Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: The value of alone time
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Spending time alone is not at the top of many people’s priority lists. For some, the thought of being alone just doesn’t sound appealing. For others, the notion of being alone is downright scary.
And yet for still others, the idea of time alone is a time to avoid at any costs. Although creating time to be alone with your thoughts can be a powerful experience as well as instrumental in helping you reach your goals, a lot of folks just don’t like it!
But did you know that being mentally strong often is fueled by taking time out from the busyness of daily life to focus on growth?
Nevertheless, folks still find the downside and the excuse-side of solitude:
- When there IS time left at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is just to sit and think!
- Spending time alone is just boring!
- Time alone from the busyness of my schedule just wreaks selfishness and I feel guilty!
- I’m uncomfortable with silence!
- Time alone, to me, is a time of loneliness!
- Time spent just thinking, or writing my thoughts in a journal, seems like a waste of time!
- If there IS time at some point in my day, I prefer to check out my social media, text someone or catch up on the news of the day!
- I’m so wary of silence that I always have a TV or stereo going in my house – as background noise!
In reality, it seems there is a belief system that “being alone is bad” and “being surrounded by people is good.” Additionally, it seems that being alone on Saturday night is for losers; having a jam-packed social calendar makes one feel popular.
And, face it, staying busy serves as a wonderful distraction – you can escape introspection, can avoid that nagging problem that you need to solve and can retreat from that issue that screams for your attention. Besides, “I’m just too busy/important/pressured to even consider spending time ‘for nothing.’”
Yep, there are all kinds of reasons/beliefs/excuses that can take one away from solitude, no matter how healthy it may be. As a therapist, I often have suggested some time alone, set aside on the calendar, that is non-negotiable.
But I hear comments:
“I’m too busy to make time for myself.”
“I can’t sit still. I need to be productive.”
“That is a luxury that I just can’t give myself.”
Even so, there are many BENEFITS to carving time out of your busy schedule to be alone:
- Alone time actually can improve the amount and the quality of productivity! Just think: The respite that you take allows your brain and your activity level to get back into sync so that you’re better off!
- Alone time sparks creativity! When you have had some down time, then return to the projects on your agenda, you will be amazed by the creative edge that you acquire.
- Solitude promotes mental strength! Just like any other muscle in the body, when your brain is rested and then tested, it shows up like it hasn’t in a long time!
- Alone time allows you to plan, and enjoy life, better! The reality is that so much mental strength is used to actually plan a big event (i.e., a wedding), that without a bit of solitude, you are too weary to enjoy your plan!
- Solitude helps you know yourself more intimately! The fact is … spending time alone helps you become more comfortable in your skin. And the bonus … when you are comfortable being by yourself, you become more able to be comfortable on the intimate side of interpersonal relationships.
So let’s banish the excuses. It’s time to plan (then execute the plan) for some alone time! Jumping from place to place, hopping from one social event to the other, piling on one rigorous cognitive demand after the other, and hustling, bustling about your day/week/month, can leave you depleted and burned out. Time to yourself will be a gift that you give yourself!