The world is more connected now than ever before. It seems like, no matter where you go, others have the ability to reach out to you. Unfortunately, in today’s society, finding time for yourself is increasingly difficult.
Spending time alone is important for your mental, physical, and emotional health. The complete guide below is packed with everything you need to know about “me time,” including the benefits, fun activities to try, how to overcome any apprehension about spending time alone, and more.
Find a quiet spot, hopefully away from other people, and settle in. Your complete guide on how to enjoy your own company starts right now:
Reasons Why People Don’t Like Spending Time Alone
Some folks naturally enjoy spending time alone. However, other people recoil at the idea. Having “me time” is just about the last thing that they want. Understanding why you feel reluctant to spend time alone is an important step towards enjoying time spent by yourself.
Many people feel bored when spending time alone. While interacting with others is an excellent source of engagement and entertainment, it’s absolutely possible to have fun by yourself. When you’re hanging out solo, you have an opportunity to do activities that you enjoy, and no one else’s opinion matters.
Does the idea of spending time alone fill you with dread and anxiety? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have a fear of spending time alone, although it’s not always possible for them to articulate why.
In many cases, anxiety about spending time alone relates to a concept called self-soothing. It’s the ability to manage your mental and physical response to stress appropriately. In essence, self-soothing is how you make your body not stay on high alert at all times.
Self-soothing techniques are learned in early childhood. If your parents consistently met your needs as a child, you experienced the world as safe and trustworthy, and those attitudes typically carry into adulthood.
However, if your needs weren’t met regularly at a young age, you likely didn’t experience much comfort and security when growing up. As an adult, you’re far more likely to seek out other people as a way to create feelings of safety. Spending any significant time without others around often increases anxiety.
Developing the ability to self-soothe as an adult isn’t always easy, but the following techniques can help keep you centered when you’re feeling emotionally overloaded:
- Deep, slow breaths
- Positive self-talk
- Objective observation of your feelings
With regular practice, your anxiety about being alone will lessen and, ideally, disappear entirely.
Fear of Missing Out
Do you ever sit at home alone and imagine that everyone you know is out having a great time without you? Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful motivator to connect with others.
Here are a few tips to help overcome FOMO:
Choose quality over quantity. You don’t have to meet your friends every night of the week. However, you probably do want to attend weddings, parties celebrating special events, and other opportunities to make memories.
Accept that you’ll miss out on fun times now and again. Focus on the good times you do share with friends and don’t worry about what activities you miss.
Also, slow down. Running from activity to activity is often stressful. Spending time alone allows you to pace yourself and recharge, so you can have more fun when you do interact with others.
Don’t worry if you feel apprehensive about the idea of spending time alone. It’s quite a common feeling, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Even better, you can take steps to learn how to tolerate and even enjoy the time spent by yourself.
Characteristics of People Who Like Spending Time Alone
What if you don’t mind spending time alone, or even prefer it over interacting with others? Does that make you an anti-social weirdo? Absolutely not! There’s nothing wrong about having a natural inclination towards solitude.
In fact, spending time alone often correlates with a variety of positive personal traits. According to a study detailed in Psychology Today, compared to people who don’t like solitude, people who enjoy spending time alone are:
- Less neurotic, tense, and moody
- More open-minded
- More agreeable
The stereotype that a person who enjoys spending time alone is socially awkward or nervous around others isn’t true. Folks who like their alone time are psychology well-adjusted, often more so than people who fear to be alone.
Benefits of Spending Time Alone
Spending time alone has numerous tangible benefits. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect as you learn how to enjoy your own company:
Increased Mental Performance
Sure, you likely won’t experience a big brain boost if you spend all your alone time watching reality shows. However, alone time offers plenty of opportunities to improve your mind. Use time spent on your own to read, take online classes, work on puzzles, and other activities that engage your mind.
Don’t underestimate the power of reading. It helps keep your brain sharp and focused. Many successful people attribute reading to their success. For example, Mark Cuban reads between four to five hours each day.
