How hard is it to be alone

Being alone: ​​the best cure for exhaustion?

Most people agree on one question: being alone is sucks. Someone who likes to accept the absence of society is associated with a whole range of negative prejudices: boring, antisocial, dismissive, or even simply atypical. True to the motto: Those who prefer to be alone probably have no friends. And so for many there is nothing but incomprehension. The explanation is as simple as it is obvious. Being alone can be good. The “rest test” - a large international study - proves this.

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Nobody wants to be alone

Not everyone can be alone. It already begins in childhood: Babies and small children are not yet able to properly understand their environment. You are then insecure and quickly start crying when no one is around.

For some, this continues through school into professional life - just without crying. Man is a social being. We want to be part of the group, belong and connect. So you try to make contacts, build a stable circle of friends and surround yourself with other people.

Because at the latest when they are at school, most of them learn that it is pretty stupid to be alone. This applies in particular to involuntary loneliness. Alone are always those who somehow do not belong to it. Outsiders are those who are the last to be elected to the team in sport.

Nobody laughs at their jokes. And who are probably wearing the "wrong" clothes. Those who are alone without any action on their own, and especially without wanting to, often feel lonely and insecure. This phenomenon also occurs in professional life. Loneliness at work is more common than you might think.

In people who are involuntarily alone, self-doubts get louder, self-confidence sinks to a minimum and negative emotions take over.

➠ You feel unpopular.
➠ You feel abandoned.
➠ You feel left out.

These things do not necessarily have to do with being alone. At the same time, being able to be alone is a mental strength. Even if the condition doesn't sound desirable at first glance, it has some advantages.

Or to put it another way: We naturally look for company, but being alone can be learned.

Be lonely or alone?

To avoid any misunderstanding: Of course, people should not be or remain alone in the long term. But there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely, even though the two terms are often used interchangeably.

lonliness describes the feeling that someone can feel when they are alone. But it can also be felt in the midst of other people, for example because one is ostracized and bullied.

To be alone describes the fact that a person is isolated from other people, for example, staying alone in a room. Or live alone. Alone taking a lunch break. But not everyone who is alone feels lonely.

There are people who willingly want to be alone. This applies, for example, to highly sensitive people. Often their need to withdraw meets a lack of understanding. Such people must be able to confidently represent their decision to the environment.

In contrast to the aforementioned, they usually have the choice of reintegrating at any time.

Alone has a bad reputation

Often the environment cannot understand why someone feels the desire to withdraw and to be to themselves from time to time. Being alone does not have a good reputation in society. Anyone who might just want to be alone and have their peace and quiet is quickly referred to as a nerd or a bore.

Wrongly! Because being alone does not mean that you cannot feel comfortable in the company of others. Among other things, it is such misunderstandings that make it difficult to stay alone without being pigeonholed right away.

The wish is already difficult enough to implement, even without an environment that reinforces the fears associated with being alone. For example such:

  • The fear of not being good enough. One can hide well in a group. If you are alone, however, the probability increases - both for yourself and for others - to discover your own weaknesses.
  • The fear of social exclusion. Most people join a group and want to belong. Those who stay alone run the risk of being excluded from their social environment.

The mistake of thinking that many make: They generally associate being alone with loneliness. They think of social isolation, desolation, maybe even depression.

Freely chosen isolation is mental hygiene

Anyone who equates self-chosen isolation with loneliness, depression or being an outsider fails to recognize the positive effects. A few centuries ago, the temporary social break was still considered the royal road to more spirituality, creativity, and intellectual purification and maturity.

The greatest founders of religions on this planet - Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus - all spent long times with themselves. They practiced mental hygiene - before anyone even knew the word.

Some secular spirits, including Beethoven, Kafka and Newton, drew numerous inspirations and great creative power from their phases of self-isolation and seclusion.

Studies indicate that when we are alone, we not only recover physically and mentally, but sometimes even perform better than in a community. A Harvard study, for example, comes to the conclusion that we can remember things better on our own and can also memorize them better.

Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University who conducts research in this field, is convinced that people who go to the retreat after a hard day experience new control over their time and feel a whole new freedom .

Positive effects of being alone

In some moments we have to be alone. Probably everyone knows such phases. They occur especially when everything becomes too much for us. A lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of problems buzzing in your head. If you are constantly surrounded by others and need a break from the overstimulation, you would do well to be a little alone and concentrate on yourself. In addition, being alone has other positive effects:

You will discover undreamt-of strengths and abilities

Those who are on their own also deal with difficulties and problems on their own. You can discover strengths and abilities in yourself that you may not have been aware of until then. This development is mainly caused by the fact that you no longer rely only on your surroundings, but take things into your own hands. You may be a little insecure at first, but you will quickly learn to trust your new strengths.

You get to know yourself better

In everyday life we ​​often only worry about what others think and what behavior is expected of us. On the other hand, those who learn to be alone can learn a lot about themselves during this time. For example, being alone makes you aware of what is good for you, what is harmful, which factors trigger stress and what you have to do to find peace again. This also helps you become aware of your goals and plan the steps it will take to achieve them.

You learn to hold on to your decisions

It is a difficult task to hold on to your decision and stand by your opinion when everyone around you tells you that you are wrong. Being alone can help you to recognize that in some cases it can be worthwhile to hold on to your own decisions, even if other people cannot understand it. In the end, you have to face the consequences of the decision and learn from a possible setback - not the others.

You lead stronger relationships

When you are unable to be alone, you quickly become dependent on other people for your well-being. You always need their approval and your actions are only about pleasing the other person. The basis for a healthy relationship is definitely different. On the other hand, the better you feel about being alone, the less dependent you are on your surroundings. Or to put it another way: You can only live with others if you can live with yourself alone.

