Developing the ability to focus on one thing and notice it in detail is a skill that can be applied to self-reflection. Spend time alone, by yourself. It will help you find out who you are.
I love spending time alone. Others, I accept, are more prone to feeling uncomfortable or lonely. Regardless of how you currently feel about solitude, there are many benefits to be gained by spending some time alone each day. If you don’t like being alone, ask yourself why. If you’re not sure, try spending a few hours alone, without distractions, and see what happens. Alone time can provide a vital sense of freedom that we are deprived of by the daily grind. It’s also a great time to relax and think.
Here are the main benefits of spending time alone:
- You can do whatever you want. You get to do whatever you want when you’re alone. This can be a blessing if you have a spouse and children! It doesn’t have to be productive. It can be a reward too. For example you can eat what you want. I’m not advocating coke and pizza here, I’m saying it’s just about what you fancy and not planning a meal for other people. You control the viewing and listening. If you want to watch re-runs of Lost, Breaking Bad or I Love Lucy or listen to a podcast on Stoicism then it’s up to you. Have a nap, do anything that doesn’t involve worrying or pleasing others. Make the most of the time you have alone, and you’ll grow to love having a little solitude in your life.
- It’s easier to concentrate. Have you ever noticed how much more you can get done when everyone is out of your hair? It doesn’t matter if it’s at home or at work. Being alone is a great time to tackle those projects you never seem to have time to do. Quite often our thoughts are louder than the task at hand and it’s time to take a break. You can use time alone to think about what is most important to you in this moment. The more we focus on something, the easier it becomes for us to concentrate. Alternatively you could direct your focus to something entirely different. Read about something. Go to Wikipedia and see what happened “on this day in…” Doodle with pen and paper!
- You learn more about yourself in solitude. The average person spends more than a third of their life sleeping or on the toilet and we get less than 2 hours of alone time per day. Solitude is the time to reflect, get centered, and find what you really want. It’s a time for self-exploration and for cultivating patience. It’s easier to be self-aware if you spend time by yourself. Your thought processes become more apparent when you’re not distracted by others.You can have an enlightening experience that helps you solve problems, come up with new ideas, reflect on your past, and relax. It also gives you time to appreciate everything around you without judgment. If you really want to get serious spend an extended period of time by yourself each year. You could go camping or backpacking by yourself. You could even just stay at home and let everyone know you’re not available.
- You become more compassionate. What if I told you that the best way to become more compassionate toward others is to spend time alone? It sounds counterintuitive, but in reality there is a lot of evidence pointing to this conclusion. Studies have shown that people who spend time alone are more likely to be empathetic and understanding of different points-of-view because they’ve had the chance for self-reflection. In fact, studies show that people with stronger emotional intelligence skills like empathy also tend to need less emotional support from others than those with lower IQ scores. This means spending some quality one-on-one time can actually make us better at relating and empathizing with other individuals. Also, when you constantly hang out with the same people, you naturally develop a feeling of “us versus them.” You’ll be more compassionate toward others if you regularly spend some time alone.
- Creativity increases during periods of solitude. Creativity is something we all are striving for, but few of us have actually reached that point. There’s a reason why artists, musicians, writers, and other creative types go into isolation when it’s time to create. Your mind is much freer to wander and develop new ideas. Most people aren’t nearly as creative as they could be. A recent study of university students found that creativity peaks during periods of solitude and does not decrease when people are put in groups. In fact, the researchers observed an increase in creative thinking among participants who were given a “thinking challenge” by themselves.
- A little solitude makes you happier. Several studies have shown that people that regularly have some time to themselves are happier than those that don’t. TO me that makes logical sense because of things I’ve already mentioned. You get time to think about what’s bothering you and how you can fix it or work on it. You have more opportunities to accomplish your goals because you’re not busy having conversations or doing other things that take up your time. You’ll feel less stressed out and overwhelmed when life gets challenging because you’ve had some time away from the stressors in your life. Obvious really.
- You can think deep thoughts. It’s hard to think about your life in a deep and meaningful way when you’re surrounded by others. Your alone time is the perfect opportunity to work on your bigger challenges, make big decisions, and ponder the meaning of life. We all know that life can be difficult. We don’t always have it easy, and we are often faced with hardships. Well nobody handed you a “Life Is Going To Be A Piece Of Cake” certificate when you were born did they? Therefore it’s important to take a step back and think about what you really want in your life. What do you want your future to look like? What kind of person do you want to become? It is only through introspection that you can find out who you are, what you value, what are your goals and then figure out how to make those things happen. There will always be time for deep thoughts, there will always be time for solitude, even if the outside world doesn’t seem like it is even remotely interested in those matters.
Schedule periods of solitude into your life. Avoid just using whatever free time you happen to have for solitude. It’s important enough to deliberately plan for. And avoid just scheduling alone time. Plan on how you’re going to use that time. Having some alone time is a blessing. If you currently aren’t able to spend some time with yourself, make time. It’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Your creativity will increase. You can tackle big challenges. You can even just do whatever you feel like doing!
Make the most of the time you have alone. It’s one of life’s great pleasures. Enjoy your solitude and be thankful for it.
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My recommended reading on this topic is the wonderful Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris. In a world of social media and smartphones, true solitude has become increasingly hard to find. In this timely and important book, award-winning writer Michael Harris reveals why our hyper-connected society makes time alone more crucial than ever.
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