A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Can you have too much solitude or not enough?

Woman sitting beside a lake with a pink umbrella - Is solitude healthy?

Solitude in healthy doses can help you explore your beliefs and interests and become more confident.

Humans are social beings. Studies show we’re healthier when we have a supportive social network. However, spending some time alone is good for you. Alone time can be fun, and it can help you become a more confident person.

If you love spending time with friends, you don’t have to drop everything for some solitude. Enjoying a lot of time alone isn’t a bad thing, either.

“It’s about finding balance,” said Angela Lane, Psy.D., a clinical psychology fellow at Marshfield Clinic. “The idea is to figure out how much alone time and how much socialization is right for you and occasionally step out of your comfort zone.”

Alone time promotes self-discovery

Many people like time alone each day or week to relax and gather their thoughts. Solitude makes them feel fresh after a long day at work or a social event.

Spending time alone is a good way to explore your beliefs and interests. As you become comfortable with who you are, your self-esteem improves and you’re able to stand up for your beliefs.

More independence and self-love actually can enhance your relationships with others,” Lane said.

Alone time lets you develop hobbies you normally wouldn’t do with other people. You may be interested in reading or teaching yourself a new skill like playing an instrument or crafting. You can practice your hobbies and be creative without judgment from others.

Too much solitude is unhealthy

The right amount of alone time differs for everyone, but spending all your time alone is considered unhealthy. Solitude is especially lonely when it’s not chosen, like if you’re shunned by a social group or unable to leave your home.

“Staying socially connected has positive influences on our physical well-being,” Lane said. “People live longer when they’re socially connected. A few good friendships are all you need.”

People who spend too much time alone may start thinking negatively about themselves. They may have a difficult time communicating when it’s time to socialize. Communicating with people only through social media presents problems as well because you can lose the ability to read non-verbal cues during in-person conversations.

Learn how to spend time alone and connect with others

Some people love alone time, while others feel anxious, bored or lonely when forced to spend time alone. Learning how to be by yourself is important because spending time alone isn’t always a choice. Getting comfortable spending time alone instills resilience.

“Be planful of your alone time,” Lane said. “Think about a hobby you’ve always wanted to try and spend time reading about it or investigating what you need to start.”

Try 10 minutes at first and work up to practicing your hobby alone for an hour, then for a full day.

On the other hand, if socializing makes you anxious, ease your way into spending time with others.

“Stepping out of your comfort zone might be scary, and it’s okay to be scared,” Lane said. “Invite one friend to have coffee or go for a walk around your neighborhood. A social interaction can be as short as 10 minutes.”

As you get more comfortable socializing, try joining groups of people who have similar interests.

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