The power of being alone

by Alyssa Harrison

“There is a difference between loneliness and solitude; one will empty you, and one will fill you. You have the power to choose.” – Ava

I’ve spent a large amount of my time alone, to the point where my parents were worrying if I was slowly atrophying in my bedroom. The thing is, I’ve never been bored by being in my own company – and this isn’t to say that I hate social interaction or that I don’t like being around family and friends. It’s the complete opposite. However, as an introvert, I may be biased in believing that there’s a certain power in being alone.

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In a society where productivity is heavily emphasised, I believe that the time you schedule off for yourself is extremely important. However, there are things to be aware of when setting aside this time. Make sure to balance this time with other work and responsibilities, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty about taking time off for yourself. On the other hand, it may also be harmful to spend too much time alone. Being alone can trigger negative and critical thoughts of ourselves. It can also increase feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, which could lead to depression. In Lena Firestone’s words, “it is important to distinguish between healthy time alone, where we are being productive, creative and introspective, versus negative time alone, where we are being self-critical or feeling lonely”. Social connections and interactions are important for your mental health as well, and there needs to be a good balance between them and solitude.

Similarly, Brent Crane spoke of certain conditions that have to be met in order for your time alone to be healthy. Solitude is only advantageous “if it is voluntary, if one can regulate one’s emotion’s ‘effectively’, if one can join a social group when desired, and if one can maintain positive relationships outside of it”. If these conditions are not met, then solitude can be as harmful for a person’s mental health as it can be beneficial. However, here are some of what I consider to be the main reasons why having quality time to yourself is extremely important once these conditions have been met.

Maybe there’s a new story idea that you’ve wanted to get started on for ages, or a picture that you’ve been meaning to finish drawing. Being alone is the perfect time to get creative. Find a private and personal space where you can focus on your thoughts and ideas without interruptions or distractions, and let your imagination run wild. As an aspiring author, I definitely want to take a leaf out of Roald Dahl’s book (pun not intended). Dahl was inspired to build a Writing Hut by his favourite author, Dylan Thomas. He asked his friend to build a Writing Hut in his garden, and it was in this space where he created his much-loved children’s books, such as Mathilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

“When I am up here I see only the paper I am writing on, and my mind is far away with Willy Wonka or James or Mr Fox or Danny or whatever else I am trying to cook up. The room itself is of no consequence.”

While having a Writing Hut is every writer’s dream (well, it’s certainly mine), a quiet space in your garden or your house could work just as well.

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While being alone with your thoughts may sound scary, it can be therapeutic. Having this space and time to yourself allows you to be more introspective and reflective of yourself. Life is often so fast-paced, that the days just seem to meld into each other, and work can seem overwhelming. However, reflection can help to put things back into perspective. Journaling and meditation are great ways to achieve this. The Health Encyclopedia speaks of the benefits of journaling, arguing that it helps you to de-stress. It allows you to identify what is causing you stress or anxiety and can help you prioritise your problems. This can bring more structure and order to your daily life. It can also be an effective way to de-clutter and clarify your thoughts. Meditation also has similar benefits to journaling.

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Lastly, taking quality time for yourself can be re-energising and rejuvenating. In this time, give yourself permission to do whatever makes you feel the most relaxed; whether it’s watching series, reading a book, going for a walk, doing yoga, or playing video games. While daily routines are important in maintaining structure, it can quickly become tedious, and you can lose sight of your goals and aspirations. As Aly Juma stated, being alone “allows you to ground yourself, re-discover your goals, and remind yourself [of] what’s important in your life.”

Whether I’ve been able to convince you that being alone is beneficial or not, there’s no harm in settling down in a comfy chair after a long, stressful day of work with a good book and a hot mug of tea.

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