Some of our favorite things about spending time alone, in no particular order: Wearing Crest White Strips under our LED light therapy mask. Talking aloud to ourselves (and occasionally cackling at our own jokes like Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus). Eating spicy or pungent food without fear of judgment or causing offense. (Do you know what a salami and onion sandwich followed by a Girl Scout Cookie chaser tastes like? It tastes like freedom.) Pacing the room with impunity while crafting a delicate email. Getting sh@# done without interruption, explanation or the heavy cognitive and emotional lifting of collaboration. Wearing sweatpants/pajama pants/no pants during business hours. But the benefits of solitude—yes, even for extroverts—extend beyond midday pantslessness. Read on for the most refreshing ones.
1. It sparks joy
Science confirms that when we actively carve out solo time, we find calm. Deliberate solitude smooths out our highs and allows us the space to recover from our lows. According to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, “solitude could lead to relaxation and reduced stress when individuals actively chose to be alone.” Writes psychotherapist Amy Morin, in Forbes: “Studies show the ability to tolerate alone time has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction and improved stress management. People who enjoy alone time experience less depression.”
2. It makes you a better friend
No one can be “on” or emotionally available 24/7/365. After we recharge our batteries alone, we are better able to engage and connect with others, psychologist Thuy-vy Nguyen tells The New York Times. According to The Boston Globe, “There is even research to suggest that blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life—that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we should make sure we’re spending enough of it away from them.”
3. Better sleep
One reputable study found that, on average, couples suffered 50 percent more sleep disturbances if they shared a bed. “It’s about what makes you happy,” British sleep specialist Dr. Neil Stanley told the BBC. But a note to those with partners: “If you’ve been sleeping together and you both sleep perfectly well, then don’t change, but don’t be afraid to do something different.”
4. It helps you set boundaries
Raise your hand if you maintain any less-than-ideal relationships simply to avoid being alone. Once you learn to embrace solitude, you can let go of any toxic or “filler” friendships—freeing up more time to nurture your more satisfying ones.
5. …and goals
Alone time also allows you to deeply contemplate your big dreams, map out your plans and take small steps in that direction. We painstakingly plan weddings and vacations, notes Morin. What if we devoted the same time and attention to detail to our health or career aspirations?
6. It makes you a better parent
Deliberately spending time alone increases our aptitude for empathy, according to experts. PSA to moms who are feeling “touched out”: Engaging in self-care alone (whether going for a walk in nature or curling up with a great book) can “be the absolute best treatment in certain situations,” Dr. Mary Kay Fleming, an early childhood and parenting specialist, tells Parents. “Moms need time to themselves, and time away to refresh, refocus and replenish that deep reservoir needed to nurture.”
7. It’s the burnout antidote
When we spend time alone, liberated from obligations, we are in complete control of our time and space. Deliberate solitude offers a rare opportunity to focus on our own needs and desires as opposed to those of others. Advises Nguyen: “Take the opportunity to say, ‘This is the time where I can give something to myself,’ and just endorse that, in this moment, you are your first choice.” It’s important to note the magic healing powers of solitude work best if you ditch your phone. In today’s hyperconnected, social-media-driven world, spending time alone and unplugged “can be an oasis from the constant chatter and overwhelming stimulation of the digital urban existence,” according to sociologist and solitude scholar Eric Klinenberg.
8. It makes you more interesting
However you define your passion—noodling around in your art studio, puttering in your garden, going for a meditative run, seeing that new Adam Driver movie without worrying whether the friend you dragged along is physically loathing it—it’s harder to follow your bliss if someone else is tagging along. Your creative juices may flow best in a social vacuum. According to The Boston Globe, “An emerging body of research is suggesting that…certain tasks and thought processes are best carried out without anyone else around, and that even the most socially motivated among us should regularly be taking time to ourselves if we want to have fully developed personalities, and be capable of focus and creative thinking.”