It’s important to spend time around people. You can improve your habits and learn new things when you’re surrounded by interesting people. Of course, much of life’s biggest joys stem from our relationships.
But too much “people time” might also be a bad thing. Our digital devices often make us feel like we need to be connected 24/7. And all of the noise, activity, and hustle can wear you out (and ironically can leave you feeling lonelier than ever).
Solitude is an essential component to your health and well-being. But, as a therapist, convincing people to spend time alone can be a tough sell.
Many people who enter my therapy office are already feeling lonely. And there’s evidence that says loneliness is becoming a health epidemic.
Being alone and feeling lonely are two completely different things, however. Many people feel lonely even when they’re in a crowded room. And some people spend lots of time alone without ever actually feeling lonely.
In fact, building more solitude into your daily life might actually reduce your feelings of loneliness. Solitary skills take practice if you’re not used to being alone, but over time, you can grow more comfortable with being by yourself.
But shirking loneliness isn’t the only reason you should spend more time in solitude. There are many other reasons spending time alone can help you build the mental strength you need to reach your greatest potential.
When you’re by yourself, you make choices without outside influences. You can choose how to spend your time without worrying about anyone else’s feelings. Making choices on your own will help you develop better insight into who you are as a person.
Being alone will help you grow more comfortable in your skin as well. The more you know yourself, the better equipped you’ll be to be your authentic self when others are around.
Spending time with friends, family and colleagues contributes to a “we vs. them” mentality. Although unintentional, you’ll see people who don’t fit into your inner circle as different from you and you’ll develop less empathy for them.
Spending time alone breaks down those barriers. Studies show you’ll develop more compassion for other people when you set aside time for solitude.
There’s a reason artists, musicians, and authors seek solitude when they want to create something. A private space, whether it’s a secluded studio or a cabin in the woods, allows them to be more creative. Studies confirm that being alone often fosters creativity.
In addition to boosting creativity, solitude also skyrockets productivity. Studies consistently show people perform better when they have privacy (which means open floor plans make terrible work environments).
Learning how to be comfortable by yourself may take some getting used to. But solitary skills could be help you become mentally stronger.
Studies have found people who set aside time to be alone tend to be happier. They report better life satisfaction and lower levels of stress. They’re also less likely to have depression.
While it’s important to have joint goals with your romantic partner, family members, or business partner, you also need to make sure that you’re living your best life as an individual. Be proactive about planning out your life, similar to the way you might plan for retirement or plan a vacation.
Setting aside time to be alone can help you reflect on your goals, dreams, and aspirations. Take a break from the hustle and bustle to think about whether you’re living life according to your values and whether you might want to make some changes.
You don’t need to aside huge chunks of time to be by yourself in order to benefit from solitude. Just 10 minutes of alone time each day could be enough to help you rejuvenate from the daily grind.
If you think you don’t have time to sit quietly and think, you probably need alone time more than ever. The busier you are, the more likely you are to benefit from some quiet time.
Whether you decide to meditate, write in a journal, or take a hike in nature, it’s up to you. But, whatever you do, silence your electronics and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts.
You also might schedule an activity to do by yourself once a month. Go to dinner alone, take a long walk by yourself, or engage in an activity that you enjoy.
If you’re not used to solitude, the silence and lack of activity can feel uncomfortable at first. But, setting aside time to be alone is an essential component of building mental strength and living a rich and full life.
Originally published at www.inc.com