The Benefits of Spending Time Alone, and How to Do It

“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

- Henry David Thoreau

Man alone in the natureChances are that the busier and more frantic your life gets, the more people seem to surround you.

Sure, you enjoy being social, being productive at work, spending time with your spouse, and all that. But meanwhile, your personality might be sliding out from under you. Without a little time to re-read an old comic book, admire yourself in front of the mirror, and, most importantly, reflect on your experiences, you will end up leading a life with no “you” in it.

Meaningful alonetime is a powerful need and a necessary tonic in today’s rapid-fire world. So, set aside your busy schedule and get re-acquainted with yourself. Looking at solitude from a fresh angle, you will easily recognize its many benefits.

1. You get to relax.

Solitude is a way to unwind and put your mind on cruise control. It allows you to put off your problems, your friends, and your colleagues temporarily, and feel at ease with yourself, not to mention stress-free. In short, being alone is a welcome change of pace — especially because you pick whatever pace you want.

2. You will put things in perspective.

Put your day, week and year in perspective by contemplating on where your life is headed. In the absence of other people’s influence, you are free to reevaluate what’s important to you, be it your job, your friends or your loved ones, and set yourself on the appropriate course of action. Think about what you want; then, follow through on your own time.

3. You’ll enjoy your time with others even more.

If you’re not a big follower of hanging out by yourself, then at least consider this: being by yourself will help you appreciate the company of others all the more. Spending time by yourself will heighten the fun you have with your buddies.

4. You learn to be independent.

Self-reliance is an admirable goal. Get closer to reaching it by increasing your time alone. Independence of mind and lifestyle can lead to productivity and fulfillment. Once you have a solid solo approach to things, there’s nothing you won’t be able to do. Always wanted to learn Italian, go hunting, or ride a motorcycle? There’s no time like the present.

5. You get to do the things you want to do.

Definitely the best part about being alone is that you get to pick the movie, slice the cheese, and adjust the volume to your liking. When you are around others, each and every daily decision is influenced, to some degree, by them — from the restaurant you go to for dinner, to the new haircut you plan on getting. With no one to answer to and no one else’s feelings to take into account, alone time is your chance to do all the things you truly enjoy.

Essentially, the idea is to shift focus for a given amount of time. For that period, think of your life as just that — yours; rather than just a function of interconnected relationships. You don’t have to delete everything in your organizer for the day, or even reschedule anything. You can start small, with 15 minutes here or there, and then take an afternoon to yourself when you finally have the chance.

Now, what should you do? Here are some suggestions:

WHAT TO DO?

  • Exercise. The kind that takes you somewhere, such as jogging, walking and cycling, can be especially refreshing. Barring that, have a nice round of golf, or lift some weights in the gym.
  • Go for a long drive. Either cruise around the old neighborhood with your favorite CD on, or hit the highway and head for the countryside for a welcomed change of pace.
  • Stay home. Order in, take the phone off the hook and do whatever the hell you want. I recommend renting a movie — you’d be surprised how satisfying it is to finally rent that Vietnam flick.
  • Undertake a project. From mowing the lawn to washing your car, go ahead and accomplish something. Best of all, when you’ve finished, you can enjoy the satisfaction that comes with crossing something off your to do list.
  • Check out some cool stuff. Hit the music store, check out some vintage cars or get yourself some tools. If you have any special interests, by all means go crazy and make a solo trip to the SCUBA gear outlet, the hunting supplies store, or the bike shop.
  • Go to a bookstore. Yes, a novel idea, I know, but fortunately, many bookstores now include coffee shops. So, get yourself a cup of joe, a few magazines and relax while reading.
  • Find a natural spot. Go to the park or the lake, and find a mellow place where you won’t run into anyone you know. Soak in the relaxing surroundings and try thinking about nothing.
  • Take in a concert or film. You may be surprised about how enjoyable it is to have only one opinion afterwards — yours. If you end up checking out a movie or seeing a band for a second time, you might even notice details you’ve never noticed before.
  • Get extreme. If you’re an experienced outdoorsman, going camping, backpacking, kayaking, or hiking by yourself can be liberating. Just don’t do anything too dangerous.
  • Do something creative. Don’t worry about being the next Picasso, but enjoy the sensations of taking photos, painting, messing around with a digital camera, or picking up your old oboe from the high school band.
  • Whether you start by taking “the scenic route” to the store or leaving humanity behind for a whole weekend, it’s time to start making room in your life for yourself. Stop to think about how the world looks from where you’re standing, with no one to block the view. Maybe now you’ll discover who you really are.

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