Use your time alone to improve your overall health. Engage in regular exercise. You don’t need to do anything complex. Jogging, yoga, pushups, sit-ups, and other simple exercises don’t require a gym membership or fancy equipment.
Another way to improve your health is through meditation. Daily meditation helps reduce stress, increase feelings of calm, and improve your ability to focus. Stress reduction not only improves mood but also helps your body resist disease.
When you’re alone, you’re not interacting with other people. This lack of social engagement allows your brain time to work on problems subconsciously. Don’t be surprised if you spontaneously discover solutions to on-going problems or gain flashes of creative insight.
After all, great authors, artists, and musicians might work with others at times, but they also require significant time alone to work on their projects.
If you want to accomplish tasks quickly, work by yourself. Working around other people slows down your efforts and often leads to mistakes.
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that work performance improves in solitude. Open-air office plans create more disadvantages, like noise and loss of privacy, than advantages.
While you might not have control over the layout of your office, you do want to find time alone to work on important tasks, especially those that involve reading, writing, and creative thinking.
Increased Presence Around Loved Ones
Interacting with others can drain your mental energies. If you find yourself snapping at those around you, and growing irritated at having to maintain conversations, it’s probably a good idea to schedule some alone time as soon as possible.
Time spent by yourself allows you to recharge. Solitude often energizes, allowing you to increase your enjoyment and engagement when you next talk to somebody. It seems a bit counterintuitive, but the more time you spend by yourself, the more comfortable you’ll feel when talking to others.
Increased Problem Solving
Small talk and breezy chit-chat throughout the day with co-workers and others is fun, but it also requires your time and attention. When you can spend time away from others, your mind frees up to focus on other tasks.
Introspective thinking is when you analyze past actions and trends in your life. You can think back about your love life, work history, or other important issues. Reflecting on your life is an effective way to learn from your past mistakes and make better choices in the future.
Burnout is a condition of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion with one’s work or career. It occurs when a person lacks control over their job, feels unsupported, works long hours, or is otherwise dissatisfied.
Spending time alone helps reduce burnout in a few ways. First, it allows you to rest and recharge during non-working hours. If you have work projects to complete, working in solitude allows you to accomplish many goals quicker than when working with others.
Additionally, spending time alone allows you to reflect and identify the source of the burnout. Maybe you need to switch careers. Perhaps you have frustrations you need to bring up to your supervisor. Identifying the cause of burnout is the first step towards stopping it.
As you become comfortable with spending time by yourself, you’ll also feel increasingly independent. You won’t feel anxious or nervous when faced with alone time. It’s often quite a liberating feeling.
Constantly planning for social interactions is often draining. When you’re comfortable hanging out by yourself, the mental energy formerly spent on scheduling social engagements frees up for other purposes.
Improved Intimate Relationships
Spending time away from your significant other can strengthen your relationship. When you and your partner feel a constant need to check-in, your relationship is built on security. However, when each person can spend time alone, the relationship is sustained by trust.
How to Spend Time Alone
As discussed above, the prospect of spending time alone makes many folks apprehensive or even downright frightened. Here are several practical tips for spending time alone
Don’t jump into the deep end. For example, you don’t have to spend a week by yourself in a cabin in the woods. Start by spending an hour or two alone. For example, watch a movie or read a book.
Spending time alone is similar to developing an exercise program. Consistency is the key to success. You’ll quickly find yourself more and more comfortable spending time alone.
To start with, try to spend an hour alone every day for a week. Then, spend two hours alone for a week, and so on. Soon, you’ll develop an understanding about how much alone time you require and enjoy.
Validation is the recognition and acceptance of a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. As human beings, we all seek validation. However, it’s not healthy to live your life focused on validation from others.
If you’re driven by external validation, you’ll derive your self-worth from having plans with other people. You’ll likely spend a fair amount of time chasing likes on social media, too. The approval and acceptance of others is a driving force in your life.
Unfortunately, the pursuit of external validation often diminishes the amount of alone time a person seeks. After all, someone seeking validation from others has to spend time around people in order to receive that approval.
