How Important Is Alone Time for Mental Health?
When it comes to your mental health, having some time for yourself is incredibly important.
Most people think that in order to maintain good mental health, you need to socialise with friends and family regularly. Whilst this is true, time to yourself is also incredibly important.
Unfortunately, there is a huge stigma attached to spending time alone. Some people think that spending time alone means that you are lonely.
However, this is simply not the case. Being alone does not mean that you are lonely. In fact, people who are comfortable spending time alone are actually some of the happiest and most confident people around.
This is because there are a whole host of benefits to spending time alone, including increased confidence, increased creativity, more frequent inspiration and independence.
Whilst going out for a meal, a walk or even going on holiday alone might seem intimidating at first, research suggests that you will end up thanking yourself in the long run.
However, spending time alone in recent years has become harder and harder. This is because the world is more connected than ever, spending more time on our phones, at work or trying to meet up with friends in and amongst our busy schedules.
This means that it is more important than ever to spend time alone when you can. There are actually a number of signs and symptoms that you need to spend some time alone, some of which are explained further below.
Signs You Need Some Alone Time
Whilst humans are social creatures, everyone needs time alone every now and again.
This is so that you can process your thoughts, feelings and emotions, and feel a sense of independence every now and then.
Whilst spending time with friends and family members is recommended for a healthy lifestyle and is certainly a lovely thing to do, you should not feel guilty if you feel the need to spend some time alone.
Lots of parents or carers might often feel guilty about this, as you feel the need to help out and be there for your family.
However, if you want to be the best parent you can be, often you need time away from your family for a short period in order to prioritise yourself and gather your thoughts.
Whilst many people might feel guilty about this, you should not.
If you suspect that you might need some time alone, then there will be certain signs and symptoms to look out for, including the following.
- Getting angry and frustrated on a regular basis
- Feeling busier than ever
- Struggling to make time to look after your basic needs
- Turning down invitations because you are so busy
- Feeling tired and worn out
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated
If you recognise yourself in any of the above signs and symptoms, then this might mean that you need to spend some time alone to gather your thoughts and prioritise yourself for a bit.
There are also a number of benefits to spending time alone, some of which are explored further below.
Benefits of Spending Time Alone
Believe it or not, there are actually a whole host of benefits to spending time alone.
Whilst most people believe that spending time with people and being busy is good for your mental health, in order to manage well mentally we also need a bit of time to ourselves every now and again.
Becoming comfortable in your own skin
By spending time alone, you will quickly become comfortable in your own skin.
Unfortunately, lots of people aren’t comfortable in their own skin, with most people feeling uncomfortable at the thought of going out on their own, going shopping on their own or even eating a meal on their own.
However, being able to spend time on your own will without a doubt increase your confidence and allow you to become more comfortable in your own skin.
This allows you the chance to do what you really want to do, even if you have to do it alone. You will also be able to complete tasks, such as shopping on your own without any distractions.
By becoming comfortable in your own skin, you won’t be held back from doing the things that you really want to do.
Top tip for becoming comfortable in your own skin
If you want to become more comfortable in your own skin, then why not push yourself to go for a meal by yourself? Pick a restaurant or cafe that is familiar to you, and go for your favourite meal.
By eating alone, you will be able to focus on eating and won’t have to sit there without anything to do.
You could also bring a book or notepad with you, so that you can write down any thoughts, ideas or feelings.
Lots of people who have tried this have reported great success, and find eating alone a really relaxing and therapeutic way of becoming comfortable in your own skin.
Boost your levels of creativity
By spending time alone, you will also boost your levels of creativity. By allowing yourself to focus on the things that you want to do, your mind will be allowed to wander and your imagination will flourish.
This will also happen if you spend time alone doing things that you love, and allow you to enter a state of ‘flow’ and creativity.
This could be anything from painting, drawing, writing, or exercising.
There are now numerous studies which suggest that spending time alone is really good for your brain, as it helps to create both long and short-term changes to the brain which influences your levels of creativity.
One study in particular found that people who frequently withdraw and spend time alone are some of the most creative people around.
A study carried out in 2020 also found that people who purposely isolate themselves to a certain level experience more activity in the neural circuits of their brain, which is the part of their brain that is related to imagination.
Unfortunately, when people are constantly surrounded by other people, we don’t use this part of the brain so much.
