Emma works as a secretary for an IT company.
Being the chief assistant to the executive, she is one of the most powerful persons within the company. She knows everything that happens and can handle everything. There is no mission impossible for her. Since she knows everyone, others usually seek her for help, so she is regularly surrounded by many people. She is an energetic hands-on employee, an actual value for the organization.
As the daily administration and organization of her work is truly exhausting, Emma considered how she might make her workday easier without compromising her performance.
The thought popped out of her head unexpectedly on a Friday afternoon when she headed home from the office on a different route, just for the sake of variety. She discovered that the park near the office is the perfect place to take a short walk after lunch break and to spend some time alone aside from the co-workers. She carried out her idea right the next day and was delighted to experience the beneficial effects of having 20 minutes away from her busy work. This tiny retreat energized her, and she felt that ‘relaxing’ people and getting away from her tasks a bit is essential for her.
Although Emma’s mood was positively affected by this fresh approach, not all of her colleagues were enthusiastic that Emma was unavailable for a while. They didn’t understand why Emma needed some time off without them. After all, so skillful, experienced, and sociable, why does she want to be alone? Why doesn’t she devote her lunch time to them?
Why is solitude good for you?
It was revealed from this and this article of ours that extroverted people get their energy from time spent with people, however introverted ones get energized from time spent alone. Many research has shown that solitude and time spent with ourselves not only helps to regain energy but also has many other beneficial effects. And this is true not only for the introverted but also for the extroverted people. What are these?
If you are alone and use it wisely, certain activities and processes may become easier. When being with others, our attention is distracted, so creativity and concentration may decline. Moreover, some study suggests that alone time even helps us better manage our social relationships. If we drift away from people for a while, we might get closer to them, these researches suggest.
The benefits of alone time
According to Eric Klinenberg, the American sociologist and author of the book “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”, isolation and loneliness are thought so harmful in modern society that we tend to neglect its benefits. Klinenberg argues that living alone can occasionally be explicitly liberating for us, as we can handle our time better and the way we require. In such cases, there is no external control and no other people distract us. And this should be treated as positive, as nowadays we almost cannot run away from the outside world: we have our cell phones nearby, messages arrive continually, social network posts and emails keep popping up. It seems as if the border between “me” and “others” are blurred.
Why is it good to be alone?
Our memory may improve
Have you ever studied with the others in a team when you were a student? If you are introverted, you presumably didn’t consider this mode of learning the most effective.
It has been discovered that many people’s memory will not merely improve if they study alone, but they will likewise recall the material for a longer time. This was verified by researcher Bethany Burum with a striking experiment. In several groups, one after the other, he invited two people at a time into a room. After a brief acquaintance, they asked them to sit back to back. He placed monitors in front of them, only showing their own screen. In the initial case of the experiments, he told them, they both had to complete the same task. While in the other case, the information was that the tasks were different. On the monitors, he projected ordinary objects such as a house, a table, a piano, and so on.
A few days afterward, he called back the experiment subjects and asked them which objects they recall from what they had seen before.
Based on the results, those who knew that the other person was given a different task (e.g., they should memorize melodies rather than pictures) were more likely to recall the images. In other words, they remembered the images better and for a longer time when they thought they were working out the task alone. This experiment suggests that if others are present, we rely on them and expect the solution from them.
Does this mean that we repeatedly perform better when we are alone than in a group?
Not precisely. When we are alone, we do not perform better, but get through the task at our own pace, at an ordinary level. If, on the other hand, there are others around us, our performance may decline because of the division of our attention.
Our empathy increases
When you are on your own, you have more freedom to delve into the background of events and you better recognize your own instincts about others. This can cause becoming more empathetic and understanding. Therefore, it can be suggested that loneliness helps you connect with others.
Our creative mind gets stronger
It is so easy for us to understand that great minds desire solitude for creation. It was requisite for our greatest composers (Mozart, Beethoven), writers (Agatha Christie, Shakespeare), scientists (Newton, Darwin), and prophets of religions (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed) to withdraw for a while and be on their own. Thus, it looks that loneliness in both creation and creativity can be beneficial to you as well.
Planning will be easier
Have you ever planned your vacation, your wedding, your child’s baptism, or a big family birthday party? For most people, it comes naturally that every detail should be taken into account in advance at these events, as this is the only way to make the event a success. Then why don’t you set some time aside to make plans for your life as well? If you are on your own, you can come up with plans more easily than with others present. Having a quiet environment around, you can figure out your goals, your achievements so far, and what you want to change.
It is practically impossible to truly immerse yourself in spirituality, prayer, or meditation in the company of others. These activities can again serve as good examples of the numerous ways in which we can make the most of our alone time usefully.
How can you make sure to be alone?
For some people, this is not a headache at all, but striving for silence does not come spontaneously to anybody. You can practice in baby steps and get from 5 minutes a day to 30 or even 60 minutes. Rachel Astarte, the psychotherapist, coach and writer suggests the following ideas for practicing this:
Without a smart phone, tablet and computer, you can better focus on yourself and your tasks.
Find what thrills you
What makes you glad when you are alone? Reading, watching movies, dancing, meditating, walking in the park or playing with your dog? It can be anything you like. If you discover the activity that empowers you, you will instantly feel better.
Find a place
There are no restrictions here, either. If you can recharge in a tranquil corner of your room, pick that. If this place is out somewhere outdoors, head in that direction.
Write it down
Journaling and writing a daily log has become really trendy these days. Indeed, this is one of the best ways to use the alone time to reflect to ourselves. Everything becomes clearer and simpler if you put your thoughts, feelings, or even your plans on paper.
Don’t feel guilty
You deserve solitude if you are a mother, father, wife, husband, friend, or co-worker. You may perform better by providing yourself some “self-time”. There is no place for guilt in these cases, as the purpose here is to empower and strengthen yourself.
I shall always be by myself?
So should you always be alone, step aside and retreat from teamwork? Is this the only way you can enhance your memory, empathy, and creativity?
Of course, you shouldn’t. Alone time is not like a medicine with accurate instructions for use. “1 hour of solitude in the morning and in the evening, unless prescribed otherwise by your physician.” Such a remedy does not exist. The key here is the right dose. Too much loneliness can be harmful according to researches, but keep in mind that what is “too much” for one is “just right” for the other. It is impossible to determine exactly how much alone time one needs. The most crucial rule is just not to feel compelled either being alone or hanging around with others.
If you learn how to restore your depleted batteries, you’ll be able to have the most out of yourself, your work, your recreation time or your creativity. No matter whether this will be alone time or having fun with other people.
Emma decided to talk to her puzzled co-workers.
She explained to them that although she is happy to work with them; she needs some time alone after her lunch break. He added that her short walk helps her to collect her thoughts and to plan the rest of the day. She successfully has found a convenient place of withdrawal, she keeps fulfilling his batteries regularly, she can exit the online world for a while and she moves away from people a little. Moreover, she doesn’t feel guilty for all that.
On top of all this, this simple routine of her resulted in a beneficial effect on her performance: she was promoted 3 months after introducing the short walks. Today, as a team leader, she is the one who is proposing the effective technique to her co-workers.
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