Try to switch from a mindset of external validation to one of self-validation. Self-validation is when you recognize your own thoughts and feelings – and then accept them. You’re motivated to be the best person you can for yourself, not because you want to impress others.
If you seek validation from others, most of your hobbies and interests likely involve other people. One way to increase the enjoyment of spending time alone is to cultivate hobbies you enjoy. Hobbies engage your mind, spark your creativity, create a sense of purpose, and help pass the time when you’re alone.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t currently have any hobbies. After all, if you’ve primarily sought external validation from others, you might truly not know what hobbies and activities interest you alone.
Try new hobbies until you find something you like. Fun options to try include art, exercise, reading, model-making, and more. In 2018, eBay released a list of the most popular hobbies in the country. Here are the top five:
- Watching TV
- Sports and Exercise
- Computer Gaming
- Social Media
- Playing or Listening to Music
While most of those hobbies are great activities to engage in when alone, you probably want to stay away from social media. It’s focused more on external validation than self-validation. Also, while watching TV is fun, you probably don’t want to make it your main activity whenever you’re alone.
Put the Phone Down
Frequently checking your social media pages for likes and updates defeats the purpose of spending time by yourself. Although the topic still needs more research, studies suggest heavy social media use can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Head Out for Adventure
Spending time alone doesn’t mean you need to sit in your house. Get out and have adventures. Take a stroll through a local park or shopping area. Visit an art gallery. Sit on a bench with a cup of coffee and watch people pass by. Spending time alone doesn’t require that you avoid the general public entirely.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, if you have problems spending time alone, other people can help. A therapist can often help you identify and overcome any strong resistance to solitude.
When is anxiety or fear of being alone severe enough to warrant an appointment with a professional? You’ll probably want help if you dread being alone to the point where you’re almost constantly around others.
Also, check with a therapist if you consistently feel lonely, even after repeated attempts to grow comfortable with being alone. Chronic loneliness can quickly become self-perpetuating, meaning the lonelier you feel, the harder it is to interact with others. A therapist can help you develop strategies to overcome these issues.
Fun (and Slightly Unexpected) Activities to Do By Yourself
If you’re not used to hanging out solo, you’ll likely prefer spending time at home initially. However, once you grow more comfortable spending time with yourself, you’ll also feel more comfortable with activities that take place outside of your house. Here’s a closer look at some fun, but perhaps unexpected, solo adventures you might enjoy:
Going to a movie by yourself has a bit of an unfair stigma. After all, how much interaction do you have with others during the movie-going experience? For the most part, you’re sitting in the dark, not talking.
Watching a movie by yourself is far more fun than most people realize. You can choose whatever type of movie you like, even a flick your friends or family would hate. Also, you have far more flexibility because you don’t have to coordinate your schedule with others.
If you feel self-conscious, go earlier in the day, especially on a weekday. The theater will likely be far emptier in the morning than in the afternoon and evening. Plus, many theaters have lower ticket prices for these early matinees.
Eat in a Restaurant
How often do you eat out alone? Most people have no problem swinging through a drive-through or picking up some take-out. But what about going to a nice sit-down restaurant by yourself?
If you’re not dining alone from time to time, you’re missing out on a fun and unique experience. Dining alone is a great way to take your time and truly savor a fancy meal. You don’t have to worry about pleasing the palettes of everyone in your group. Instead, you can seek out the foods you love – or have always wanted to try.
An increasing number of restaurants have begun catering to the single diner. They offer a variety of solo-friendly features, such as the ability to write your order down or sit at an off-beat type of table. Plus, when dining during peak hours or when the restaurant is packed, a solo diner will have a far easier time finding a table compared to a large group.
Visit a Museum or Art Gallery
Strolling through a museum is also a fun and engaging social experience. You can take your time and enjoy each exhibit or painting. Also, if you’re by yourself, you can take the museum’s audio tour without having to ignore any companions.
No matter where you live, museums and art galleries are likely nearby. Check out some places off the beaten path. For example, if you love trains, maybe there’s an engineering museum near you. When you’re visiting a place alone, only your interests matter.
Cook a Meal
Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to eat take-out or frozen foods for every meal. Cooking elaborate meals for yourself has a variety of benefits.