Top tip for boosting creativity levels
You should try to find something that increases the amount of serotonin and dopamine in your body, by finding a creative activity that allows you to enter a state of ‘flow.’
This state of ‘flow’ is when you no longer feel the need to concentrate on anything else, and your mind is left to wander and enjoy the activity on hand.
Your mind is totally fixated on the task at hand and your mind and body is allowed to fully relax.
You will feel like you have more energy to socialise
Lots of people describe the feeling of being socially exhausted. This means that you struggle to find the energy to socialise with people, even close friends at times.
By spending all your time with other people, you will quickly find that your social battery runs out.
When this happens, you will find yourself getting tired very quickly when you are out with friends.
You will also find yourself not wanting to go out with friends as much as you used to, and might find yourself ducking out of plans at the last minute or wishing that it was cancelled and that you could just stay in instead.
By taking some time out to spend time alone, you will recharge your social battery. You will find that you have more time and energy for friends afterwards, and will actually want to socialise.
Top tip for recharging your social batteries
If you want to recharge your social batteries, then why not spend some time alone doing something that you would usually do with your friends?
This could be going out in the evening, going to the cinema, going for a walk or booking a holiday. Once you come back, you might find that you have more energy and mental space to spend time with friends and loved ones.
Studies have also shown that if you spend time alone, your levels of empathy will be increased. That is because when you spend too much time socialising with people, especially a small circle of friends, then you start comparing yourself to others, and become overloaded with other people’s problems and issues.
When this happens, you start to get frustrated with people and start to lack empathy.
When you take time out and spend more time alone, your levels of compassion and empathy will be increased as you become happier and more comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Top tip for increasing empathy
If you want to increase your empathy for a friend or loved one, then make sure that the next time you spend time with them you are truly listening. Make sure that you really listen to what they are saying instead of just simply being present.
Better behaviour when it comes to children
When it comes to children, behavioural issues can take a huge toll on your family and your child’s emotions. However, a misbehaving child is often a sign of an overstimulated child who hasn’t had enough time to themselves.
If you have a big family who are very close, then the likelihood is that your child has been surrounded by loving family and friends since the second that they left the hospital a few days after birth.
However, this can sometimes create certain behavioural problems with your children.
If your child is constantly in the presence of too many people and other children, they won’t feel comfortable or confident in their own skin, which could result in a number of behavioural problems.
Top tip for supporting a child with bad behavioural issues
If your child is struggling with their behaviour, then why not give them some time alone to themselves?
Depending on their age and ability, you could let them go for a walk by themselves, let them play out in the garden alone or allow them time to read, write or simply play alone in their room.
You will be more productive
By spending more time alone, you will be more productive day to day. Sometimes, people just need a bit of space and a bit of a break away from their household chores, their work or their family in order to be more productive when they come back.
If you find yourself frequently procrastinating or avoiding doing work, then this might be a sign that you need to spend some time alone.
Top tip for being more productive
If you want to be more productive day to day, then why not try the Time Boxing technique.
Time boxing is a time management technique used by lots of people around the world who want to be more productive.
You have to allocate a precise amount of time for a certain task, and do not allow yourself to run over. Lots of people use timers and stop watches to keep track of their timing and productivity.
Reasons Why Being Alone Isn’t Always Easy
Whilst being alone might be good for you, in this day and age being alone isn’t always easy.
This is because there is a huge stigma that to be alone means to be lonely, which is simply not the case. Below is a list of reasons why spending time alone has become harder than ever before.
Not being used to spending time alone
Most people avoid spending time alone because they simply aren’t used to it. For some people, they might avoid doing simple tasks such as the food shop alone, which is why it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone every once and again.
Feeling anxious about being alone
Lots of people feel anxious about spending time alone because they aren’t used to it. In other situations, being alone might bring up some painful memories and traumas which is why they avoid it.
People also avoid spending time on their own due to the social stigma that is attached to it. Lots of people worry that when you spend time on your own, you have no friends or have been socially rejected for some reason.
Whilst this isn’t the case, lots of people worry about what people will think of them if they go on holiday alone, eat out alone or go to the cinema alone.
It is important to note that with social media and technology making us more connected than ever before, even when people are physically alone, they are often busy spending time on their phone.
This means that even when people try to spend time alone, they often struggle to switch off and relax with their phone buzzing in their pocket.
Most people struggle to switch their phone off, or spend time alone without being tempted to flick through Facebook, Instagram or TikTok.
