7 Ways Spending Time Alone Will Change Your Life

IntrovertDear.com alone time new year change life

Finally, the door closed and the noise stopped. I was in my bedroom, my own bedroom, with the lights turned perfectly low and no one else around. It was the holidays, and I had just spent nearly two days straight with family, passing around casserole and opening presents and trying not to scream when I realized there was no escape, at least not until the cut-out cookies had been served.

But now, I had this. Time alone. The relief felt as real as a drug carrying me away to bliss.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. I really do. But as an introvert, I can only take so much “together time” before my energy is sapped, my brain becomes mush, and every cell in my body demands a quieter, less stimulating space.

Introverts need alone time like we need air to breathe.

If you’re like me, your introvert alone time comes sporadically. When your roommate, spouse, or kids happen to be out for the night, you get the place to yourself. Or you find yourself “lucky” to have no plans for the weekend. Suddenly, with hours of couch and pajama quiet time stretching infinitely out in front of you, you realize just how much you needed this break.

But what if you could feel enchantingly energized as a rule, not a reaction? You can — when you start deliberately scheduling solitude. This year, my New Year’s resolution is to spend at least 30 minutes each night reading — alone in my bedroom. The new year is the perfect time to start a new habit. I invite you to join me on the fast track to bliss.

You’ll find that spending time alone will absolutely change your life. Here’s how.

The Life-Changing Benefits of Spending Time Alone

1. You’ll show up better for the people in your life.

Not getting enough alone time can turn you into a trash-can dwelling grouch. You start snapping at every little thing. You start wondering why you ever thought it was a good idea to marry this guy. Or start a family. You grump at your husband when he can’t find the milk that’s staring him in the face in the fridge. You snap at your kid when she forgets her lunch at home. You turn into everyone’s favorite person to avoid.

But have you ever noticed what happens when the energizing salve of solitude is spread across your evening? You become a pleasant person again. Someone people actually want to be around. And not just pleasant, but downright engaging. You actually want to chat with your roommate about her latest Tinder disaster. You ask your coworker how his weekend was — and you mean it. Taking more time for yourself has the ironic effect of ultimately making your relationships better.

2. You’ll get smarter.

Alone time isn’t all just binge-watching your favorite shows in your elastic waistband pants. Many introverts spend their solitude reading books and articles or listening to podcasts. And the benefits of reading are yuge, including helping keep your brain sharp, possibly staving off Alzheimer’s disease, and even making you more empathetic (when you read fiction). If you’re not spending five hours a week learning something new via reading, you’re being irresponsible with your time, argues entrepreneur and bestselling author Michael Simmons. Top business leaders like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah spend five hours a week deliberately learning; they’re pretty busy people, so the moral of the story is that if they can find time to do it, so can you.

3. You’ll improve your health.

Similar to #2, you can use your alone time to do something healthy (mentally or physically) like jogging, yoga, meditation, or prayer. Regular exercise is basically a wonder drug for your mind and body, and meditation has been shown to increase your immune function, decrease pain, boost your happiness, make you less lonely, and So. Much. More. Similarly, time spent in prayer has been found to offset the negative effects of stress, have a calming effect, and increase feelings of wellbeing and joy.

4. You’ll solve problems and optimize your life.

When you don’t have to make small talk with grandma or listen as your coworker extols the virtues of his latest Amazon purchase, your mind is freed up. You start imagining a better way to organize the yearly training seminar you run at work. You pull out a deeper meaning behind a recent experience. You think about everyone you’ve ever dated, what qualities drew you to them, what that says about you as a person, and how you’ll use that information to make better choices in the future. If there’s one thing introverts are great at doing, it’s reflecting on their experiences and optimizing things — and that’s best done alone, sans distractions or interruptions.

5. You’ll get creative “aha!” moments.

Similar to #4, when you spend time alone, you may get unexpected flashes of creative insight. Suddenly you know what should happen next in your novel, or you get a brilliant business idea. That’s because, as I explain in my book, letting your mind wander helps creative incubation. It allows your brain to work on a problem in the background, subconsciously.

6. You’ll have more energy.

Interestingly, a recent study found that spending time alone is probably the best way to rest — whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Duh.

7. You’ll feel calmer and happier.

When you spend time alone, you get to focus on your own thoughts and feelings — and no one else’s. You don’t have to take anyone else’s needs into account — only your own. Spending time alone is a form of self-care. People who regularly partake in self-care are generally happier and calmer than those who don’t, because the “me-timers” prevent overload burnout.

Mental health professionals recommend we spend at least 20 minutes a day doing something for ourselves. I’m going for a solid thirty (or more!). The exact number of minutes matters less than the fact that you actually do it. You might have to get creative to fit it into your day, especially if you’re a parent or a very busy person.