Cooking is about more than feeding yourself. It’s an opportunity to create something unique, by hand. As you continue to learn how to cook, you’re able to see and taste the improvements. It’s a great way to boost your self-esteem.
Additionally, cooking your own meals helps you save money. Instead of cooking a single meal, make enough for several. You can eat the leftovers during the week. Many people cook in bulk on Sunday to create both a Sunday dinner and lunches to eat at work.
Catch Up on Chores
Admittedly, completing chores doesn’t sound like much fun. However, catching up on house cleaning, laundry, and other life tasks is often a great use of your alone time.
Keeping your home clean has numerous benefits:
- Decluttering makes your home seem larger
- You’ll feel more comfortable entertaining guests
- Reduces the risk of getting illnesses
The next time you’re alone at home, crank the tunes, grab some cleaning supplies, and spruce up your living space.
Rules for Being Alone
Now, these rules aren’t set in stone. Rather, they’re helpful tips for increasing your productivity and maintaining a positive mindset. They’re especially useful for folks who are new to the world of solitude.
Develop a Plan for Tomorrow
Before you go to bed at night, create one specific goal for the next day. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. For example, you might want to arrive at work 10 minutes early. You might want to drive through a car wash during your lunch break. Any goal is good.
Setting a goal for the next day helps you get out of bed earlier. You’re not just going through the motions. Instead, you have a novel experience waiting for you.
Additionally, accomplishing the goal often helps you fall asleep faster at the end of the day. You’ve achieved your goal for the day. Even if it’s minor, accomplishing an objective creates feelings of satisfaction. Plus, it likely has a snowball effect, helping you accomplish larger goals as time goes on.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Your inner voice talks to you all day long. Learning to manage it is an important key to success and happiness.
Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Are you filled with inner doubts, or do you generally maintain a positive outlook? Keeping your inner monologue positive might seem like a waste of time, but research shows optimistic self-talk has a variety of real-world benefits, including:
- Reduced stress
- Increased immune system function
- Improved heart health
- Reduced aches and pains
Researchers don’t entirely understand why positive self-talk works so well, but they know that it does. The most popular theories suggest people with optimistic inner dialogue also have a stronger ability to solve problems, think creatively, and cope with unexpected problems.
Avoid Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms have some benefits. They’re often a great way to stay connected with family and friends who live far away. However, social media also poses some potential problems.
Research suggests heavy social media use contributes to feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. It’s easy to become overly concerned with likes and shares.
Also, it’s easy to feel depressed when comparing your life to what’s presented by others on social media. Remember, most people only post about the positives. Don’t compare your day-to-day life to someone else’s highlight reel.
The Difference Between Being Alone and Loneliness
Spending time alone is a wonderful activity. Unfortunately, it also has a bad reputation. Many people simply can’t stand spending any time by themselves. One study published in Science Magazine even revealed that some folks would rather give themselves a mild electric shock instead of forgoing external stimuli, such as conversations, from other people.
It’s important to understand the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. They’re two very different concepts. Psychotherapist and Huffington Post contributor Ross Rosenberg explains the details.
Being alone is a physical action. You’re not around other people, at least ones you know. For example, if you go to the zoo by yourself, you’re alone at the zoo. You’re also alone if you’re by yourself in your home.
Loneliness is a state of mind. It’s a feeling that you can’t connect with others around you and that people don’t understand you on a deep, fundamental level.
A person can feel lonely in the middle of a packed party. They can also feel completely happy when they’re not around others.
Feelings of loneliness are typically connected to deep-rooted feelings of insecurity, poor self-esteem, and even childhood trauma and abandonment. Leading a healthy, balanced life is often an effective cure for loneliness. Interestingly, spending time alone to reflect on your history and plan for your future is often an effective cure for loneliness.
Try spending time alone, even if the thought of doing so makes you uncomfortable. Learning how to enjoy your own company is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. It fosters independence, boosts creativity, increases feelings of contentment, and even improves your physical well-being. Get ready to meet your new best friend – yourself!