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Saturday, April 20, 2024

How and why to be intentional about the time you spend alone

FOMO’s gone too far

It’s not on your Google Calendar, but sometimes the part of the day you’re looking forward to the most is going home, putting your phone on Do Not Disturb and reading a good book. Our society pushes for us to be social — even stigmatizes people who regularly spend time alone — but spending time with yourself is equally as important for personal growth and mental well-being. It allows us to recharge, prioritize what’s important and check in with ourselves. 

We need time to decompress, especially as students who are dealing with academic stress on top of the normal stresses of life. Solitude gives you the space to just exist without the expectations that come from work, family, friends or society in general. It gives you time to reflect on what is no longer working for you, as well as to be grateful for what you have. Spending time with yourself also plays a pivotal role in maintaining your mental health by allowing you to tap into your feelings and process complex experiences. 

Not to mention, there is actually research behind why solitude is good for you. A 2014 study conducted by psychotherapist and author Emily Roberts demonstrated that embracing alone time is an important aspect of building strong self-esteem. Those who embrace solitude as a form of self-care and therapy experience more confidence and positive feelings about themselves. Stress and anxiety arises from uncontrollable forces, so alone time allows one’s mind to unwind, combat exhaustion and process feelings and thoughts. 

This is especially important for young people (us) who are still finding who we are. How are we supposed to learn what we like, the kind of people we want to be or what’s most important to us if we don’t take the time to ask ourselves? This is where being intentional about how we spend our time alone comes in. It is especially important to have personal time that is not spent online in the age of social media, since it’s nearly impossible to fully withdraw from others when we are connected at all times. 

Sometimes, it can feel like spending time alone isn’t a valid excuse for deciding not to hang out with friends. If hanging out with yourself feels like a more productive way to spend your time, do it. You don’t have to feel guilty because you know yourself and your needs, and you should trust and respect that. Most people have used a false excuse to cancel plans (Sorry! My mom called! I definitely didn’t just want to watch “Gilmore Girls.”) but there’s no reason to be embarrassed about the time you take for yourself.

Taking the time to listen to your own needs will make you a better, calmer, kinder person for the people around you, whether it’s for loved ones or strangers. Stretching yourself thin by forgetting about your identity, desires or priorities will only make you feel stressed and tense. You can’t fill anyone’s cup when yours is empty.

So while it may feel uncomfortable to spend time alone, it’s important to learn how to embrace it, because there are going to be points in your life when you’ll be alone. And for those of us graduating, especially if we’re moving somewhere new, that time may be sooner rather than later. Learning how to feel empowered by it rather than afraid is going to make those stages of life easier and more enjoyable. So do it now — as a little present to your future self.

Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying to become hermits. Being social is just as important as being alone, and meaningful connections are the most beautiful and fulfilling parts of life — especially your connection with yourself.

Here are some ideas for spending intentional time with yourself:

  1. Crafts. Art can be really therapeutic, and a way for you to practice being present. Scrapbooking, collaging, painting, knitting, sewing, crocheting, etc.
  2. Reading a book! Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes may be exactly what you need to validate your feelings. If you’re looking for recommendations, check out our recent editorial!
  3. Take yourself out to dinner at a restaurant. Listen to some music, read a book or just sit back and people watch. Use the time to hang out with yourself.
  4. Write or journal. Journaling is a productive way to get your emotions out and reflect on your accomplishments, low points or just process your feelings.
  5. Run errands — go thrift shopping or grab a coffee. It’s nice to run on your own schedule and not have to worry about waiting on or being rushed by others. You get to make all the decisions.

Written by: The Editorial Board

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