Some of us feel truly alive when we are around other people, and even the most shy, introverted individual among us needs connection with other human beings, however, alone time is highly underrated in Western society. True alone time – that time with just you and your thoughts, time to just be – is so rare that only about 25 percent of us experience it – even in a world where people feel socially ostracized and lonely. How is that possible?
Bringham Young and other Universities point to some alarming statistics – that millions of people feel lonely, even in the age of instant messages, texting, Skype, and online chat. It’s the feeling of being alone that causes a health risk though, not actual alone time. There’s a big difference, and the fine details separating one from the other deserve to be hashed out here.
1. True Alone Time = A Mind Reboot
True alone time allows you to get to know yourself better. It isn’t spent playing video games, watching endless Netflix movies, or ruminating over your ex. Though certain thoughts may arise, alone time, spent in nature, or just allowing ourselves to be, with no agenda whatsoever, reboots the mind. There’s a strange phenomenon that happens when we spend time in social circles and never take a break from them. We become subjects of Groupthink – that consensus thought which usually sinks to the lowest common denominator of being isolated and fearful.
Alternative viewpoints and creative problem solving only happen when the mind is allowed to forge new pathways – which usually occurs when we step away from our trained, Groupthink, socialized ways of behaving and conceptualizing things. Since you aren’t looking to your peers for approval during alone time, the mind might go down pathways that it wouldn’t normally venture into, allowing you to come up with innovative and creative ways to do just about anything – from coming up with a new budget for your company to novel ways of solving problems which affect humanity at large such as the visionaries, Nikola Tesla or Buckminster Fuller.
2. We Unplug from Electronic Conditioning
Does your cell phone and email account make you feel like a Pavlovian dog? Forced to salivate and fetch a treat every time a bell rings? There’s a reason for that. We’ve been conditioned to hang on every word – text and voicemail alike – from our peers, family members, and co-workers.
We’re so conditioned to use electronic communication to get by in a day that we’ll crash our cars trying to tell someone we’re on the way. Despite heavy fines for texting and driving, we’ll still gamble our lives an our wallets to answer an email or send an IM to our love interest.
Conversely, a massive amount of cognitive space is freed when we put down our smart phones computers, and tablets and just experience our own inner dialogue. It can be surprising what is going on in there when you give yourself three minutes of peace to experience it.
What’s more, it’s been proven via brain scans that EMF and Wifi signals change your brain’s physiology. What might change about how you think about yourself and others, should you simply disconnect from those signals for a little while?
3. We Get to Make Friends with Ourselves
Plato once said that thinking is the soul talking with itself. We spend so much time giving our advice to friends and family, and so little making friends with our own inner Self. This Self has much to teach us. When we spend time with it, we can never be lonely, because this true Self loves us unconditionally.
Mindful self-compassion can be even more profoundly important to our overall experience of life than compassion for others. It is, in fact, the basis upon which all other inter-personal interactions occur. Self-esteem and self-pity are not self-compassion.
You have esteem for yourself when you do well. You have pity for yourself when you feel someone did you wrong. In developing self-compassion – or making friends with yourself – you accept yourself exactly as you are. This is usually done best in deep contemplation and solitude. All other voices removed but your own. Uninterrupted time alone can actually make our time in social circles better.
If you are craving some alone time, it’s likely because your mind needs to find some space, your heart craves a deeper relationship with your soul and your relationships need a clean slate. If you can – find some time to just be today, and allow your Self to show you who you are outside of social conditioning, outside pressures, and the work-a-day rat race grind. You might be surprised how less-than-lonely you feel when you make friends with the most important person you’ll ever know – YOU.