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5 Benefits of Solitude and Why You Need It for Your Mental Health

Spending time alone is good for you. Here's why.

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Sleep, Mental Health, Nutrition and Supplements Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
5 min read
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Social stigma about being alone is rampant. For many people, being alone is something they shy away from because it looks like loneliness on the surface. And no one wants to be mistaken for being lonely. But solitude and loneliness are not the same. Loneliness is marked by negative feelings that can sabotage your self-worth and happiness. Solitude replenishes you.

Solitude is a peaceful time for self-reflection and recharging. Let's dig into why solitude is good for your mental health and why you should prioritize it.

What is solitude?

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In the simplest form, solitude is spending time alone without feeling lonely. Your company is enough to fill your needs. Solitude is something you choose because you value your time and energy. Think of it like a state of peacefulness where you have the space to reflect, work through things and cultivate your overall wellness. Solitude (to a certain degree) is a good thing -- a necessary thing. 

Signs you need some alone time

Solitude is something we all need, to varying degrees -- some people need more alone time to recharge, and that is OK. Having alone time allows us to drop all the burdens we carry and unwind. The responsibilities and social expectations can be draining. 

Here are some of the most common signs that you need alone time:

  • You are getting irritated by small things you usually would brush off.
  • You're tired or fatigued even when you get enough sleep. 
  • You are feeling overwhelmed and having trouble concentrating.
  • You're regretting plans you made that you normally would look forward to.

You don't benefit from continuing while being overstimulated and worn down. 

Why spending time alone is important

Let's talk about how solitude can uplift your wellness.

It allows you to know yourself

We abide by social expectations and rules when we're around others, even if we're not consciously doing so. Giving yourself time away from it takes the pressure off. Solitude allows you to be yourself with no outside influences. The more alone time you give yourself, the more you become comfortable with your own company. 

Solitude can help you get to know yourself through self-exploration as you consider your needs, desires and interests. You can also work through things at your own pace and solve problems without perceived judgment. It's freeing to be on your own. When fully focused on yourself, you can work toward being the person you want to be and what you want to achieve. 

Man leaning against a tree while reading a book.
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You can recharge  

One of the main signs that you need alone time is being short-tempered. Solitude offers a chance to rest and recharge without any expectations from others. Recent research published in Sage Journals found that solitude puts the nervous system in a "low-arousal" state, which allows us to feel calm and unbothered. 

You can spend your alone time however you'd like -- reading, hiking or taking a bubble bath. Investing in yourself and doing things you like will cause your mood to improve and your stress levels to go down. 

It sparks creativity

Creativity is one of those things that everyone has, but some people don't tap into it as often. Solitude is a tool you can use to access your creativity regularly. Studies suggest that being alone can help boost your creativity. Spending alone time can also hone your concentration and help you focus on the tasks. 

Your relationships are more meaningful 

When you spend time alone, you are more aware of what people around you bring to the table. People who regularly participate in solitude know what they can offer themselves -- introspection, relaxation and self-compassion. This helps them identify what they want and need from other people. They can make better decisions about their boundaries and the health of their relationships. 

Your mental health increases

For all of the reasons above, solitude supplements your mental health. Solitude makes you feel better because it gives you the space to just exist without the normal expectations that come with work, family or friends. 

Studies suggest that time alone and showing self-compassion can decrease anxiety and depressive thoughts. Remember that loneliness is distinct from solitude. Loneliness is associated with a higher risk of depression, according to a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry. 

If you want to enhance the mental health benefits of solitude, engage in activities like meditating or journaling.   

Read more: 6 Techniques to Cope With Depression      

Hiker taking a break by a lake while writing in her journal.
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Tips to maximize your solitude 

Sometimes, choosing solitude can be challenging, especially with the stigma around being alone and potential negative thoughts that crop up when you're not distracted by others. These things can deter someone from taking time for themselves. But it shouldn't. 

If you're not used to prioritizing your alone time, figuring out where to start can be tough. Are you supposed to just sit there? There's no wrong way to practice solitude. Here are some jumping-off points to get the most out of your time. 

  • Embrace solitude: Spending time alone doesn't mean you're lonely. Developing the right mindset and differentiating between solitude and loneliness will help you maximize your alone time. 
  • Log off social media: Are you focusing on yourself if you're scrolling through an endless string of perfectly staged pictures? If you want the best results from your solitude, disconnect as much as possible so you can focus on yourself. 
  • Pick the right way to spend your time: OK, there is no wrong way to spend your alone time. However, there is a right way for you. Don't try to fill your alone time with chores like folding laundry or doing the dishes just because you have time. For your solitude to work in your favor, you should do something you enjoy, like listening to music, reading a book or walking.
  • Communicate your needs: You should feel empowered to tell your family and friends about your solitude needs. Communicate boundaries for when you won't answer your phone and when they shouldn't stop by. 

Too long; didn't read?

Solitude can be intimidating. On the surface, it looks like you're choosing loneliness, but you're really just choosing yourself. Solitude gives you time to recharge with no strings attached. Try building some alone time into your schedule and see how your mental health flourishes. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.