The Difference Between Being Alone and Being Lonely
There are numerous studies showing that being lonely is bad for your health.
Unfortunately, people who suffer from loneliness also suffer from a whole host of physical and mental health issues such as poor memory, social anxiety, depression, increased blood pressure, an increased risk of premature cognitive issues and Alzheimer’s.
If you suffer from ongoing loneliness, you might also suffer from mobility issues, poor hygiene issues, anxiety and possibly premature death.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand that being alone doesn’t always mean being lonely. When you spend time on your own, you should feel free, invigorated, inspired and confident.
These are all the opposite outcomes of suffering from ongoing loneliness.
The Best Ways That You Can Spend Time Alone
If you want to spend more time alone to improve your mental health, then you might be wondering what some of the best ways are to spend your time alone.
Below is a list of some of the best ways to spend your time alone so that you can get the most out of it.
Choose a time and a place
If you want to make the most out of your time alone, then you should try to pick a time and a place for your alone time. You should aim to pick a certain day and a certain place for you to spend some time alone.
This could be as simple as deciding to go for a coffee alone, go on a shopping trip or go on a walk.
Put down your phone
If you want to spend some real time alone, then you should try to put your phone away. It is incredibly hard to focus on spending time alone when your phone is constantly going off, or when you’re tempted to pick up the phone and scroll through social media.
If you want some time alone, then why not go on a walk and leave your phone alone? Alternatively, you could go for a coffee and read a book, making sure that you turn your phone off so that you are not distracted.
Go on a holiday
If you want to spend time alone and take it seriously, then going on holiday alone is a great solution.
By going on holiday alone, you will learn to trust yourself more and will feel a lot more confident in your own skin.
You will have to do lots of things alone if you go on holiday by yourself, such as getting to the airport alone, making your way through passport security, getting yourself to your hotel safely and spending day-to-day eating and relaxing on your own.
Take yourself out on a date
If you want to spend some alone time, then taking yourself out on a date is a great option. This could mean that you take yourself out for a meal, on a day out or for a drink or two.
By taking yourself out on a date you will improve your confidence levels as well as your level of self-worth.
Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature is always valuable. However, spending time in nature when you are by yourself gives you an incredible sense of independence and appreciation towards nature.
Many psychology counsellors support the practice of ‘awe walks.’
These are when you go for a walk in nature, either by yourself or with someone else, and focus on what you can see. In this sense, it’s a mindfulness technique.
You should look out for the beauty in nature, focusing on the shapes and colours that you can see. Why not take a few pictures of what you can see on your camera or smartphone?
Do something for charity
If you want to feel a real sense of independence, then volunteering and charity work is a great option. Whilst you might be accompanied by other people during your charity or volunteer work, you will be taking yourself out of your everyday environment and will meet completely new people.
You will also feel a huge sense of pride and confidence during your volunteer work, and by volunteering you will remind yourself that you are incredibly powerful and useful.
Start a new class by yourself
Again, starting a new class is a great way of spending some time alone.
Whilst you might be surrounded by other people, joining a new class by yourself will give you a huge sense of independence and pride.
Why not join a night class and learn a new language? Or start attending a class at the gym? Whilst you won’t be entirely alone, you’ll be surrounded by new people and a brand new environment.
Use your lunchtime break
Most people get at least 45 minutes, if not an hour for their lunch break. Many people struggle in the workplace, as they are usually surrounded by other people for eight straight hours.
For many people, this can be incredibly overwhelming. This is why you should try to use your lunch break as a way of having some time to yourself.
Why not walk to a nearby coffee shop by yourself? Alternatively, you could walk around the local park or go read a book in a quiet room.
If you work from home then why not venture out for an hour to have a look around the shops, to get a coffee or go on a walk?
Speak to someone at Rehab Recovery
If you are suffering from burnout, loneliness, depression, anxiety, social isolation or just with mental health issues in general, then you should speak to a member of the team at Rehab Recovery for help and support.
Our friendly and confidential team will be able to support and advise you on the best places to get help and counselling if needed.
All enquiries will be dealt with very swiftly and are completely confidential.
Alternatively, if you are struggling with a mental health issue and need support, then call one of the below helplines for help and advice.
- Samaritans – 116 123
- SANEline – 0300 304 7000
- National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK – 0800 689 5652
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – 0800 58 58 58
- Shout – 85258
- Switchboard – 0300 330 0630
- C.A.L.L – 0800 132 737