Self Improvement 3: Spend Some Time Alone
You need alone time!
Throughout the day we are bombarded with requests from others. Colleagues who need something or just want to chat at the water cooler. Friends who want to meet up and talk. The family wants to connect and take a bite out of your time. Meetings that seem to go on forever.
The time with others can be fun. You might enjoy every minute of it but every now and then take some time alone. Time for you to relax and do nothing or do something you love. Block out 40 to 60 minutes of your day and focus on yourself.
Meditation is something that you should do daily. You usually have to be alone or in a place where distracting other people is considered rude. But meditating requires mental focus and energy. When you can, do it. If not, then you can go in the opposite direction.
Think about what are you doing and where are you going with your life, where is that taking you. Think about your goals, has anything changed in your priorities, do you need to adjust your course?
Free flow writing
Sometimes I sit behind the desk and just write down everything that crosses my mind for 40 minutes. Free flow writing helps me to get a new perspective and ideas that may otherwise be lost in the rush of daily activities.
In free writing, you are doing the opposite of meditation. In meditation, you want to stop your mind from wandering. In free writing go off on any tangent that your brain throws at you. The exercise helps you clear your head and get a better understanding of the issues you are facing.
Alone time doesn’t have to be a hard brainstorming session or even reading. If you feel like it go for a walk and clear your head. If you have more time go to a movie or day spa. There’s no pressure; you can do whatever you want it is your time.
Walking is the easiest activity that lets you get away from it all. Walking is also low intensity and lets you think deep about your life. But you can do some serious exercising by bending iron or maybe running. However, the more energy you spend on the physical activities, the less you have left for mental tasks. But sometimes it’s totally OK to switch your brain off completely.
Of course, you also need a silent space. A location where you can’t bump into people you know. A place where there’s no noise. Some people think that coffee shop background noise doesn’t break their concentration. Well, it does.
If you have a quiet place like that then good for you. For others, one place that usually meets all those criteria is a public library.
To make sure that your time stays yours put your phone in silent mode, close all notifications from email, IMs, and social networks. And do not use the time to browse the net aimlessly. Switch everything off and focus on yourself.
I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel. ~~Audrey Hepburn
Whatever relaxes you, do it. Just a disclaimer here: no drugs, alcohol, or any other activities that leave you incapacitated to continue that day. Somewhere on the spectrum between meditating and crossfit workout are million other things: learn to play the guitar (don’t do it in the library). Start to paint or draw. Did you know that you can get pretty good at almost anything in as little as 20 hours?
In some cases, you can take off extended chunks of time. For me, one of the best activities for alone time is snowboarding alone on the powder slopes. Hours pass, and there’s no one around. You can get similar experiences when hiking or running really long distances alone. But if you don’t feel like moving yourself a lot, then you can spend a day on the secluded beach and enjoy the soothing crash of the waves in the background.
Do something where you can lose yourself and forget the daily rat race.
How often should you do it?
You don’t have to do it every day but make sure that you have enough alone time every other day or so. Your time alone does not mean that you are depressed or sad. It will lower your stress levels, and you get a better grip on reality.
If you feel that you can’t find the 40 minutes for this every other day or two times a week, then it’s a sign that you really need it. You are not a robot.
Do it at least once a week
There are a lot of options to take the time you need to be alone. The question is not what to do but where to find the time. Make a date with yourself. Put it on the calendar. You owe yourself some alone time.
Now go and take some time for yourself!
Image by Priit Kallas: ‘Powder Day’
Image Screenshot of Audrey Hepburn from the film Charade