Why alone time is so important, plus how to make the most of it
For many of us, being alone can be bittersweet. While it’s easy (even enjoyable!) to jump in your bed and catch up on Gilmore Girls on a Friday night, other solo situations don’t sound nearly as appealing. Whether you’re traveling for work, heading to a new class for the first time, or even getting dinner by yourself, it can be easy to attribute isolation to feeling ostracized.
But according to a 2015 Huffington Post article, alone time is associated with increased creativity, happiness, productivity. Being alone, even if you’re in a relationship, is good for you.
Despite the major health benefits linked to solitude, it can be difficult to shake that perpetual anxious feeling when you’re in a crowded room, car, or restaurant with nobody to talk to. Here, experts explain some of the ways you can better enjoy your time alone, no matter what you’re doing.
Tell a little white lie to strangers
The beauty of being alone when surrounded by complete strangers? Those individuals have no knowledge about you or your past. You can be whoever you want to be.
When Allen Klein, author of You Can’t Ruin My Day, had to travel for a multi-day conference where he knew absolutely no one, he decided to draw attention to himself.
“The first thing I did at the conference was let everyone know that it was my birthday,” explains Klein. “Later on in the day, in a crowded elevator, I announced that it was my birthday again and total strangers ended up singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me as I exited. What a wonderfully funny sight seeing an elevator filled with adults singing as the doors were closing.”
Klein calls it the “Birthday” Phenomenon. “Tell someone it’s your birthday when you are feeling crappy, and whether it actually is or not, it will cheer you up.”
While professing that it’s your birthday might feel like a stretch, consider bringing up something else equally as celebratory. Did you recently get a promotion at work? Tried a new skill? People gravitate towards happiness, so don’t feel shy when letting yourself shine.
Be your own company
While seeing someone talk to themselves might be grounds for thinking they are insane, according to mindfulness author Hyapatia Lee, those people might not be as bonkers as they appear. And you should probably consider it the next time you’re alone, too.
“People often think talking to yourself is a sign of insanity, but we talk to ourselves all the time,” she says. “When we read, a voice in our head says the words on the page. The idea doesn’t just jump into our brains without first being heard. When we ask ourselves if we have locked the door or turned off the stove, we are talking to ourselves. This is normal and healthy, and when we are alone, we can use it to our advantage to build our self-esteem and gain insights.”
Become a fly on the wall
When in doubt and feeling self-conscious alone, people-watch, says Charlotte Howard, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and certified group psychotherapist.
“If you are worried about what other people think when alone in a public place, try people-watching so that you are in the role of the observer instead of feeling observed by others,” explains Dr. Howard. “As you watch, really appreciate and enjoy how beautiful what you see is. You can feel connected to humankind with our amazing complexity and kindness as you enjoy being surrounded by others, even if they aren’t sitting at your table or holding our hand.”
Our word of advice: Try not to make eye contact—you definitely don’t want to make passersby uncomfortable.
Another tactic that Dr. Howard recommends to better enjoy alone time seems fairly simple but may won’t happen overnight for the majority of us.
“If you don’t have another person to spend time with, whether it’s taking a walk or going out to dinner or a movie, the key to feeling comfortable and having fun is to learn to be with yourself rather than alone,” she says. “Part of enjoying our own company means valuing and liking your own heart and mind. You are a wonderful person to be with! If you don’t think so, then work on your relationship with yourself.”
Meditate it out
According to John Turner, the founder of QuietKit, a service that provides guided meditation, meditation can be another method for reducing isolation anxiety.
“Just a few minutes of sitting upright, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath can do wonders to decrease stress and increase focus,” Turner explains. “You can meditate right before something that might stress you out, such as eating dinner alone at a restaurant. It’s a quick and easy habit to help you combat stress and anxiety, regardless of who you are and what you’re doing.”
Written by Julia Sullivan. This post was originally published on ClassPass's blog, The Warm Up. ClassPass is a monthly membership that connects you to more than 8,500 of the best fitness studios worldwide. Have you been thinking about trying it? Start now on the Base Plan and get five classes for your first month for only $19.