How Much Alone Time Do You Really Need?

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How Much Alone Time Do You Really Need?

Good news: Preferring to spend some time solo does not signify you’re a total weirdo or even lonely and sad. In fact, being a lone wolf (at least sometimes) can boost productivity and even make romantic relationships stronger. But if we feel lonely when we’re alone, that solitude can actually become a health risk. A table for one might be the perfect way to recharge after a hectic week, but it can also be a reason to start singing the blues.

Solo Act: What's Alone Time, Anyway?

Alone time is a pretty difficult concept for some of us to grasp. Between cell phones, email, and social media, Americans are spending more and more time plugged-in. That said, psychologists define “solitude” as the state of being physically alone with no one else to communicate with—not to be confused with loneliness, or the feeling of being disconnected from others and longing for connection. In other words, it’s completely possible to sit alone in an empty room without feeling lonely. At its best, time spent without others around is associated with getting to know oneself, inner peace, and spirituality.

Solo time can be especially beneficial at work. Some experts have critiqued brainstorming sessions and open office plans, questioning whether group work is the best way to generate good ideas. Instead, they suggest, people may be more productive when they work in private, or at least when there’s a balance between group work and solo time.

But the bonuses of alone time aren’t limited to the boardroom. Many relationship experts agree that one or both partners may need some time alone for a romantic relationship to function. And we can scrap that stereotype that men are the only ones who need time alone in their “man caves.” One survey found women in relationships want alone time, girl time, and even separate vacations more now than in years past.

Some people aren’t even up for sharing a bed in the first place. In the USA today, 25 percent of the population lives alone (that’s 32 million people), compared to 10 percent back in 1950. Among people ages 18 to 34, the number of people living alone (five million) has increased ten-fold since 1950. Americans who live alone often say having their own personal space makes them more social outside the home, more productive, and generally happier. But before anyone heads out to Walden, we should mention it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

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