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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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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