Have you heard Ariana Grande’s new song NASA? “I’mma need space, I’mma I’mma need space” <<<— basically my theme song. Because I love and need alone time. But I wasn’t always this way.
When I was in the Navy, circa 2008 - 2010, I hated to be alone. I would immediately feel restless and uncomfortable, and seek out company. The feelings that came up when I was alone were just too much for me to deal with at the time. So I surrounded myself with people constantly - which isn’t particularly hard to do when you live on base in barracks.
After I got out, I stopped hanging out with a lot of the people I spent time with in the Navy. I had gotten married, and was pregnant, so the endless partying and socializing wasn’t really my “scene” anymore. I got really, really depressed for a number of reasons. Instead of spending time with friends, I watched Friends reruns and cried. Sounds sad because it was sad. This went on for about half of my pregnancy. The hormones, the emotions, the major life changes - they all added up to me feeling lost and confused about who I was and where I fit into the world. Being alone a lot made this all so much worse but I truly didn’t have the energy it took to make new friends at that time.
I wish I could remember what happened that led me to start doing stuff by myself but I don’t. However, I do remember the first time I did something fun by myself. I went to this little cafe in San Diego and ordered a sandwich and a glass of iced tea. I sat and looked out the window, observing all the people passing by, wondering what their inner life was like.
I was really nervous at first - and I was very young, only 20. But it got easier when I realized that no one was paying attention to me. They were too busy with their own thoughts to pay me much mind at all. It was a liberating realization and one that spurred my alone time on until I was going to movies by myself, showing up to friends get-togethers with only me and my expanding belly in tow.
What was most shocking to me was that I actually really started to enjoy being with myself more. Whether I was sipping a mug of tea while deep in thought or actively engaged in an activity, I became more in tune with what I actually wanted out of life.
Spending intentional time alone changed the way I saw myself - for the better.
Fast forward to now, nearly ten years later (yeesh!), and alone time is my jam. I joke that I need at least 10 hours of alone time a day to be a fully functional human. An exaggeration but a good representation of how I feel about alone time. Now, I’ve traveled solo to countries all over Europe and South and Central America. I can do anything alone. And while I love to spend time with the people in my life, I love the feeling of coming home to myself during my “me time.” There really is nothing like it in the world.
Why is it important to spend time alone?
Alone time is so important, whether you’re introverted or extroverted, outgoing or shy, full of energy or more laid back. Having time to exist in space and time without the influence of others has a ton of positive effects. Here are my top reasons that I think alone time is so important for being a healthy person:
You learn to distinguish your voice from other people’s voices. How many times have you tried to make a decision about something, only to not be able to tell what you actually wanted? For me, this happened so much that I made a lot of choices based on what I thought other people wanted from me, instead of what I wanted for me.
You get to know yourself in a deeper way. You live with yourself day in and day out but how well do you really know yourself? By this I mean, do you know what sets you off? Do you know how to identify when you’re starting to feel a negative emotion - or what triggers it? Are you aware of what brings you peace? Joy? When I started having more alone time, I began to see myself more clearly, which helped me understand and (eventually) own my truth.
You begin to appreciate your relationships more. As Ariana sings, “I can’t miss you when I’m with you, and when I miss you it’ll change the way I kiss you.” That couldn’t be truer. When you’re around someone all the time, it can be hard to appreciate them as much as when you first met them. This is true for friendships and romantic relationships. This is important to remember if you have children, too. Having time away from your little ones can help you be a better parent, help your children learn that it’s ok to have “me time” (a beautiful and important thing to model for them), and reset you so you never have to experience that feeling of losing yourself to the roles you play in other people’s lives.
Why is Being Alone So Hard for Some People?
Are you convinced that spending time alone is important and beneficial to you and to the people in your life? I hope so. If not, I encourage you to explore why you don’t want to be alone. For me, a big part of my resistance to being with myself fully is that I experienced quite a bit of trauma as a child and teenager that I hadn’t dealt with. When I was alone, the feelings from those experiences were much more likely to surface and make me feel terrible.
If this is true for you, I wish I could hug you. No one should have to go through traumatic experiences but so many of us do, and so many of us never truly move past those traumas. Seeing a therapist has been a critical step for me in healing from my trauma. Talking about it really helps, even though it is challenging at first. Once you get it out, it’s like your mind and body begin to heal itself. A lot of the time, people are ashamed of their traumas, as though they were at fault which is very rarely the case. The best way to kill shame is to drag it into the light.
If you are resistant to alone time, here’s a journaling prompt to help you get clear on why, and what you need to do to move past it:
Why am I scared/uncomfortable of having real alone time?
When I have alone time, I feel…
How can I become okay with being alone?
5 Ways to Enjoy Alone Time
If you’re ready to start truly enjoying and cherishing the time you spend with yourself, here are some tips for getting started:
Start small - even 10 minutes a day is better than 0 minutes a day.
Understand that it’s going to take time to feel comfortable. Let yourself feel all the feelings that come up as you embark on your solo adventures. If you let the negative feelings bubble to the surface, they’ll be able to move through you instead of getting stuck in your mind and body.
Make sure you do things you truly enjoy. Your alone time can look however you want it to. You can see a movie alone (it’s a truly wonderful experience and you don’t have to share your candy!), go for a run, take a bubble bath, or whatever else feels good to you. Doing something new and novel can also be a really great way to dip your toes into alone time.
Treat alone time like a very important meeting. Prioritizing self-care like this will help you set a precedent in your life and will make it much easier to set and enforce boundaries with other people when you honor your boundaries for yourself.
Find balance. When I first started loving alone time, I loved it so much that I didn’t really care about hanging out with anyone. This is just my nature but it’s not something I’d recommend. It’s important to have quality time with the people you care about. You’ll appreciate them more after alone time, and you’ll appreciate alone time more after spending time with them.
I hope this helps you get clear on why everyone should make alone time a priority, and how to start doing that. Tell me in the comments: do you enjoy alone time or is it challenging for you? Why?
Also, here’s the full Ariana song. Enjoy: