Everybody needs some alone time, or "personal space", every now and then. We humans are naturally singular creatures. We communicate and interact with others by forming relationships, which have many important positive outcomes for our lives, but ultimately we are individuals and as individuals we need some time devoted solely to ourselves. This alone time is what helps us feel refreshed. It enables us to be selfish once in a while and truly focus on ourselves, which is a very good thing. I did not think this really needed to be talked about until I was lunching with my lovely, soon-to-be-wife, Sophie. Long story short, while we were talking over lunch, we came to the conclusion that not many people recognise their own need for some alone time, let alone respect others' need for it, and most seem to consider it as a big black mark on their relationship.
Hence this article - read it, digest it, think about your relationships, consider your own needs for alone time, and learn to respect others' needs. Your relationships will prosper.
Why Alone Time is Good a Thing
Personal space is what keeps us, as individuals, feeling refreshed. Taking time out from others enables us to, relax, recharge our batteries, learn about ourselves, and return to our relationships in positive mindset. The whole point of taking this time to be alone is that humans need time to be selfish. Being selfish gets a bad wrap in society as it has big negative connotations, but well spaced and considered selfishness is actually beneficial to our lives.
When we take some time to solely think about ourselves, and not have to consider our impact on others, we begin being self-aware. It can be a little daunting at first, but the result of this awareness is that you learn what drives you, what excites you, and what motivates you. This new-found self-awareness is a beautiful thing and it has a dramatic positive effect on your life.
The Signs You Need Alone Time
Everyone has their own unique traits that bubble to the surface when in need of some personal space. You need to learn to recognise your own signs, but if you have trouble doing this the general rule is that if you start pushing people away then you need some time alone. Some examples are:
- Being mono-syllabic - conversations are supposed to be fun two-way social interactions. If you're not trying then you do not want to be there.
- Itching to be elsewhere - if you are out and you desperately want to be home then do everyone a favour and leave. Take some time for yourself.
- Unexplained moodiness - feeling cranky for no reason? You probably need some time alone.
There are plenty more examples but you need to recognise your own and deal with them appropriately.
Tips for Making the Most of your Alone Time
Wondering what to do to make the most of your personal space? Try these:
- Express your need instead of hiding it - tell people why you need to be alone. Do not dance around the subject (or worse; lie about it) because this will just cause people to start second guessing you and your relationship. Be honest and you will be respected for it.
- Engage your mind - watching TV, browsing Facebook, or playing games are not good uses of your alone time. These are time-wasters and that's exactly what they do. Don't waste your alone time or you wont come away feeling refreshed.
- Be selfish - Do something that you love. You will appreciate the time much more
- Be "in the moment" - don't just do something alone for the sake of it. Use the time to increase your self-awareness and you will feel much more refreshed afterward.
- Schedule it - you schedule time for work meetings and tasks so why not some time just for you? It is your life after all.
Respecting Others' Need for Alone Time
Relationships, on all levels, are important parts of our lives. The offer us the chance to learn, experience, and grow. Sharing our thoughts and passions with others naturally excites and energises us, but sometimes being alone can have the same effect. When someone close to us needs to have some personal space it is our duty to respect and encourage that. Remind yourself that it is not a comment on you or your relationship but just a natural human desire.
I am reminded of a classic Seinfeld episode where the line "It's not you, it's me" is used to end a relationship. A funny line, but also with some insight into human psychology, whether or not the writers intended it. As I mentioned above, we are individual creatures and because of that we are the centre of our own existence. As a result our first instinct is to take responsibility for everything that happens in our lives, but it is good to remember that we only ever fully understand a situation from our own perspective and we can only ever control our own actions. It often really is nothing to do with you.
There are plenty of good resources out there that talk about this exact issue but for those playing at home here are my recommendations:
- The Secret to Self Loving at Think Simple Now.
- How Do I Take Time Alone In a Relationship at The Ririan Project.
- Alone Time for the workplace from the e-book "Getting Real" by 37Signals.
- How Do I Take Time Alone In a Relationship at Ask Love Coach.
- Giving Yourself Alone Time at What I Think About.
So start planning some more alone time for yourself and ask how you can encourage and support the same in all your relationships. Everyone will benefit.
Edit (17/5/11): I wrote another article recently, Spend Time with People that Energise You, where I talked about the reasons why we feel like we need more alone time and why it can be aided by looking at the kind of people you spend your time with.