But once you start spending more time alone, you’ll probably find that it’s so magical that you don’t have to grunt or work or sweat to make yourself do it. Pretty soon, you won’t be able to imagine living any other way. 

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Read this: 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy

Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman 

Image credit: @ashim via Twenty20

  • Catherine

    How would this work for parents of young children? They are lucky to get five minutes alone each day. The best they can hope of doing something for themselves is sleeping, which isn’t very rewarding.

    • njguy54

      Parents of young children aren’t going to get as much “me time” as they might like, but keep things in perspective. Before long they’ll be in school, off with their friends and ultimately off on their own. That time — and the alone time that comes with it — will be here sooner than you think. Take it from an old introvert… 😉

    • Judith Shumway

      That is such a hard stage of life for an introverted parent. I was extremely unhappy during that part of my life. We had quiet time scheduled everyday, but it was pushed aside if any if the kids needed me during that time. I was always on call. It also didn’t work if I had too much to do the rest of the day that I couldn’t really turn off my mind. It was the time of life that I needed solitude the most, and had the least of it. Now all my kids are in school, so I have more chunks of quiet time. It is the only way I can survive parenthood. Don’t feel guilty for letting your kids watch something on TV or play video games for a while so you can have a form of solitude in the other room.

      • Catherine

        Yes I was extremely unhappy at that time too, I understand you. I couldn’t even think my own thoughts, which was torture. I’d be desperate for just five minutes to flop, but my extrovert mum didn’t understand, my husband would often come home from work and go out somewhere while I was at screaming point. I had to learn to be more assertive ‘no, I’ve been in all day. IIII will go to the shop for the bread and milk, not you.’
        That phrase hits the nail on the head ‘It was the time of life that I needed solitude the most, and had the least of it.’ Perfect description.
        I did feel guilty for the TV I let my daughter watch but it was 99% educational, CBeebies and CBBC (I only have one child but I’m not sure if that’s easier as I was always the playmate, the one in demand, there weren’t a group of children to play together. I don’t know which is harder). Our daughter also had severe health issues so I was often nursing her for days and nights on end. I just desperately needed 5 or 10 minutes to regroup and destress.
        I was lucky that for a couple of years, my husband did part time child care of her, and I sometimes came home to him tearing his hair out saying ‘I just need 5 minutes alone’. Yes. I know.
        But she is at school now and her health problems have diminished greatly thank god. I still beat myself up about ‘why didn’t I get more medical help sooner, why didn’t I realise the problem sooner.’ But I’m only human.
        Thanks Judith 🙂

        • Judith Shumway

          Loved your reply Catherine. I am glad things have eased up for you too. Now that I’m past the worst stage, I feel so much for new parents, especially introverted ones. We had Thanksgiving at my house a few weeks ago with lots of family. My conservative, family- oriented nephew just married the sweetest, smartest, well- educated introvert. I couldn’t help but worry for her as she starts this phase of life. I wonder if she even knows the definition of an introvert and that she is one. I didn’t know what was wrong with me until a friend pointed it out after I had four children (oldest was 8, youngest was 1) and was drowning emotionally, mentally, and physically. I hope I can find an appropriate time to talk to her. I did mention to the couple that in parenthood there are no real breaks. My nephew said, “Well when I was a kid, you were great at taking care of us.” I replied, “But it was always temporary. Soon I’d give you back to your parents.” I know it got him worrying about the fact that he probably couldn’t just leave all the child rearing up to his wife while he persued his medical career. Hopefully it gave his sweet wife something to think about. She looked worried too. It is hard for all parents, but by far more difficult for introverts. So I’ll need to find a way to work that in sometime.

          • Catherine

            That is so sweet of you to care about your new niece. I hope you get a chance to speak to her. I would advise any potential mum to make sure she has a good support network BEFORE getting pregnant. I was too ill during pregnancy to even think of going to antenatal classes, it didn’t work out well at all.
            I know EXACTLY what you mean- I felt like I was drowning all those ways when my daughter was little, especially as she had severe health problems which weren’t picked up and I was made to feel I was an ‘overfussy mother’ Grrr! That attitude really annoys me. You really do not get a break with young children do you? You can’t even go to the loo for a 5 minute break as they either follow you in there or scream til you come back. A nightmare.
            I also had no transport as my husband took the car to work each day, so we were restricted to walking round our little village (population 2000) over and over again. We didn’t have much money so I couldn’t afford to go to children’s classes either. If I did it again I would insist on having the car and somehow getting the money together to pay for classes- they were for me to meet other adults as well as my daughter to meet other kids. I nearly went insane.
            Although having said that! Some baby/toddler groups were cut throat! SO competitive about their children’s progress, you’d think it was life or death. I soon left those groups! Ugh.
            Sending virtual hugs to you Judith!