The Importance of Alone Time

The Importance of Alone Time

Alone is not a dirty word. Alone is empowering.
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I love being alone. I love spending time by myself, allowing me the freedom of doing things on my own terms. As I write this, I sit in a coffee shop with my computer, earbuds in to give off the "please don't approach me" vibe. I don't dislike people by any means-- I value the time I spend with my loved ones. But there's just something special about being by myself that I hold really dear. Being alone, while kind of a drag at times, is very important to my sense of self.

I've always been sort of a loner. As a kid, I would get overwhelmed if I was in a big group for too long and would lock myself in my bedroom upon getting home. I needed to be away from people for a while or I would surely explode. As I got older, I lost the ability to be alone due to all of my commitments. During my time at a local community college, I was constantly surrounded by people. Between my daily classes, lunches with friends, study groups, rehearsals and family time, I was exhausted. I kept wondering why I was so irritable and overwhelmed all the time. There came a time toward the end of my second semester of college where I was so overwhelmed that I went straight home from school instead of out with my sister or friends as I usually did and locked myself in my room. I slept, read and watched Netflix. The next day, I felt far more relaxed. I wondered if the time spent by myself could have anything to do with my renewed energy, so I decided to do an experiment. I spent the next several nights at home alone and was amazed at how much better I felt. My anxiety was lessened and I was better able to articulate my needs to my family and friends.

I would eventually learn that this need for solitude is called being an introvert-- my energy comes from alone time, and being around people tends to wear me out. Many people use the terms "introvert" and "loner" synonymously, incorrectly thinking that introverts just hate people or don't fit in. This is not true. People who are introverted simply need time away to recharge. I think that nearly everyone can benefit from some quality time by themselves-- including extroverts!

I have gotten flack from friends and family for spending so much time by myself. My sister would call me on her lunch break at work and ask what I was doing. I would tell her that I was out shopping or in a coffee shop and she would immediately ask who I was with. She was baffled upon hearing that I was there by myself! "Why are you alone?" is a question I got from her and other friends frequently. The word "alone" has become a dirty word in our people-centered society: being alone in public is embarrassing to some people. I don't see it that way. I see the choice to be alone as something powerful.

Being able to be alone is important to me, and I have grown a lot since I began to take myself places. I've learned to be less rigid about sticking to a plan-- several times, I have quickly turned off of the road while driving to stop at a place I hadn't seen before. I spent time in nature and made the decision as to when I wanted to leave and go home. I was more independent than I had ever been. This not only improved my time spent by myself but made it easier for me to make decisions and articulate what I want while spending time with other people. I am more confident in my choices and more willing to try new things. Overall, I am a more relaxed person now that I have learned how to be alone.

I value my loved ones very much. I spend time with my family and go out with my friends when I can. But being alone has proven to be a healthy thing for me to do, and it could benefit you too. Next time you feel overwhelmed or irritated at others, take some time to yourself. Go to that new little bistro you've been wanting to try. Walk around a store by yourself. Go on a drive or a hike. Do something you love to clear your head. You are the most reliable and readily available person to yourself. You can hear yourself much better when there are fewer people around.

Cover Image Credit: Ali Kaukas

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Yet Found Herself, Keep Looking

You will eventually find her in all the right places, I promise.

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They say you are supposed to go through your awkward transition phase during middle school, but you still feel like you haven't quite figured it out. They say you are supposed to join a club in order to "find yourself", but then you end up sitting in the back watching everyone laugh and catch up. You feel out of place--like you're existing somewhere you just don't belong. Let me be the voice telling you that you are exactly where you are meant to be right now. Every decision you've ever made has led you to this place. This is, of course, much harder to grasp than to just say. Really though, you're doing just fine!

Finding out the things you don't like to do are just important as discovering your passions when it comes to finding your true self. Don't be afraid to join that club, talk to the girl next to you in class, and explore your interests. You might hate it. You might want to run away, but at least you're learning about yourself and where your comfort zone lies. Finding yourself is a life long process, so don't expect an Aha! moment where you have finally hit your destination. Think of it more as a sense of confidence of comfortability in who you are and what you stand for.

Stepping away from friends and family for some time may also lead you to who you are. Often, we grow up and mature only to have the same beliefs, morals, and political opinions as our parents. It's not our fault and we aren't childish, we just trust our parent's judgment and see their conscience as nothing but truth. Part of gaining independence is questioning your own biased beliefs and reevaluating them so they reflect your character better. Same goes with friends. Try to spend a Friday night in with yourself. See what you do. Do you watch a movie? Do you catch up on homework? Do you paint your nails? What is it that makes you feel happy when nobody else is around? By considering the answer to this question, you're one step closer to figuring this whole life thing out.

You may also want to try stepping away from your phone. Your social media (this shouldn't come as a surprise) is giving you the false idea that everyone around you knows exactly what they're doing and enjoys doing it all. Not true. So not true actually, everyone else is struggling to find out just who they are. You and your phone need some distance.

Finding yourself doesn't just happen. You need to explore the world around you and you'll eventually find out where your place is. Be patient with the process and know the right steps will surface when you're ready to take them. Be kind to yourself and have the bravery to discover the girl inside you (I hear she's really cool).

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