Humans are a social species. In fact, whether you have realized it or not, we need each other to survive. Because of this, it’s no surprise that we really struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of going into an office and socializing with your colleagues, you are at home working by yourself. Sure, there was the occasional Zoom meeting. But, that’s just not the same as in-person events.
As if that weren’t trying enough, you then couldn’t spend your downtime with friends or family. Of course, there were exceptions if these individuals were in your bubble. Overall, however, you were spending more time on your own.
Research has shown that this can be extremely detrimental to your health and well-being. “We are seeing a really growing body of evidence,” said Dr. Daisy Fancourt, “that’s showing how isolation and loneliness are linked in with incidence of different types of disease [and] with premature mortality.” Dr. Fancourt’s research found that social isolation leads to obesity and cardiovascular problems. It also could cause mental health consequences like anxiety and depression.
Moreover, loneliness can cause cognitive decline and dementia. According to a study published by the Wharton School of Business, it can negatively impact your work performance. Mainly this is because “lonelier people became less effectively committed to their organization.
At the same time, a little bit of solitude can go a long way. In fact, scheduling dedicated “me” time comes with the following benefits.
1. It relieves stress.
As a part of the “Solitude Project,” a 2017 study discovered that those who were proactive about alone experienced stress relief and relaxation. The reason? Since you aren’t trying to please others, which can be a major stressor, you can chill and do whatever you want.
Additionally, when you’re alone, you’re more likely to engage in relaxing activities. These include reading, meditating, or crafting. In my experience, it’s way more relaxing when you don’t have to coordinate schedules with others.
2. It Allows you to reflect and learn more about yourself.
“Cultivating this sense of being alone and making a choice to be alone can help you to develop who you are your sense of self, and what your true interests are,” Angela Grice, a speech-language pathologist, told The New York Times. How so? By allowing you to reflect and learning more about yourself — without the influence of others.
And, here’s where it gets really cool. Without these external factors, you’ll become more comfortable in your skin. As a result, you’ll be more authentic and self-confident.
3. Let’s you reboot.
“Constantly being ‘on’ doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself,” explains Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. “Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly.” In short, this is a chance for you “to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.”
4. Makes you more empathetic.
“When you spend time with a certain circle of friends or your co-workers, you develop a ‘we vs. them’ mentality,” notes psychotherapist and author Amy Morin. “Spending time alone helps you develop more compassion for people who may not fit into your ‘inner circle.’”
Why’s that important? Well, empathy is one of the most important leadership traits to possess. It creates more engaged, loyal, and productive teams, fosters collaborations, and increases happiness.
5. Increases your productivity.
Studies show that solitude can improve concentration and productivity. In my opinion, that just makes sense. After all, when you’re working solo, there are fewer distractions and interruptions.
The key, however, is to strike a balance. For example, when you need to focus on your deep work, block a couple of hours of alone time. But, after that, grab lunch with your colleagues or plan a brainstorming session to rebuild rapport and combat workplace loneliness.
6. Strengthens your relationships.
According to a poll of 2,000 Americans, 85% stated that having “me” time is the key to a healthy relationship. What’s more, 82% responded that having enough alone actually makes their relationship stronger.
Why’s this the case? We all could use this time to partake in self-care. By scheduling dedicated me time, this allows you to conduct an honest self-assessment, which will help you with self-acceptance.
Besides, a little time apart pushes you to pursue your own interests. And, when you come back together, you’ll have fresh perspectives and experiences to share with one another.
7. Encourages you to practice gratitude.
When you have quiet time, you’re more likely to practice gratitude. Whether it’s through reflection, journaling, or writing handwritten thank, you note, this is a proven way to make you happier. It can also bolster relationships and keep you motivated.
8. Sparks creativity.
A study by a group of psychologists at SUNY Buffalo found that those who seek solitude are more creative.
“They are not antisocial,” clarifies Julie Bowker, an associate professor in UB’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, “They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers.”
In other words, “they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they can enjoy that solitude,” adds Bowker. “They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas – like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office,”
9. Builds your mental strength.
Even though we are social creatures, being alone is actually good for your mental strength. Studies show that people who set aside alone time tend to be happier, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives.
Furthermore, solitude can help you build up your resilience. And, it forces you to work out problems on your own.
10. Allows you to plan.
Take a second and review your calendar. How much time did you invest in scheduling meetings, project deadlines, or family parties? While that’s definitely a part of life, you also need time to think about yourself.
Is this being selfish? Not really. Instead, you need to schedule dedicated me time to plan out your goals, focus on your dreams, and track your progress. When you do, this ensures that you’re living a meaningful and purposeful life.
How to claim more “me” time.
I think there’s a misconception that “me” time involves you disappearing into a cabin by yourself for two weeks. That’s not necessarily true. In fact, you don’t even technically need to be alone to partake in some much-needed “me” as it’s really about doing something that you enjoy.
For example, you could curl up on the couch with your partner and watch a motive together. You could also spend your lunch break going on a walk with a friend. Or, you could do something creative with co-workers or by attending a class.
On the flip side, you should also find blocks of time where you are in solitude. Examples could be reading a book during your lunch break, meditating, journaling, or just sitting there doing nothing.
Your next concern? How can you fit alone time into your packed schedule? That’s elementary, my dear Watson.
You could wake-up earlier so that you have a quiet house to yourself. At work, block out specific times to focus on your priorities alone. Spend your breaks outside. And, now and then, turn off your phone so that you’re not always “on.”
The main takeaway, however, is that without scheduling dedicated “me” time, it just won’t happen. You need to make it a priority and schedule it just like you would any other important appointment, even if it’s just 5-minutes of solitude.