Alone Time: A Fundamental Human Need

August 7, 2019
Spending time alone is fundamental to find some balance, especially in those times when you feel overloaded. Evidence suggests that it can cause important changes in your brain, thoughts, and emotions.

Although alone time is a fundamental human need, most people greatly value social relationships. While these contribute to well-being, the perception of a lack thereof often seems scary and worrying.

However, some meditation practices involve spending some time alone. In some of them, one of the “assignments” is to spend some days in complete solitude and absolute silence, without any contact with the outside world. Would you be able to do it?

Perhaps most people find it hard because they’re not used to such a low level of stimulation. Isolating yourself and not getting in touch with anyone for a while can be truly challenging. Thus, in order to do it successfully, you’ll need some training.

Also, you should keep in mind that people who meditate do this often and claim that it greatly benefits them. Well-managed alone time can be incredibly empowering.

“All great and precious things are lonely.” 

-John Steinbeck-

A blonde woman looking at the lake, from behind.

Company can sometimes be overwhelming

Social relationships demand a lot from you, especially when they’re long-lasting and very close. They, of course, can bring you great satisfaction as well. However, it’s something you invest a lot of your time and energy in, sometimes without you even realizing it.

You can very easily end up living your life for other people. Your job, your partner, family, friends… There are many social settings in your life and each one of them has their own challenges. Many times, you get to the point where you can’t really tell where your personal space ends and where your relationships start or vice versa.

Getting alone time is a way to re-focus your attention and energy on yourself. An opportunity to be “selfish” without feeling guilty about it. This kind of space helps you re-find yourself and get a perception of who you really are without the influence of your usual life.

Alone time makes you more sensible

Somehow, loneliness imposes silence as well. There’s a shift of attention from the outer world to your inner world. When you stop using the part of your brain in charge of speech, other areas start to operate more intensely.

In particular, there’s evidence that your focus and attention improve greatly. During your time alone, your thoughts become sharper. Although your mind may roam at first, you’ll eventually learn to shape your thoughts.

If you spend some time alone for several days, you’ll notice that you become more sensible, meaning that you’ll start to notice ideas and feelings that you weren’t aware of before. Alone time is a great way to reawaken and connect with your inner dialogue.

Effects on the brain

Some studies claim that alone time and silence can benefit the brain. Apparently, it increases grey matter, which leads to improved information processing.

This has a favorable impact on your cognitive processes. When you go back to your routine, you’ll realize that you learn and memorize things more easily. Also, you get more out of any intellectual activity. Thus, you’ll be more productive.

Furthermore, it’s highly likely that during your alone time, “eureka” moments start to manifest (moments in which you get a sudden flow of inspiration). In other words, spending time by yourself can make you more creative.

A man getting some alone time with nature in his head.

Things you should keep in mind

Ideally, you should dedicate at least 10 minutes each day to spending time alone. This doesn’t mean that you should lock yourself in a room. Actually, you should aim to take this time and space to be with yourself. If it’s not possible for you to do it every day, then try it at least three times a week.

In times when you feel overloaded or overwhelmed, maybe you’ll need to do a more intense exercise. Experts suggest that you should take a trip on your own. It doesn’t have to be far away, but it should be a space that allows for a change.

Most importantly, prepare to feel a bit awkward, especially if you haven’t done it before. All changes involve a certain degree of resistance. However, if you follow your instincts and spend time with yourself, you’ll realize that it’s truly worth it.

  • Aguirre, R. (2005). El tiempo, los tiempos, una vara de desigualdad (Vol. 65). United Nations Publications.