Inevitably, there will be moments when you find yourself spending time alone, even if you’re part of an extensive social circle.
There are many different types of loneliness, but when it emerges from solitude, the experience can feel incredibly isolating; the line between being alone and being lonely can become blurred surprisingly quickly.
After all, no one wants to be alone 100% of the time.
Studies have shown that humans are inherently social beings. We need to interact with other people in order to thrive.
That said, studies have also found that there are benefits to spending time by yourself, even if you’re the world’s biggest extrovert.
Spending some alone time doesn’t have to be miserable, and it can actually lead to much-needed growth and reflection.
If you’re not sure how to make the most of your alone time, however, you’re not the only one.
We’ll explain the ways you can benefit from solitude and share the warning signs associated with spending too much time alone.
The Pros of Solitude
No matter who you are or what you do, solitude can be beneficial!
You can make the most of your solitude and stave off loneliness by appreciating the advantages of alone time, which include:
1. Time to Self-Reflect
It seems like there’s always something that needs to get done.
Between your career, personal life, and mundane activities that are just a part of daily living, finding time to take a step back and think about the things that really matter can feel impossible.
Self-reflection isn’t something that everyone necessarily enjoys or looks forward to.
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Still, thinking about your life – without being influenced by anyone else’s thoughts or opinions – is important, especially if you want to implement changes or reach new goals.
Thinking critically about your own life will help you to determine what is and isn’t working for you.
It’s hard to make a change when you’re constantly moving. When you take a breath and realize that you’ve been feeling tired lately or you haven’t been able to pursue the things you love, you may be spurred to act.
Whether you’re someone who enjoys the process or not, there’s immense value to be found through self-reflection, and there’s no better time to do this than when you’re alone.
2. Opportunities to Explore Hobbies
Let’s be real – all work and no play makes you tired, cranky, and leads to burnout.
We all wish we had more time for our personal hobbies, but scheduling alone time is one of the best ways to ensure you actually get to participate in those pursuits – whatever they may be.
While there are some activities that are best done in the company of others, there are many hobbies that you’ll enjoy most when you’re by yourself.
For example, if you love watching certain movies that others don’t enjoy, you probably won’t want them sitting beside you – or constantly telling you how boring they find the film.
And if you want to try out a new hobby, you might prefer to do this alone, without the judgment of others.
Whether you love to read, go to the gym, or kick back and watch TV, doing what you love is fulfilling, and it’s important to participate in hobbies you genuinely care about – even if you’re by yourself.
3. Potential Health Benefits
Regardless of how you spend your alone time, solitude has the potential to affect your health in a positive way.
According to a 2006 study, adolescents who voluntarily spent time in solitude experienced a boost in their emotional state.
For adolescents, this can be particularly important since emotional regulation can be difficult at times due to puberty and the daily chaos of teenage life.
No matter your age, however, you could also benefit from some time spent alone, too.
By taking a break from outside stimulation, you’re able to press the “reset” button in your mind and calm your senses.
Taking just a little time for yourself every day is worth it for your emotional well-being!
The Cons of Solitude
Just as there are advantages of solitude, there are also some disadvantages. The cons of solitude can include:
1. Feelings of Isolation
One of the most obvious and common disadvantages of solitude is that being alone too often – or for long periods of time – can make you feel disconnected from others and the world around you.
As someone who has a tendency to isolate myself from others, especially when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I’ve realized that being by myself all the time isn’t helpful.
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t burden others with my “issues,” but logically, I know that there is give and take in every relationship.
My close friends and family are usually happy to talk with me and if they can’t do so right in that moment, they’ll likely be able to connect with me sometime later.
Instead of spending too much time in solitude, I’ve realized that there are instances when I need to turn to my friends and family instead of sitting alone by myself.
I’ve often found that spending time with my loved ones boosts my mood, particularly if I was feeling down to begin with.
Even if I didn’t necessarily want to be with anyone beforehand, I’ve never regretted my decision to reach out and connect with others.
2. Too Much Solitude Can Lead to Overthinking
Although there’s definitely a difference between solitude and loneliness, too much solitude can lead to over-thinking.
Self-reflection isn’t inherently a bad thing, as we’ve discussed, but when the majority of your time is being spent alone, it’s not uncommon for your thoughts to wander.
For those who are prone to anxiety, overthinking can lead to a spiral of stress-inducing thoughts. This can result in individuals avoiding alone time altogether.
Even people who aren’t frequently anxious may overanalyze the smallest facets of their lives if they’re spending time by themselves too often.
Picking apart every aspect of your life isn’t beneficial, but it can be hard to stop once you start, especially when you’re alone.
Figuring out how to enjoy solitude isn’t always easy, but it is possible!
With time, you can learn to enjoy being alone every now and again, and you can take advantage of all the good things a bit of quiet time has to offer.
About the Author
Alison Huff is the Editor-In-Chief of The Roots of Loneliness Project, whose mission is to openly and honestly tackle the sometimes difficult and complex topic of loneliness in order to further and deepen understanding, growth, and empathy. The Roots of Loneliness Project is dedicated to cataloging and exploring the topic of loneliness in every form and providing a thoughtful resource for those who are struggling with it themselves or trying to help others who are fighting their own battles with loneliness.