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HomePersonal DevelopmentThe Power of Spending Quality Time Alone

The Power of Spending Quality Time Alone

Spending quality time alone is an often underappreciated yet fundamental aspect of individual wellbeing and growth. It fosters self-awareness, bolsters creativity, increases productivity, and offers an opportunity for self-reflection and emotional processing (Kraft & Pressman, 2012). However, a fear of solitude and the relentless pursuit of distractions has become pervasive in modern society.

Loneliness can elicit negative emotions, which may be why many people fear spending time alone. But this fear can often be attributed to a lack of comfort or familiarity with one’s own company (Burger, 1995). People seek distractions as a way of avoiding internal turmoil, as distractions can mask feelings of emptiness, confusion, or dissatisfaction that may arise in solitude.

Common distractions include social media, television, and following the crowd. We are hard-wired to seek social connections for survival, which can explain our attraction to social media (Dunbar, 2012). Television provides a pseudo-social presence, allowing us to escape our own thoughts and lives. Following the crowd, also known as conformity, is a form of behavioral distraction to fit in and avoid standing out.

However, these distractions are often double-edged swords. While they can provide temporary relief from discomfort, they can also lead to unhealthy obsessions or addictions. For instance, excessive use of social media can result in depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem (Keles, McCrae, & Grealish, 2020).

Other types of activities can turn into avoidance behaviors too. Workaholism, compulsive shopping, obsessive housework, or incessant studying can all serve as distractions from spending time alone. These activities are often socially accepted or even rewarded, which can further fuel the cycle of avoidance (Robinson, 2014).

Recent studies have explored this phenomenon. For example, a 2019 study by Kross et al. explored how people use smartphones and social media to avoid being alone with their thoughts. They found that being alone with one’s thoughts was described as an aversive experience, and people tended to prefer engaging in external activities.

Despite these challenges, it is vital to understand the value of spending time alone. In his seminal book, “Solitude: A Return to the Self,” psychiatrist Anthony Storr (1988) highlighted that productive solitude can lead to self-discovery and creative achievement.

Moreover, mindfulness and meditation practices have been scientifically proven to reduce stress, increase focus, and promote psychological wellbeing when practiced alone (Chiesa & Serretti, 2009).

Spiritual practices also emphasize the power of solitude. For instance, the Buddhist concept of ‘Vipassana’ or insight meditation encourages individuals to spend time in solitude to gain deeper self-understanding.

In terms of practical literature, Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” is a comprehensive exploration of the value of introspection and solitude. “How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t” by Lane Moore is another valuable resource that offers practical advice and personal experiences on the benefits of spending time alone.

In conclusion, the words of influential psychologist Rollo May resonate strongly: “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

Promoting a healthier relationship with solitude, and recognizing the potential pitfalls of avoidance behaviors, can be instrumental in achieving a more balanced, meaningful, and fulfilling life.

It is important to note that the above provides a general approach to dealing with loneliness, this is a different matter altogether from those who suffer from the fear of solitude, which is referred to as Autophobia, also known as Monophobia, Isolophobia, or Eremophobia which is an irrational fear of being alone or feeling lonely, secluded, or isolated. If you or someone you know is dealing with autophobia, it is advised to consult with a mental health professional who can provide guidance based on a comprehensive understanding of the problem. The information provided here is meant to be general and may not be right for a specific individual’s unique needs.

References:

  • Burger, J. M. (1995). Individual differences in preference for solitude. Journal of Research in Personality, 29(1), 85-108.
  • Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593-600.
  • Dunbar, R. (2012). Social cognition on the internet: testing constraints on social network size. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367(1599), 2192-2201.
  • Keles, B., McCrae, N., & Grealish, A. (2020). A systematic review: the influence of social media on depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adolescents. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), 79-93.
  • Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372-1378.
  • Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., Shablack, H., Jonides, J., & Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PloS one, 8(8), e69841.
  • Robinson, B. E. (2014). Chained to the Desk (Third Edition): A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them. NYU Press.
  • Storr, A. (1988). Solitude: A return to the self. Free Press.
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