The Benefits of Doing Things by Yourself
Have you ever gone to the movies by yourself? Or out for dinner at your favorite restaurant? Despite having people around you who you enjoy spending time with, it’s good to get out there by yourself every once in a while. If you’re thinking, “Nope, not me!” that’s okay. Doing things by yourself can feel daunting and vulnerable, but it’s an experience that everyone should have.
The Importance of Spending Time Alone
Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. When you’re alone, no one else is physically around you. Feeling lonely is an emotional state. You could be in a crowd of people and still feel lonely. Loneliness is a state of lacking; it feels like something is missing.
Being alone is spending time in solitude without feeling lonely. By shifting the narrative of being alone from something negative to an opportunity to reflect and grow, you can start to appreciate the importance of spending time alone.
Spending time alone will look different for everyone. It could be watching your favorite show, reading a book, having a coffee in the morning, or listening to a podcast on your morning commute. Time alone can help take off social pressure; it’s just you. There’s no one to please or support; you do what you want. With no plans to juggle and no judgment from others, you can focus 100% of your energy on yourself.
That’s not to say that spending time alone is easy. Some people have a harder time being alone. Dr. Tirrell De Gannes, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York, says, “this can be for any number of reasons; some of the most common reasons are not being used to doing things alone. A belief that doing things on your own will be judged by others negatively, and an unspoken expectation that failure is inevitable if you do things without another person present.”
What it Means When You Can’t Stand to Be Alone
Alone time isn’t always easy. For some, it’s tough to spend time alone. Distressing and negative thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming when you’re alone. Sometimes that inner voice and critic becomes louder.
“If someone truly “hates” doing something on their own, my first assumption is that one of their greatest goals in life is to have someone at all times, or one of their greatest fears is to be alone forever,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
The fear of loneliness can be related to a lack of self-confidence or worry of abandonment. Maybe you never learned to enjoy your own time. Like most things, you can still learn to enjoy your time. It’s never too late to learn new behavior and adjust your mindset.
5 Benefits of Doing Things by Yourself
If you’re hesitant about doing things by yourself, now is your time to give it a go. You don’t need to go on a two-week holiday on your own. Think of small steps where you give yourself time to be alone and focus on yourself. Here’s how doing things by yourself can benefit your mental health.
- Spark Creativity
Studies show that loneliness is associated with a higher risk of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and lower cognitive function. But what about those who seek out solitude? Not because they are shy but simply enjoy it.
Historically, philosophers, artists, and leaders have enjoyed the benefits of solitude. One study from a group of psychologists found that not all social withdrawal is harmful. Research shows that some unsociability is associated with increased creativity.
- Increase Mental Strength
Being alone can be crucial for building mental strength. While it’s essential to develop strong social connections, embracing moments of solitude has its benefits. Studies show that those who enjoy spending time alone are happier and report a higher level of life satisfaction. Typically, they have lower stress and are less likely to suffer from depression.
- Gain a New Perspective
Spending time with friends and laughing is great. But regular moments of being alone can help you grow and gain a new perspective. Research suggests that it can be challenging to develop a different perspective when you’re around people all the time.
One study explored how spending time alone could even help you create more empathy towards others. If you can remove yourself from your social bubble, just temporarily, you can step into a new headspace and switch up your perspective.
- Learn to Be Okay With Being Alone
There’s an art to being alone without being lonely. Over time, you may even start to enjoy it. The more you do things by yourself, the more you can learn to be okay with being alone. This means that when you are alone at times in your life, you should be able to cope with it more effectively. Although it can sound difficult, being alone gives you time to see all those things that you may miss when your focus is external to yourself.
- Get to Know Yourself
“There is a greater sense of self that comes when you do things on your own. More confidence, accepting of one’s joys, limits, and passions,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
In solitude, you may learn more about yourself that may surprise you. Develop your inner voice and empower yourself to feel more comfortable in your own skin. You are in charge of your thoughts, and really knowing who you are can give you a much stronger feeling of self and confidence. Self-esteem and evaluation are crucial to mental well-being and influences aspirations, social interactions, and goals.
Ideas for Spending Time Alone
Even the word solitude can sound bad, but it doesn’t deserve such a bad rep. Being alone is often linked to loneliness; however, that’s not the case. While socializing and connecting with others offers huge benefits, so can moments of solitude and peace. Enjoy activities that you love at your own pace without the pressure or judgment of anyone.
If the idea of spending time alone fills you with dread, think about tiny steps you could take to build up exposure to it.
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes says, “make your bed. Take the time to make it look picture perfect. It takes a few minutes, it starts your day with an accomplishment, and only you can do it exactly like that. You brush your teeth by yourself, you (usually) shower by yourself, and you do many things on your own. Acknowledge that. When you’re ready, take yourself on the perfect date. Treat yourself how you wish others treated you.”
Making the choice to be alone sometimes can feel rejuvenating, especially when it’s something you enjoy doing. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas for spending time alone:
- Eat at a restaurant you love
- Learn a new skill like a language or musical instrument
- Go to the movies
- Volunteer in your community
- Visit an art gallery or museum
Some people are naturally attracted to others and find it difficult to spend time alone. While others can’t wait to shut out the world, slow down, and take a break. No matter how you feel about spending time alone, it can offer several benefits for your mental well-being. Adding some quiet moments to your week can give you time to relax and ease stress.
If you’re looking for a therapist in New York, Florida, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Princeton, and Portland, the Thriving Center of Psychology has a team of compassionate mental health professionals who can help you navigate through challenging life transitions. Schedule an online appointment or contact one of our offices.