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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 24 2011

The Power of Solitude: Why You Should Spend More Time Alone

By Mark Sisson
114 Comments

I consider myself a pretty social person, but I’ll admit I need my “cave” time – those periodic hours away from everyone and most everything. After a long and compact business trip, a joint vacation with extended family or friends, the ruckus of the holidays, or a week of house guests, I hit my threshold – beyond which I slip into an irritable, irascible version of myself. Usually my wife catches it before I do and gently reminds me to retreat for a time until I’m fit for society again. After a brief self-imposed seclusion (usually a day of hiking), I’m as good as new. In short, a bit of regular solitude keeps me civilized.

Last week The Boston Globe ran a piece called “The Power of Lonely: What We Do Better without Other People Around.” The article mentioned a number of recent studies that underscore the need to go it alone once in a while. Solo time, the article explains, is apparently good for the brain as well as the spirit. New research suggests that we remember information better when we go it alone. Even as subjects sat back to back unable to see one another, the mere suggestion that the other person was performing the same task was enough to diminish recall. The researchers explain that we’re inherently “distracted” and “’multitasking’” in the presence of others – attuned to their responses as well as the task at hand.

Sociologists from New York University and University and Virginia have offered the same conclusion. Their research, detailed in the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, showed that students who studied solo had better recall and got better grades than students who did their studying with a group.

The Globe article also cited collaborative research by Christopher Long and the National Forest Service examining the nature and potential benefit of solitude. In contrast to our society’s stigmatization of seclusion, Long’s survey showed that subjects more often than not had a positive view of their alone time. Later, unmentioned research by Long also found an interesting, gender-based pattern in how people seek their solitude. Women in the study showed an inclination toward finding solitude at home, while men sought alone time outdoors.

Research related to adolescents’ experience of solitude offers confirmation that solitude makes an essential contribution to development and mental health. Although the teenagers in the study didn’t describe alone time as a positive experience, the majority reported feeling better afterward. Furthermore, the study showed that “kids who spent between 25 and 45 percent of their nonclass time alone tended to have more positive emotions over the course of the weeklong study than their more socially active peers, were more successful in school and were less likely to self-report depression.”

Clearly, social wellness is an integral part of overall health. Studies have demonstrated the supportive effects of close friendships and frequent social contact. We evolved to throw our lot in with others because, frankly, we had a better chance of making it than if we didn’t. The physiological advantages remain today in the way of better immune function, disease survival, motor skill and cognitive preservation, and increased longevity. As with anything, however, social well-being is about balance more than absolutes.

Hunter gatherers’ lifestyle undoubtedly supported the chance for solitude in both daily tasks and leisure time. Living in small bands on large stretches of land offered a chance to get away that many of us in large cities likely crave. With traditions like vision quests, many tribal societies sanctified the power and necessity of solitude. Time away from the tribe is seen as a test of self-sufficiency as well as a time of growth. The individual returns to the group stronger, wiser – with more to offer the group as a result of the seclusion.

Our modern culture couldn’t be more different. These days we’re also impelled by the technological imperative to stay connected. People take laptops on vacation, their smart phones to bed with them. With the constant access to virtual if not actual socialization, experts wonder if we’ve forgotten how to be completely alone, wholly cut off for a time. Can we truly submerge ourselves in solitude when we’re fighting the urge to check email or Facebook “one more time”?

We use alone time to process our relationships and recalibrate our sense of self. Solitude confirms that we’re more than the sum of our reactions to other people and encounters. In solitude, we return to center. I have a friend who for the last twenty years has gone on a solo camping trip for 10 days in the wilderness. The extended seclusion and physical challenge of living off the land gives her chance to clear away the brush of her life, so to speak. She explains, “I have the chance to listen to my own thoughts during those days. I use the time to reflect on the past year – what’s it’s meant for me – and to simply just be.” Solitude reminds us of what is essential to our identities. It inspires deeper deliberation and allows for the perception of more subtle sentiment. It gives us the chance to take inventory and hear the messages that fill our day. In doing so, we can hone in on what is vital to our well-being and what we will take with us to return to the world.

How do you seek out solitude for yourself? What do those hours mean for you? Share your thoughts, and thanks for reading.

