Spend Some Time Alone

The importance of solitude

the-importance-of-alone-time-christine-carter

Usually, you’ll hear me tellin’ ya to spend more time with friends.

This is because the best predictor of a person’s happiness is the breadth and depth of her social connections. But alone time is important, too.

A Harvard study indicates that a bit of solitude can make us more capable of empathy towards others. Empathy is one of the foundations of happiness, in part because empathy builds the social connections that are so crucial for well-being.

So, ironically, in order to best nurture our connections with others (and our own happiness) we need to spend some time alone. In my own experience, this is especially true for mothers! I know I am warmer and more patient with my children when I’ve had some time alone.

Take Action: This week, remember that solitude is very different from loneliness, and give yourself a bit of alone time.

Join the Discussion: Do you think solitude contributes to your happiness? How do you get your alone time? Comment below.

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  • Joy

    Some days, it feels like the only time alone that I get is riding the bus home from school after I drop off my daughter.  So, I’ve gotten into the habit of being non-productive during the bus ride – no checking email, returning texts or scrolling through the news.  I just sit there and look out the window, just being not doing and it feels really good.  Sort of like a retro bus ride….and I love it.  Thanks for the reminder & topic Christine – love it!

    • Wow, this is a great suggestion. We could also just have retro car rides — just driving without being “productive”. Thanks for the idea.

  • Luisinademartini

    Once a year, I  take a couple of days off the daily routine of work, home, kids and husband (also parents!!) when I enroll in a conference in city different from my own. so it means I’m away 2 o 3 days spending time not only studying (which I enjoy a lot indeed) but also going out, visiting new places, having dinner, lunch, breakfast, a shower and sleep completely ALONE, enjoying the pleasure of spending time with ME. After such a break i always feel energetic, capable of dealing with anything in life!! I strongly recommend it.

    • I have a similar experience when I travel for work; the alone time gives me fresh eyes to see my children with, and a lot more patience, too.

  • aerobie

    I find I need alone time on almost a daily basis. I find it recharges me like nothing else, and I feel depleted on days when I don’t get an hour or two to myself. My current circumstances (which include an awesome, spirited two-year-old son) make it difficult to get any alone time throughout the day, so I usually get my alone time at night, after everyone else gone to bed. It works wonders.

  • Guest

    I agree that alone time is essential on a regular basis, especially for women. As women, we often have a multitude of responsibilities that we put first: kids, partners, work, volunteer work, elder care. In order to bring our best selves to all of these relationships it’s important to not overschedule ourselves so that we can “put our own masks on first.” My outlook on life and everyone in my life is much more positive when I regularly take time to be alone. It helps to like oneself and one’s company, and not fear that we’re missing something when we take time for ourselves.

    • I definitely compromised my own well-being in my twenties out of a fear of missing out. I never said no to anything, and I got run down in the process. Even now I need to remind myself that every invitation is an opportunity: sometimes to be with others, sometimes to say “no” and take care of myself. Thanks for the comment!

  • Meghan

    Great reminder and great e-mail, thank you!  I am a mom of three girls (7, 4, and 16 months) and a parent coach.  I need alone time more than ever, and I have started running, only outside.  The cold air, no music, feeling strong, pushing myself.  Relaxing?  Strangely (or not so strangely) YES!  I feel ready to face the day, my clients, and my family.  I also REALLY love NPR and try to get my daily fix…All Things Considered.
    Thanks.
    Meghan Leahy
    http://www.positivelyparenting.com 

    • You are getting a double-whammy of alone time AND exercise (which is, for many, the mother of all happiness habits). Thanks for sharing!

  • Emmagoldmansherman

    As the homeschooling mom to 2 boys (8 and 5) without any family or sitters to count on, I crave time alone constantly.  My remedy used to be at night, but this is harder and harder as my older son is now awake until 830 or 9pm, and we wake up at 6am, and if I stay up til midnight, I am not fun in the morning!  So lately I have tried being alone with my boys in the forest.  I take them to the forest (a five minute walk from our home) and let them run and play while I meditate alone nearby.  They can be loud, but I try to just be okay with the noise.  Mostly it works!  I get one night out a week, and these days I almost always take it, even if I only sit in our car and read, meditate and drink tea (cafes cost money).    

    • You are so lucky to be living near a forest! A hit of nature, semi-alone time, and meditation — sounds wonderful.

  • Maybe some of the other suggestions here in the comments will give you an idea. 🙂

  • azack

    I left the practice of law to stay home with my kids (almost 2 and 5).  Because I gave up my income and because I quit to be with my kids I felt guilty hiring a sitter and taking time for me alone on a regular basis.  Having read your book and taking the advice of experienced mothers, I finally carved out 3 days a week when I go to the gym where I take a class, shower alone, and blow dry my hair (on one of those days :)) before I pick up my oldest.  It is only 6 hours a week but it has made a world of difference in my energy level, outlook, patience reserves, and how much more I enjoy my kids. 

  • Kara

    Absolutely!! When I finally get to spend some time alone, I feel so relieved to not have to talk or answer to anyone –  it’s like taking a deep, clean breath. After my husband takes our three kids to school, I actually look forward to standing at the sink and rinsing the dishes, by myself, and not talking to anyone. I have to stop myself from automatically turning on the TV in the kitchen or picking up the phone to call someone to keep me company, and decide instead to enjoy my own fabulous company. I find much more joy in hanging out with my kids later in the day if I get that little bit of time to hang out with myself 🙂

  • Yes, solitude makes me calm & patient. I go for a walk at night & sit beside nearby lake (Lake Sonegao or Goldville). Also when I drive on highways, I feel calm. Quit a few times I go on a long drive to find solitude.

    • Christine Carter

      There are days when I have to spend a lot of time in the car, and I agree, I can find solitude there, but only if I don’t try to talk on the phone, listen to podcasts, etc.

      • Yes, I agree, however listening to engine’s sound while focused on driving (on smooth roads) makes me calm.