoing the near-constant social interaction, and relying on yourself instead.
8. You'll Feel More Creative
Shaking up your weekend can also help you feel a bit more creative, simply because you're rerouting your usual schedule. As Guerrero said, "Habits are a two-way street: do things the same over and over and you'll think the same over and over; do things a little differently, however, and you will begin to think differently as well." Who knows what awesome stuff it could lead to.
9. You'll Learn To Trust Yourself
Do you panic at the idea of having an entire evening to yourself? If so, it's likely because you don't trust yourself to fill the time, according to Travis Bradberry on Entrepreneur. And that's something that can only be learned by hanging out with yourself. "Being alone helps you form a clear understanding of who you are, what you know, and what’s right for you," he said. Do this a few more often, and you'll son be filling up those solo hours like a pro.
10. You'll Boost Your Self-Esteem
If you hate spending time with yourself, it could be a sign that your self-esteem needs a boost. Any good news — hanging out all by your lonesome can do just that. As Emily Roberts, MA, LPC, said on HealthyPlace.com, "The more you practice embracing this alone time, and think of it as self-care or an opportunity to get to know yourself better, you will feel more confident and positive each time." Pretty soon you won't need a friend or partner's presence for validation. You'll feel A-OK all on your own.
11. You'll Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, as well as using this awareness to manage your own behaviors, according to Bradberry. This is something that's usually lacking in people who can't entertain themselves for a few hours. So take some time for self reflection this weekend, and get to know thyself.
I promise, with a little practice, you'll start to actually crave your quiet, peaceful, free weekends. And hopefully, if you really give yourself alone time, you'll start to see some of these benefits as well.
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