Do you ever dream of retiring to a desert island in blissful solitude? Or a little cabin in the woods, away from the hubbub of daily life? If so, you’re not alone. Nowadays we live our lives at such a frantic pace—working like crazy to keep up with the demands of work and family—that many of us feel as though we’re burning out. But neglecting to give ourselves time alone is actually a false economy—taking regular “me” breaks is essential for our health, and can also bring fabulous benefits to our everyday lives. Here are eight of the most significant.
Helps us get to know ourselves
It may seem strange, but constantly being with others can prevent us from getting to know ourselves, which is critical in helping us be positive in our day-to-day lives. People with a healthy self-image are more confident and generally happier with life, so spending time learning to love ourselves and coming to terms with our so-called weaknesses can help us with our self-improvement goals and encourage us to live life to the full.
When we’re with others, whether at work or in our own time, we have to respond to their needs and demands. Although it’s good to spend time with others, sometimes we need to give our brain and body a break and switch off completely. There’s no need to talk, we’re not interrupted constantly (which can cause huge stress), and we have time to relax. This lowers the level of cortisol (a.k.a. “the stress hormone”) in our bodies, which is good for our health.
Recharges our batteries
Being alone gives us a chance to recharge our mental and physical batteries. We can simply relax and do nothing, but we can also give ourselves time for a favorite hobby, go for a run, or do a craft activity. Some people like to pray or meditate, or do more formal relaxation exercises.
Allows us to switch off
Time alone can also help us to switch of from difficulties that may be dragging us down. If we’re facing major problems, we may become trapped in an obsessive cycle of mulling things over, which can lead to depression and stress. By switching off completely, we give our minds a rest.
Unleashes our creativity
Creativity can be expressed in a myriad of ways, and it can be a lifesaver when we’re under pressure. Creative expressions—such as painting or craft activities—are a wonderful way to enrich our lives and move our focus away from our problems. Try a quiet photography session in the woods, or appreciating the beauty of nature. Alternatively, get your creative juices flowing with some writing or poetry. Listen to a beautiful piece of music or play an instrument for pleasure—these are all superb ways to get creative.
Gives us a better perspective on our problems
Spending time alone doesn’t have to mean switching off from our problems, however. Sometimes a solitary session spent thinking things through and formulating a plan of action can be just as beneficial. If you’re struggling with a seemingly intractable issue that’s causing you stress, try sitting down and quietly pondering. Outline the exact nature of the problem, and map out a list of possible solutions, with concrete steps you can take to move forwards. You’ll usually find you feel much better once you have a clear plan of action.
Provides time to focus
When I was a school principal, there were days when I took time alone to fully focus on getting a task completed. It’s amazing how much more you can achieve when you can work without interruptions and give your whole attention to the matter in hand. Your mind can get completely into the “flow”—and when you give your complete focus to an issue, you’ll find solutions that may truly surprise you.
We can be re-energized
Whether we’ve taken time alone for rest and relaxation or to tackle an issue more efficiently, spending time alone means we can get on with our daily lives with new energy. Taking a break from the stresses and strains of life will reenergize us, and having a renewed perspective on a problem (perhaps with a clear strategy for tackling it) will help us feel more ready to grasp the nettle and take action.