A Therapist Shares the Secret to Better Alone Time

an introvert enjoys alone time

Every day we wake up with a certain amount of energy. How full that glass of energy is depends on a lot of factors in our lives and how well we’ve been meeting our needs. Introverts require alone time to be at their best. Research suggests it’s all about brain chemistry.

Part of the equation has to do with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that “helps control the brain’s pleasure and reward centers,” explains Jenn Granneman, author of The Secret Lives of Introverts and founder of Introvert, Dear. Extroverts have “a more active dopamine reward system,” so there’s a lot more positive reward for them in social experiences.

However, introverts prefer the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in her book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. “Acetylcholine is linked to the parasympathetic side of the nervous system, which is nicknamed the ‘throttle down’ or ‘rest-and-digest’ side,” Laney writes. That’s why we introverts generally prefer quieter, calming activities that allow us to go within and reflect deeply.

When introverts engage that parasympathetic side, we relax, our heart rate lowers, and our body gets ready to rest and go inward — all things we introverts look forward to, like a good book or a nice bubble bath. Extroverts favor the sympathetic side, which preps them to try new things and can make them more active externally.

As an introvert, it’s so important to protect your precious energy resources. Think about your glass of energy every morning. Where will you choose to pour it out? Where will you start to preserve it? If you feel depleted a lot, start becoming conscious of where your energy is going. Are particular people in your life draining you? It’s important to recognize when you need some alone time so you can recharge.

Let’s take a look at the major signs that you’re not getting enough alone time, plus I’ll share with you the secret to making it better.

Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Alone Time

When introverts let their energy tanks get too low, the ordinary stresses of life can become overwhelming. In a world that caters to extroverts, it’s easy to push ourselves to “fit in” at work and with our friends. But this quickly drains our energy, and if we keep pushing ourselves, we land in depletion. It’s important to recognize when we need some alone time so we can restore and refill our energy tanks.

You might need some alone time if . . .

  • You feel exhausted, even after eight or more hours of sleep.
  • You feel like your “fight-or-flight system” is more activated.
  • All you can think about is the next time you can close the door and be alone.
  • You’re more sensitive and emotional. Little things get on your nerves, and you feel like you’re losing control of your emotions.
  • You feel more irritable and might experience resentment building up with certain people in your life.

If you experience several of these symptoms, it means your energy tank is low, and you need to recharge.

The Secret to Better Alone Time

So what’s the secret to getting better alone time? There are three stages we need to go through in order to fill up our energy tanks, and I recommend we do these alone.

1.  Time to process

Set aside quiet time each day to process what has happened throughout the day. We need time to think about everything we’ve seen, heard, and experienced. This allows our brains to maintain balance between the cognitive and the emotional aspects of our brain. You might do this while journaling, taking a walk, or simply sitting in quiet and letting your mind think, process, zone out, and wander.

2. A restful, enjoyable activity

Each day, it’s important to quiet our mind, body, and spirit. Some ways to do this include listening to music, reading a book, watching your favorite show, being artistic in some way, working a jigsaw puzzle, gardening, or other hobbies. The list could go on. The important thing, in this stage, is to be by yourself and spend time doing an activity you enjoy — something that fills your cup and/or puts you in a flow state.

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3. Time to just be

This is when we really begin to fill up that energy tank. This stage is about not taking in a lot, so there should be no reading, TV, electronic devices, or taking in new information. Meditation and mindfulness practices or being in nature can be good in this stage. In general, this is time to just be. You want to become peaceful and still, so you can go within easily. (See here and here for some ideas to get started on a mindfulness practice.)

It’s not always easy to get the alone time we as introverts need, especially if we work long hours or are the parent of young children. But any little bit will help. Even if you can only spend a few minutes on each step, it will boost your energy levels. When our energy levels are high, it has a positive impact on all areas of our lives.

Craving alone time is okay. It might just mean your brain prefers acetylcholine over dopamine! Take the time you need to restore yourself. A drained, depleted introvert cannot live fully, and you deserve to live your best life.

Do you find our chaotic, modern world to be very challenging? You might have anxiety, high-stress levels, and are overwhelmed a lot. Fortunately, there is a way to feel better. To learn how, check out my online self-paced course

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