We live in a world of constant contact—a place that’s losing sight of the importance of being alone. Offices are abandoning cubicles in favor of shared desks and wide-open common spaces, and rather than sitting at their desks working independently, school children are placed in groups. It seems that a never-ending “ping” has become our culture’s omnipresent background noise, instantly informing us of every text, tweet, and notification. Even something as mundane as cooking dinner has become worthy of social sharing.
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One result of all this social connection is that many of us rarely have any time alone. While we’re told that this connectivity is a good thing and that being around other people is necessary for a fulfilled life, you can certainly have too much of a good thing.
A study of 600 computer programmers at 92 companies found that while productivity levels were relatively stable within each company, they varied greatly from one company to the next. The more productive companies had one thing in common: they ditched the ultra-hip open office in favor of private workspaces that granted freedom from interruptions. Of the top performers, 62 percent said they had adequate privacy at work, while only 19% of the worst performers shared that opinion. And, among the low performers, 76 percent said they were often unnecessarily interrupted.
Solitude isn’t just a professional plus; it’s also good for your mental and emotional well-being. To get the most out of life, you must learn to enjoy spending time alone. The benefits of solitude are too numerous to catalog, but here are some of the best.
1. You recuperate and recharge.
At one point in time , we need time to recuperate and recharge. There’s nothing like spending time alone to make this happen. The peace, quiet, and mental solitude you experience when you’re by yourself are essential to recovering from the stresses of daily living.
2. You can do what you want.
As fun as it is to spend time with other people, it inevitably leads to compromise. You’re constantly modifying your ideas to accommodate other people’s desires and opinions. Being alone frees you up to do exactly what you want when you want. You can throw on whatever you feel like wearing, eat what you feel like eating, and work on projects that are meaningful to you.
3. You learn to trust yourself.
Freedom is more than doing what you want; it’s the ability to trust your gut and to think clearly, without any pressure or outside influence. Being alone helps you form a clear understanding of who you are, what you know, and what’s right for you. It teaches you to trust yourself. When around others, even when you don’t realize it, you monitor people’s reactions in order to gauge the appropriateness of your own feelings and actions. When you’re alone, it’s all on you. You develop your own ideas and opinions, without having them watered down by what anyone else thinks. Once you learn to enjoy being alone, you’ll discover what you’re truly capable of, without the constraints of other people’s thinking.
4. It increases your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers are high in EQ. Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, and you can’t increase your EQ without it. Since self-awareness requires understanding your emotions and how you react to various people and situations, this necessitates careful self-reflection, and self-reflection happens best when you’re alone.
5. You learn to free the past.
One of the hardest things in life is to let go of the people, memories, things, experiences and places we love the most. We hold on to everything and everyone so tightly, fearing that without that to which we cling, we will be nothing. Failing to realize that our attachment interferes with the love we have for that which we cling to, taking away from the purity and the beauty that love has to offer. But as you spend more time alone in your own company, opening your heart and connecting with your inner wisdom at a deeper level, you will be able to distinguish between true love and attachment. And as time goes by, you will understand that true “Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’” ~ Dr. Maya Angelou
6. It boosts your self-esteem.
Enjoying your own company is a huge confidence booster. If you’re bored and restless when you’re by yourself, it’s easy to start thinking that you’re boring or that you need other people around to enjoy yourself. Learning to enjoy time alone boosts your self-esteem by confirming that you are enough.
7. You will discover the power of silence.
When the mind is quiet, when there are no thoughts and no words to be said, that’s when you can hear your own heart talking to you. That’s when you can hear your own soul and our own intuition communicating to you. Silence is a wonderful teacher, whispering things in your ear and helping you understand things that you won’t be able to discover from anywhere else. And by taking the time to be alone with yourself, to breathe in and breathe out without the need to force yourself into saying another word or thinking another thought, you will understand what Ausonius meant when he said: “He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak.”
8. You are able to sort through problems.
Just sitting down and thinking through the causes and solutions to a problem can be the most effective way to deal with any problem.
Even if the solution is not forthcoming, taking such step to think things through and understand the problem more and give you peace and courage to move on.
9. You develop a more accurate perception.
Our perceptions are flexible, and they change as we acquire new experiences. But when we constantly interact with others, it makes getting a grasp on reality rather tricky. It never gives you enough time to to explore the reality you have created
Removing yourself from people allows you to reacquaint yourself with the way you see the world.
10. You get more done.
It’s said that “more hands make light work,” and while that might be true when it comes to raking leaves, it’s a completely different story with cognitive tasks. Even the effectiveness of brainstorming is more myth than reality. Researchers from Texas A&M found that group brainstorming hinders productivity due to “cognitive fixation.” Cognitive fixation is the tendency for people working in groups to get stuck on other people’s ideas, reducing their ability to come up with anything new, and the bigger the group, the more fixated everyone becomes. Spending time alone not only eliminates distractions but also ensures that you don’t have trouble with “too many cooks.”
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