7 Great Reasons to Spend Time Alone

“I want to be alone,” said Greta Garbo in the movie Grand Hotel. I hear it, with Garbo’s accent, as “I vant to be alone” accompanied by a dramatic hand to the forehead. Maybe that’s because I crave any chance to spend time alone. I’m a woman who enjoys periods of solitude.

A few weeks ago, I had that rarest of opportunity–four days and three nights alone. I love my family and friends, but oh my gosh, I had a great time. After putting an “I’ll get back to you in a few days” message on my phone and stashing my car key in a drawer, I read, wrote, napped, walked my dog, watched movies, and enjoyed several long hot baths complete with candles. Every one of the actions was good self-care; put them all together and it was sheer bliss.

Do You Like to Spend Time Alone?

Time alone has a bad rap. Too much time alone is linked to heart disease and early death in elderly people. Solitary confinement is a severe punishment for prisoners. People who enjoy solitude are loners to be pitied. And in one oft-quoted 2014 research study, some participants were actually willing to administer electric shock to themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts.

However, there’s a big difference between solitude that heals and solitude that encourages suffering. According to developmental psychologist Kenneth Rubin, it comes down to your ability to manage your emotions when you engage in the inner exploration that is part of any significant time alone, and to be able to rejoin other people when you are ready.

It is important to note that true solitude is several steps beyond simply spending time alone. For some, solitude means no distractions from thought for a sustained period of time–no books, movies, or technology.

There are unique benefits to extended periods of solitude, but even a short time spent alone has great value.

7 Reasons to Spend Time Alone

1. No Compromises

You can do exactly what you want, when you want. On one very rainy day, I walked the dog, had a hot bath early in the morning, and climbed back into bed for a few hours.

2. Self-Discovery

When you spend time alone, it’s much easier to listen to yourself and know what you really want. The journaling I did during my time alone led to a few breakthroughs in my quest to uncover a new life purpose.

The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.

May Sarton

3. Save Money

Socializing costs money. Time in stores always costs me money. For four days and three nights, I didn’t spend a dime.

4. Improve Relationships

Time alone to center yourself can make it easier to return to others. A Harvard study has found that our ability to empathize with others improves if we have some solitude in between social interactions.

5. Solve Problems

When you don’t have to deal with other people’s judgments and opinions, it is easier to be innovative.

6. Be in the Moment

Time alone allows you to slow down and enjoy all of the little moments that usually pass by without notice. My days alone felt good and long.

7. Increase Productivity

If you have work to do, it’s much easier to concentrate when alone. Concentrating allows you to get more done in less time.

Do you like to spend time alone? What are some of the ways you fit alone time into your week?

22 comments

  1. Hello Karen. I really enjoyed this article. One of my life mottos is “I may be alone, but I am never lonely.”. It sounds to me that this is the concept you were trying to get across.
    Thanks for your emails.. I certainly enjoy them.

    1. Hi Shirley. Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate the distinction you make between being alone and being lonely. The first state is optimistic and life-affirming; the second often leads to depression. I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts. Karen

  2. Being a self-proclaimed ‘extroverted introvert’ I need, and thrive on, a good balance of alone time. Your seven reasons to spend time alone rang very true to me. Thank you for sharing this, Karen.

  3. I don’t usually get much alone time since both hubby and I are self-employed YouTubers. However, that being said he has picked up a day job that keeps him out of my hair from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. with the exception of 1/2 hour for lunch on most days. Let me tell you…alone time is bliss. I can get things done without “come here and look at this” or “have you seen my…” or countless other interruptions that seem to occur daily otherwise. When I clean the house it stays clean while I am alone. As soon as hubby comes home after his other job there are work clothes and wet towels and work boots thrown willy-nilly around the house.

    My time alone, when I can get it, is spent getting the house clean, reading, writing and/or having a nap. I also shoot YouTube videos without interruption. If interrupted it causes many retakes or copious editing being required to produce a video worthy of being uploaded to my channel. I love my husband dearly but being alone does not bother me one bit. 😉

    1. Your response made me chuckle, Susan. I picture this pristine, calm, relaxing environment, and then a sudden rainstorm of clothes, towels and boots flying willy nilly about the rooms. And how great that you are able to not only thoroughly enjoy your alone time, but also be productive with your YouTube videos. That’s great!

      1. LOL, I am glad it made you chuckle, Karen. Some days it really does feel like just how you pictured it! 😀 I find myself just shaking my head and chuckling too. As for the YouTube videos… you can see them on my channel – the ones that get interrupted and the ones I do when alone. Sometimes I can’t redo them if it is something like an unboxing or a repair video on one of my RC vehicles. Aarrgghh :/ … So, on those, I do some creative editing but I am not always able to get rid of every sign of the interruption. 🙁 Ah well, my YouTube channel is real life, not an antiseptic movie studio set and well, life happens. 😉

  4. I am so envious! I don’t get a lot of alone time since we are both retired. I go out with girlfriends, have nail appointments, am in a book club, etc. but my husband doesn’t have many outside interests. Fortunately, I like spending time with him… but I’d love to have a day… or two… or more just to myself.

    1. Ah, hopefully you can plan an entire day or two with some girlfriends – maybe to celebrate something special, or just because it’s a Monday or…. I know it’s not the same as alone time, but when I can’t get alone time, a day at a spa with a friend is a pretty close second!

  5. Great post Karen – you hit all the important points about being alone. I think too many people associate being alone with loneliness which is completely wrong; you can feel lonely in a room full of people while being alone in a room with yourself can feel very satisfying. Over the years I’ve known people who cannot bear the thought of being by themselves; perhaps they’re afraid of “who” they might meet.

    1. Well said, Anna. I remember the book The Lonely Crowd, and how startling that idea was for people at the time – that it was possible to feel lonely when with other people. I’ve felt that kind of loneliness and it was awful. Being alone is an entirely different, and far more positive, experience.

  6. I love being alone, especially in nature. It provides me with more freedom and I feel more self-sufficient and stronger, in general. I do not feel guilty when relaxing and am more productive with my writing and other projects. It almost sounds like I am happier by myself than in a relationship, but a good balance is key! You have to compare the pros and the cons with everything, right? 🙂

    The best year of my life was a whole year of backpacking on my own in SE Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Thing is, you are never really alone when going on trips like that.

    1. Hi Liesbet,
      You’re so right that a good balance is the key. Some of the research I read said that it was absolutely vital to be able to return to interactions with others whenever you wanted.
      A whole year backpacking alone sounds incredible. I am so looking forward to reading your memoir, Liesbet. You have had so many interesting and insight-provoking experiences.

  7. For me, daily periods of solitude for thinking, writing, reading, and walking have always been really important. Fortunately, for the last 30 years I have had the kind of work where substantial chunks of “alone time” have been part of the work requirement. On the other hand, I have never been great at living alone. After a few days alone I find myself becoming odd and reclusive!

    Jude

    1. Hi Jude,
      Sorry for the delay in posting your comment, and my response. Your message got caught by the internet gremlins.
      Substantial chunks of alone time balanced by living with another person(s) feels to me like a perfect combination. I keep trying to achieve it but have trouble carving out the times of solitude. It’s an ongoing effort.

  8. Being slightly an introvert and able to work from home (semi-retired), I love being alone. But I love being on campus 2-3 partial days a week engaging with fellow faculty and my students. Hubby is home from work by 3pm and we are loving the empty nest!!

    1. Hi Terri,
      Thanks for being here, and many thanks for your comment. Some time alone and some time on campus enjoying all of that intellectual energy sounds like the absolutely perfect combination. I’m heading over to take a look at your blog site right now!
      Karen

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