The importance of being on your own
Whether it’s spending a few moments meditating, curling up on the couch to read a good book, or even escaping for a solo weekend getaway, carving out alone time is an important part of a balanced life.
I write this paragraph from the muted calm that only 5 o’clock in the morning can bring. I savour this time to sit quietly with myself (and a steaming mug of tea), in anticipation of the day ahead. While the night owls among us are likely shuddering at the thought of such an early morning, rest assured that it is not when we carve out alone time that matters but, rather, that it simply happens at all.
Alone time provides an opportunity for contemplation, self-exploration, and a time-out from daily social pressures. Research also suggests this “me time” promotes better work-life balance and overall well-being.
Even if you tend to be more extroverted (that is, you become energized by being around people), integrating a small amount of alone time is an important part of daily self-care—particularly if it’s spent doing something that is freely chosen, personalized, and meaningful.
Recharging our batteries through solo escapes can take on many forms, from the everyday to the extraordinary.
A large body of research suggests what many of us know intuitively to be true: being alone with nature can be an incredibly restorative experience.
Start small: Connecting with nature can be as simple as eating lunch at the park rather than at your desk. On the weekend, try taking a 90-minute walk in a natural environment—a recent study revealed that participants who did so showed decreased activity in an area of the brain associated with mental illness, such as depression.
Go big: For an extra splurge, consider booking in at an eco-lodge—that is, a small resort located in a natural environment that prioritizes environmental responsibility and positive relationships with local people. Before you go, do some homework to determine whether the lodge is certified by a reputable program that ensures its commitment to environmental and cultural sustainability.
More than 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas. Luckily, cities provide ample opportunities to enjoy some quality me time.
Start small: Take yourself out on a date and enjoy having first (and only) dibs on what you decide to do. Head to a coffee shop with a book or journal, go to the movies or a museum, or simply take a stroll around town, enjoying your own company.
Go big: For the ultimate de-stressing experience, check into a health and wellness spa for the afternoon. Many spas offer thermal treatments such as saunas and baths, which studies have linked to subjective feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Meditation is known for its wide-ranging benefits to both physical and mental health. Meditation also connects us more deeply to our internal world, making it the epitome of me time.
Start small: Try implementing a meditation practice for as little as five minutes per day. Numerous different guided meditations can be accessed online or through smartphone apps, making it easy to practise meditation anytime, anywhere.
Go big: Attending a meditation retreat can be a transformative way to enhance your mindfulness practice and encourage overall well-being. In fact, a meta-analysis published in 2017 found that such retreats are effective in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and in promoting quality of life.
It may seem daunting to fit me time into an already demanding schedule; luckily, it appears that when it comes to me time, quality is more important than quantity. To make the most of alone time, use these tips.
Set aside time every week to engage in something that’s just for you, and stick to it just like you would with any other appointment. This may require letting others in your household know that, for the allotted time, you’re “off limits”—and then supporting others to do the same.
Experiment with turning off and putting away your cell phone during me time, noticing if this helps create a more meaningful and less distracted experience.
Try your best to avoid contaminating me time moments with thoughts about things you “should” be doing instead. Find solace in the knowledge that prioritizing alone time can make you more productive in the long run, and leave you more present for the important people in your life.