4 Reasons to Carve Out Alone Time

This is an open secret: I truly love spending time alone.  There are certain exceptions to this rule.  Most of them are people who fill me up and with whom I feel absolutely zero pressure to be “on” in any capacity.  In the Enneagram, a very cool personality test that I’ve found more informative that even the Myers-Briggs, I am a Two a.k.a. “The Helper”.  I feel a strong need to be around and elevate other people all of the time.  Being a yoga teacher, I spend most of my time doing that very thing.  However, this thing happens when I spend all of my time pouring out energy to and for other people: I feel not like myself any more.  I feel empty. Though I love spending time with and around other people, I am my best self when I carve out a significant chunk of time to be by myself.  It took me a very long time to accept this. Here are four reasons why I invest in alone time.

  1. Resilience - Because I’m a helper, I often solve other people’s problems to distract myself from my own.  Instead of dealing with my feelings or problematic thoughts, I help others move through their’s.  When I take a step back though, I find that in fact, there is work to be done for and on myself.  Independence is not a bad thing.  Cultivating that sense of being able to help one’s self creates a more stable and resilient self.  Spending time alone helps us cultivate resilience and fills our toolbox with ways to move through and with big feelings and thoughts.  The next time we get knocked down, the work we've put into cultivating our strong sense of self helps us stand back up again.
  2. Identity - We spend a ton of time putting on personas.  Humans want to feel that they belong. Often times, in our search for belonging we transform into specific versions of us. Do you know who you are apart from the person that others prescribe you?  Who are you beyond the role you play in different groups of people? Sometimes in our search for community we forget the unique and necessary definition of us.  Spending time alone, away from the noise of others, allows you to reconnect with the authentic you, No masks. No personas. No obligations. Just you.
  3. Empathy - There is this idea in the yoga practice of self study, svadhyaya .  The more intimately we know ourselves the more we are open to the universal experience of being human. We explore the depths of who were are, our sorrow, our joy.  From that exploration, it is possible to understand that every human experiences these emotions/sensations/thoughts in different iterations. Empathy goes beyond feeling sorry for someone who faces a challenge.  It is a deep understanding of another human. It is reaching out across the great divide and saying, “I see you.  I hear you. I know you.  And you are not alone”.  Imagine if we injected the world with more empathy and because of that acted in more compassionate way towards each other?  The world would be a completely different place. The root of this is svadhyaya.  Study the self. Realize the universal. Act with compassion.
  4. Healing - the body is INCREDIBLY smart. If you give it the time and space it needs to heal itself, it will. Guess when that time is?  YES! It is alone time! When we aren't exerting energy transforming into who other people need us to be, when we aren't spending energy being “on”, our hearts, minds, and bodies, use that alone to heal.  Many of my dear friends who I care about deeply know not to be offended when I say, “I'm sorry.  I just need to take this evening to be myself”.  For some reason there is a sort of shame or guilt associated wth taking time for one’s self. Collectively we got to start letting each other know that it is okay to take time to reset and recharge.

Living in New York City, where I am constantly surrounded by swarms of people, means purposefully carving out time where I won’t interact with other people. Carving out the time makes it special. Especially in our age of digital hyper-connection, the idea of being alone feels overwhelming, even foreign.  When was the last time you were truly alone? No distractions, no texting or social media, just you? I spend time alone getting reacquainted with myself so that I can go back out into the world as the most compassionate version of myself. Take a time out, fill yourself back up, and return the world in a more vibrant way.