Alone can be a sign of high intelligence

The focus of attention is always on the fact that society and togetherness with other people make you happy and satisfied. On the other hand, less attention is paid to the fact that people who like to spend time alone and for themselves are often particularly intelligent.

A study was able to show that it makes many people happier in society - but this finding did not apply to the test persons who were particularly intelligent. For them, the effect turned around and the more social they got, the more dissatisfied they were with the situation.

As a possible explanation, the researchers provide the focus on their own, especially long-term, goals. Smart people often have big and clear plans that they want to turn into action. There is no time to spend time in good company several times a week. This distracts from the actual goals and makes you unhappy as a result.

Being alone: ​​the rest of the test

In cooperation with the BBC, Hubbub - an association of doctors, scientists and health experts based in London - asked a total of 18,000 people from 134 countries in a large online survey.

Incidentally, this “rest test” (from English to rest = to rest) has nothing to do with “leftovers”, but deals with the topics of relaxation and periods of rest.

Around 68 percent of those surveyed were of the opinion that they needed more rest and relaxation. A good third even believed that their personal "need for relaxation" was higher than that of the average person. Ten percent thought they needed less than the others.

When asked how long they were able to recover the day before - the definition was completely up to the respondents - the average responded with three hours and six minutes.

Participants were then given a long list of activities from which to choose the three that they found most relaxing. The surprising result ...

The 10 most relaxing activities

  1. Read
    Reading was clearly the top answer. 58 percent said reading is particularly relaxing for them.
  2. To be in nature
    Nature seems to have a therapeutic effect. The number of women who enjoyed being in nature was even slightly higher than that of men.
  3. To be alone
    The bare answer “being alone” came home with the bronze medal. Not necessarily to be expected: women and under-30s prefer to be alone than the rest.
  4. listen to music
    Listening to hard or soft sounds: younger people prefer to do it than older people, men rather than women.
  5. Do nothing (special)
    Idleness is an art that has gone out of style. And yet every age group likes it - except for those of the 31 to 45 year olds. Assumption: The Middle Ages are in the rush hour of life and have a guilty conscience if they do nothing.
  6. To go for a walk
    For some, a walk is an effort, for others it is pure relaxation. Eight percent even say that jogging is relaxing for them.
  7. Take a shower or bath
    The older we get, the less we enjoy it. For 18 to 30 year olds, shower or bath is more relaxing than for over 60 year olds.
  8. Daydreaming
    The wandering mind can inspire, but also degenerate into brooding. For many, daydreaming is definitely relaxing.
  9. watch TV
    Passive sofa sport is also extremely relaxing - for women more than for men, for younger people more than for older people.
  10. Meditate or meditate
    Meditation could be viciously dismissed as a fad. But many find it relaxing - that's enough for a place in the top ten.

The following places landed: “Spending time with animals”, “Meeting friends and family”, “Drinking coffee or tea”, “Being artistically active” and “Gardening”. In the opinion of the respondents, it is even less relaxing to chat with friends or meet for a drink. “Sex” also fell into the category of exertion and was rarely mentioned by the respondents.

Being alone is relaxing

What do you notice about the ranking list? The most relaxing leisure activities are (often or always) solo events: reading, being in nature, being alone, listening to music, doing nothing, going for a walk, swimming, daydreaming. The first clearly social activity - meeting friends and family - ends up outside the top ten.

Most people have apparently made the experience that rest and relaxation breaks work best when you go through them alone. Incidentally, this does not mean that they are unsociable or even anti-social, but only that they do not consider contact with other people to be particularly relaxing.

Extroverts and introverts also responded very similarly. Extroverts mentioned chats and meetings with friends more often, but they, too, ultimately chose solo activities at the top of the list.

Rest from others and from ourselves

"People said that when they are alone, they tend to be very preoccupied with their emotions, taking care of their bodies and emotions," Ben Alderson-Day, a University of Durham psychologist and co-author of the study, told the BBC .

"There are also indications that we not only isolate ourselves from other people when we are alone, but also have the chance to free ourselves from our own inner monologue." So - it seems - we are not only planning to rest others, but also from ourselves.

On the other hand, the brain does not fall into deep sleep just because it does not have to conduct a conversation or solve a task. On the contrary, the aimless wandering inspires the spirit, often brings about the unexpected.

It is best to rest for five hours a day

As part of the rest of the test, the people who had had fewer rest breaks the day before also generally felt less well than their contemporaries. Perception probably also plays a role here. In other words, if we think we're rested, then we feel better too.

A guideline for anyone who wants to increase their wellbeing: five to six hours of relaxation per day. After that, according to the survey, well-being is greatest the next day.

If it was even more, the wellness value fell again, which could indicate that forced rest periods - for example due to unemployment or illness - do not have the same effect as freely chosen ones.

Now, of course, five hours of rest per day is a lot - and usually completely unrealistic. And yet: close the bulkheads every now and then and be alone - that can work wonders.

Digital detox or loneliness?

It is better to be alone than to be with someone who makes you feel like you are alone.

The modern overstimulation leads to more and more people consciously isolating themselves from time to time. Digital detox is when people want to be alone undisturbed and leave digital contact options - especially smartphones and computers - switched off.

For a while, that's perfectly legitimate. But wanting to be alone can also have its downsides. Namely, when a need for rest turns into a retreat from the circle of friends and acquaintances.

Everyone knows phases of stress. But if more invitations are turned down than expected, social contact suffers. Friendships need to be cultivated. This is especially true for singles who do not have a partner by their side for regular exchange.

Even if they don't feel lonely, there is a risk that such loners will become weird. The dishes just stay there longer - nobody sees it anyway.

And of course, maintaining social contacts means that a certain amount of effort has to be made. The feeling goes from the recovery. But protects against getting lonely at some point because of the sheer need for rest.

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