The more you realise things, the more you want to be by yourself. Not a lot of people will understand the depths of your thoughts
~ Elvis Presley
Humans are social beings. We have an inherent need to interact with others, and in doing so we learn so much and greatly enrich our lives. That said, we also need to get comfortable with spending time alone. Ideally, there should be a healthy balance between time spent with others and time spent alone. As we are all unique and have different personalities, this balance will vary from person to person. You just have to experiment until you find a split which works for you.
Periods of solitude sound scary, but they are actually very important for your mental health. It sounds counter-intuitive, but spending quality time alone can actually make you a better person, and better company to be around.
Those who willingly spend periods of time alone, tend to be viewed with suspicion, but we can learn a lot from a particular group of them. There are two different groups of people who willingly spend time alone, though. The first are those who appreciate the power of time spent alone to boost your mental health. These people spend their alone-time gathering their thoughts, reflecting or working on their personal and professional development. The other group can be found binge-watching Netflix series while mindlessly surfing the internet. Needless to say, it’s the first group who have a lot to teach us. They tend to be the most self-aware, authentic and happy people you are likely to meet.
Spending time with others benefits our lives in so very many ways, but it also comes with its pressures. We feel pressured to conform to the expectations of others in order to be accepted. We feel pressured to sacrifice our free time to do things we would rather not, for fear of missing out. We spend all of our free time with others who do nothing to enrich our lives and waste time doing things which take us no closer towards our goals. We do this so that we don’t get left out, or left behind. The problem is that this fear of missing out and of being rejected drives us to become someone who we are not. We forget who we really are, what we value and what we want for our own lives. While this might bring some fun and enjoyment in the short-term, over the long-term it can seriously damage your mental health as the strain of putting on an act takes its toll.
I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve stayed in toxic relationships, and spent my time living other peoples’ lives. While I was rarely alone, I was also never truly happy. Over time, this contributed to the slippery slope towards depression which I found myself on last year. The ensuing illness which nearly cost me my life is also a godsend, as it finally opened my eyes to what I was doing, and what I had been neglecting.
In that hospital bed, all I had was time so I used it to reflect on my life. After my discharge, I cut off toxic people and re-evaluated who I was spending time with. I even called off my wedding and left my fiancee, which is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do. This was extremely difficult, but necessary. Soon, my insecurities vanished and were replaced by a sense of calm. Best of all, though, I rediscovered the joy of my own company.
I used to love time spent mountain biking or running in the wooded areas near my home. I also used to be a voracious reader, and journalled religiously, but as the demands on my time grew, all of this got neglected.
Freeing myself from certain people also freed me from the insecurities and pressures which came from spending time with them. It also freed up time. Lots of time. This is time which I then invested in reading, running and cycling in nature. Or spent journalling and reflecting on who I am, what I want from life and what my values are, all of which are important for my personal and professional development. Ever since I reminded myself of the power of time spent alone, I am happier, my mental health is better than ever and I am more productive than ever before. Naturally, I still socialise plenty. It’s just that I now guard my time spent alone, as I appreciate how important it is for my happiness and mental health. As with everything else in life, there needs to be a healthy balance between the time you spend working on yourself and the time which you spend in the company of others.
Solitude is dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realise how peaceful and calm it is. It’s like you don’t want to deal with people anymore because they drain your energy
~ Jim Carrey