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Alone Time Is Good For Us, Research Says

Alone Time Is Good For Us, Research Says

Our world is more hyper-connected than ever. We have smartphones, tablets, iPods, laptops, and a few of us even have those soon-to-be relics called desktops. We’re so addicted that – according to Pew Research Center – 67% of cellphone owners find themselves checking their phone even when they don’t notice it ring or vibrate, and 21% of us report going online “almost constantly.” We’re so busy networking – online and off – that we leave little time for ourselves. But here’s the thing – alone time has some significant benefits.

Science shows that we overestimate how much we need people and underestimate the value of solitary experiences.

In essence, it comes down to a PR problem. Being alone has a bad rap. It is often erroneously associated with being lonely or anti-social – both of which are not beneficial to health. But being alone is distinct from these conditions, and research is mounting on its benefits to body and mind. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that those, “who forego hedonic activities alone are missing out on opportunities for rewarding experiences.”

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So, what are the benefits of being alone? Here are five ways that being alone will enrich your life.

1. Alone time can help you rest and recharge

If you’re like most people, you are continually overwhelmed by an onslaught of distractions, and a lot of it comes in the form of other people. Meetings, phone calls, texts, social media, parties, and date nights. You’re rushing here and there, trying to keep the mental Rolodex of your contacts and tasks straight. You need a break.

Being alone allows you the opportunity to settle your nerves, decompress and regain clarity and focus. Whether it’s taking a hot bath, doing a 10-minute meditation or just enjoying a few moments by yourself, alone time can help you collect your thoughts and harness the energy you need for the rest of the day.

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2. Being alone enhances creativity

Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet, told Scientific American, “solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.” While brainstorming is often touted as the solution to producing creative ideas, decades of research shows that it can backfire. People may feel constricted in groups, worried about what others will think of their ideas, or just not motivated to commit to a deep exploration.

On your own – whether it’s at home, in a cafe, on a city street, or in nature – you have space and the permission to open up your mind and discover new ideas and possibilities.

3. You get more done when you’re alone

Back in 1913, an agricultural engineer named Maximilien Ringelmann found that individuals put in more effort when working alone on a task (rope pulling, in this early 1900’s instance) than when working together collectively in a group. Known as “social loafing,” this phenomenon has been replicated in numerous studies in different situations over time. Think about your last group project – can you remember one “loafer” you encountered? I thought so, and it probably didn’t help create the best product or the most positive experience for anyone.

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Interestingly, even when someone thinks they’re contributing their maximal effort to a group, studies show that they aren’t. Much of this is due to a loss of motivation, unclear goals, or an inability to coordinate group efforts. Being alone is when you can harness your motivation and ultimately get more done.

4. Solitude can boost intimacy

In religious terms, solitude can serve as a time to be at one with God. And for the one-third to one-half of the population who are introverts, it’s a chance to reconnect with oneself. But psychological studies have found that the benefits of being alone extend beyond introverts and the spiritual. Disconnecting offers a powerful opportunity to regulate our lives and strengthen ties.

Spending time alone can help you reassess and gain perspective on relationships and supplies a much-needed break from socializing. This way, when you return to the social world, you can be more fully engaged with loved ones and less distracted by your own internal monologue. Plus, through activities you pursue solo, you might meet new and exciting people that you would never have encountered otherwise.

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5. You have the greatest gift of all when you’re alone: freedom

Any parent will tell you that one thing they miss dearly now that they have kids is freedom. Young college grads will commiserate that, although they “love” their roommates, they can’t wait for them to leave for a weekend. Even newlyweds sometimes celebrate when the other is away.

Let’s face it, the freedom to do what we want, when, and how we want it, becomes rarer as we get older. Taking time to detach, disconnect and spend time by yourself – doing whatever it is you want on your own terms – helps to improve mood, create balance, and enrich perspective. No boundaries, no judgment, no negotiating. It reminds you that you are in control of your life and that fulfillment ultimately comes from within.

Featured photo credit: Yanko Peyankov via images.unsplash.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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