4 Benefits of Spending Time with Yourself
By Deanna deBara Posted May 20, 2021
Humans are social creatures; we thrive when we have meaningful connections with other people—including at work.
But you can’t be social all the time. If you really want to be your happiest, healthiest, and most productive self, you also need a meaningful connection with yourself—and that means spending time alone.
But why, exactly, is spending time alone so important? What are the benefits? And how can you leverage your solo time to make your work—and your life—better?
Spending time alone can help you develop creative ideas
Part of succeeding at work has to do with the ideas you bring to the table; the more creative and innovative your ideas—and the more of those ideas you’re able to generate—the more successful you’ll be.
And, as it turns out, one of the best ways to generate more creative ideas? Spending time alone.
Numerous studies have shown that people tend to generate more ideas when brainstorming alone than brainstorming in a group. So, when you’re feeling stuck and can’t think of any new ideas or solutions, taking a step back and spending some time alone can be just what you need to get the creative juices flowing.
Spending time alone can help you be more productive
Another key to a successful career? The ability to get things done and be productive. And while there are certainly situations where collaborative work can help you increase productivity, there are also plenty of situations where being around other people can actually make you less productive.
For example, studies show employees work better in private office spaces than in open floor plans—mostly because of distractions (like noise or getting pulled into side conversations).
So, if you feel like you’re struggling to get things done, working alone can help you narrow your focus, remove distractions, and power through your to-do list—increasing your productivity in the process.
Spending time alone can help you recharge
Depending on your personality, spending time around other people can either be energizing (for extroverts) or exhausting (for introverts). But even the most extroverted of people need time to rest, relax, and recharge—and spending time alone is the way to do it.
A 2017 study found that when people chose to spend time alone, they felt less stressed and more relaxed. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with work and life commitments (and all the social activity that goes along with it), carving out some “you” time can be exactly what you need to recharge—and then resume with those commitments feeling energized, engaged, and ready to move forward.
Spending time alone helps you get to know yourself
Arguably the most important benefit of spending time alone is that it gives you time to get to know yourself.
When you’re around other people, there’s a certain level of reactivity necessary to navigate interactions. For example, you want to act appropriately at work—so you evaluate how everyone else is acting, pick up on the social cues to get a sense of the work culture, and then adjust your behavior accordingly. Or, if you’re spending time with friends or family, you bring the knowledge of your relationship to each interaction to make sure they go well—for example, by avoiding specific conversations or topics you know might cause an argument or negative response.
And that reactivity is an integral part of building social connections. But it doesn’t give you any time to just be you, without thinking about or reacting to anyone else.
Spending time alone gives you that time. When you’re alone, you don’t need to adjust your thoughts, speech, or behavior based on anyone else’s needs or opinions; you’re free to just be yourself. And the more time you spend alone, just being yourself, the better you’ll get to know who you are as a person, which can profoundly impact your life.
For example, if you’re constantly surrounded by colleagues who debate about how to solve problems, chances are, you’ll get pulled into those debates. But after spending some time alone, you may find that you’re a more effective problem solver when you have some quiet time to reflect on the problem at hand—insights you can use to be more effective at work. Or let’s say you’re part of a group that likes to go out and socialize. If you’re always with that group, you’ll spend a lot of time out socializing. But after carving out some alone time, you might find you prefer to spend your evenings relaxing with a good book—insights you can use to build a schedule that feels more fulfilling for you.
The point is when you spend time alone, you learn who you are apart from other people—and those insights can lead to a higher level of fulfillment, both at work and in life.
How to spend time alone
Clearly, there are some significant benefits to spending time alone. But not all alone time is created equal—and if you want to reap the benefits, you have to manage your alone time effectively.
So how, exactly, do you do that? Here are some tips on how to effectively spend time alone (and maximize your solo time benefits in the process):
- Get clear on how much alone time you need. Different people need different amounts of alone time; for example, introverts typically require much more alone time to recharge than extroverts. In order to make the most of your alone time, it’s important to get clear on how much alone time you need. At what point does being around other people feel draining? When do you find yourself craving alone time? How much time alone feels restorative—and at what point does alone time start to feel lonely? Getting clear on what the ideal amount of alone time looks like for you will help you carve out the perfect amount of solo time you need to feel relaxed, restored, and refreshed.
- Put away your phone. You’re not going to reap the benefits of spending time alone if all of that time is spent staring at your phone screen, scrolling through social media, and responding to text messages. When you’re spending time alone, turn off your phone notifications so you’re not distracted—or, even better, turn your phone off completely.
- Use alone time for restorative activities. Sometimes, spending your alone time catching up on your favorite TV show is exactly what you need. But it’s not always what you need—so make sure you also spend alone time doing other restorative activities (like reading, yoga, or taking a walk in nature).
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