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You Have to Crave Real Alone Time to Be Smarter

You Have to Crave Real Alone Time to Be Smarter

Lots of research has pointed at the notion that people who socialize more tend to be much happier. But this doesn’t apply to everyone. One factor where socializing more doesn’t equal more happiness is intelligence. People who are highly intelligent become less happy the more they socialize because it’s thought smart people adapt more easily to the modern world. In other words, they understand that our primal need to keep close contact with a social group for food and shelter is no longer applicable in modern society.

In fact, the more intelligent someone is, the more they tend to focus on long term goals instead of short-term gratification. Socialising, therefore, doesn’t hold as much value as working towards their goals.

You’re Not Alone in Embracing Your Alone Time

If you’re reading this thinking how much you love your alone time and proud that you carve out time for yourself on a regular basis, you’re one of many. One survey found 85% of adults believe alone time is important to them [1].

While the increasingly popular concept of mindfulness encourages us to connect with ourselves, the importance of alone time is becoming a necessary part of our lives. But do you we really use this time to our advantage? Do we really spend this valuable alone time “alone”?

How We’re Spending Alone Time in the Wrong Way

Being physically alone in a room is one thing, but if you don’t utilise this time in a way that you’re free from social stimulation, you’re not getting the true benefits.

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With modern times comes digital distractions. Having time by yourself means you can enjoy doing the things that relax you but these days that can mean idly jumping on your phone or computer. Replying to texts and messages and browsing Facebook is providing the danger of becoming less relaxed and satisfied with the benefits that alone time can create in your life.

Our idea of alone time needs to be defined as distancing ourselves physically and digitally from the world. In fact, when we’re mindlessly browsing social media or watching television, our brain is actually shifting into a state where it starts to crave social interaction with others [2]. This obviously counteracts the very reasons why you need alone time in the first place.

Why FOMO is the Death of Your Alone Time

FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out is a phenomenon all social media users have experienced at one time or another.

It’s that needy, anxious feeling you get when you haven’t checked Facebook or Twitter – that fear that there’s stuff out there that you’re missing out on and leads you to check just one more time to see what’s new.

But what we’re essentially checking are things that don’t matter or add value to our lives. It may evoke that sense of security that we’re up to date on what’s going on, to be able to talk about the latest goings on with our peers but it’s creating a greater insecurity in the long run.

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Social media has the ability to have a huge negative effect on us. It creates a sense of competitiveness and comparison that affects the mentality we have of ourselves. It takes away those precious moments where we could be doing more productive tasks that actually go towards our personal growth and well-being.

How To Lessen Distractions

The key to this is lessening time spent on social media or watching TV rather than cutting it out altogether and there are ways to help you do this.

One is an online app called StayFocusd for Chrome users. Select the websites that you consider your biggest time wasters and set a time limit. Once this time has run out, Chrome will block you from using it giving you no choice but to focus on better things.

Another app is Forest where your seed will gradually grow into a tree. The idea here is if you move away from the app, your tree is in danger of withering away – encouraging you to stop the habit of using your usual distracting apps.

Practical Activities To Get More Out of Your Alone Time

The time you spend alone is a great opportunity to increase your well-being and promote positivity within yourself. Whether you have 15 minutes or several hours, there are certain activities that can help cultivate personal growth.

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Self-Reflection: ask yourself a lot of questions

Self-reflection is something we tend to overlook. By not going through the process of deliberately self-reflecting on our thoughts and actions, we risk missing the opportunity to find growth and likely end up stuck in the same patterns.

  • Review regularly how you spend your day, week or month
  • Ask yourself what could you do differently to create challenges or create more happiness
  • How can you change your current perspectives?
  • Ask yourself: am I living my best life? If not, what small or big changes could I consider making?

Questioning yourself can sometimes feel uncomfortable but it’s this resistance that is showing you there are answers you may need to face in order to create a better life or grow positively as a person.

Journalling: free your mind

There’s a lot of power in writing things down and can be extremely therapeutic for the mind. When something is troubling you, writing it down can help clear it out and relax your mind. To do this, first write down your worries and feelings and then step back and contemplate them. Ask yourself if they’re really valid and question why you’re having these feelings.

The beauty of this process is finding time to intentionally stop and listen to your inner thoughts and feelings, taking time out in order to stop overlooking them and allowing them to grow bigger. Always remember this rule: when it comes to unhappiness, the more you write it down, the less you’ll remember it.

Meditation: learn how not to think

While meditation is a wonderful tool for relaxing, it has many other benefits too. Research has found it has positive effects on our health including lowering blood pressure, increasing positive mental attitude, improving focus, memory and boosting creativity.

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And you don’t have to sit for hours on end to get these benefits. Just 5 minutes out of your day to sit quietly and focus on your breath will be enough to see an improvement and reap the rewards.

Watch Movies or Read Books That Change Your Perspective

Reading is a popular alone-time activity as is streaming your favourite movie. But consider reaching for a book or film that will change the way you view something.

Escapism is great every now and then, but in this busy world our time can be precious and using this time to change our mindsets and perspectives can be exponential for our growth and understanding.

The benefit of spending time alone is being able to make choices without others’ influences. As humans, we tend to allow our egos to be persuaded by outside opinions instead of changing beliefs ourselves. By being solitary, we can help avoid this and discover our own ideas and challenge existing perspectives. A good way of doing this is through reading different books and watching movies that challenge our ideas about the world.

Our alone time can be extremely beneficial to us if we use it in the right way. Make the time for yourself as quality-focused and growth-oriented as possible. After a while you’ll start to see and feel the positive effects.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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