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114 thoughts on “The Power of Solitude: Why You Should Spend More Time Alone”

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  1. I either need more alone time than most other people, or I’m just more aware of it and make an effort to meet those needs, and it’s caused some problems for me with friends and family. (I have a very large extended family, and if I accepted every single invitation to every birthday, baptism, graduation, barbecue etc etc etc I would never have any free time at all!)

    Over the years they’ve come to accept it, and are very understanding, and the pressure to participate has lessened. And actually, once I stopped feeling so pressured to do things all the freaking time…I began to accept more invitations and do more things.

    I think I’ve found a happy medium. But I’m still considered the weird loner. 🙂

  2. I’m a very strong Introvert, as measured by every personality test I’ve taken, and time alone is as essential as food for me. My dad, an extreme extrovert, always used to say “why don’t you get out and do something” when I was a kid. He never understood that I WAS doing something. I always had plenty of friends and spent a lot of time with them but I spent more time alone.

    1. Yep me too! When I was a kid, I was always perfectly happy just playing with my dolls by myself. I definitely value my friendships, but I feel so much calmer when I’m not being pulled in several different directions by social obligations…

    2. I also classify myself as an introvert but have stepped away from it a bit recently and will do so a lot more over the summer.

      Alone time is VERY necessary. My sister used to constantly be with someone and NEVER had alone time. She was constantly stressed out. Today she has a lot more alone time and the stress has subsided.

      We all need to be social but most of us are too social in todays world as Mark stated. We always feel we need to be “connected” to the entire world. That’s great sometimes but being alone from everyone else or just chilling in nature is a fantastic experience.

      Great post!

  3. There’s an excellent book by Anneli Rufus entitled The Party of One: A Loner’s Manifesto. She addresses the experience that our culture at times tends to place weird labels on people who value their alone time. Additionally, she believes that some people, be it due to genetics or whatever, simply value being loners more than others. This doesn’t mean that they dislike people or that they’re anti-social in any way. They simply value being alone.

    1. Great book. Another great supportive read is The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. When I read it, I stopped thinking there was something wrong with me. Introversion is about how you recharge your batteries, not about shyness or social incompetence. Many introverts, such as myself, are highly socially competent! And when it’s time to recharge, and it happens frequently, it is not a social experience!

      1. I agree, that is a fantastic book. Love your comments, and I completely agree. I am also an introvert who has to explain to people that I like being alone, that I actually need to be alone to recharge!

        1. Malanie,

          Both you and Carrie are absolutely correct. That book made a real difference in my life. I never understood how “normal” I was until I read that book. I’m an introvert’s introvert and always thought something was wrong that I enjoyed so much alone time and neglected most social opportunities. That book showed me how my personality was actually an advantage. Good post.

        2. I agree…loved reading Mark’s entry and all of the like-minded (at least the vast majority were) comments! I really appreciate the varied topics that come through this site that support healthy living in a “wholistic” way! Thanks, Mark!

  4. When I’m hunting or just prowling around exploring its like my mind opens up and I think, my muse speaks to me, enjoying the breeze and sun. I feel alive.

  5. I live pretty close to a cave existence most of each year. Here at Thule, Greenland my room is about 10×15. We have 11 rooms with single occupants. We share 2 shower stalls and 4 single toilets. Also a small kitchen and gathering area. I am an introverted person by nature and nurture through my life, but can act socially when needed. That is what I really like about being on “Top of the World”. There are at most about 550 people here and at the least about 350-400. So I can join in or escape out at my choice.

  6. I totally need my alone time to recharge. If I can’t find a couple hours everyday it really shows in my mood and motivation.

    My extroverted friends and co-workers don’t get it but after spending all week in meetings and on conference calls I often just want to do my own thing on Friday nights.

  7. “I either need more alone time than most other people, or I’m just more aware of it and make an effort to meet those needs,”

    Same for me. As a female I need solo time at home but that only goes so far, I also really need and prefer solo time outdoors. There is something about hiking, fishing, just sitting and listening to nature that helps me work through issues and come to decisions, peace and silencing of the internal dialog that is just not possible surrounded by others and personal things.

    Out there in the wild it’s real, it’s simple, predictable, cut and dried. I feel if I can take care of myself out there then I can deal with anything people/society can dish out.

    I like people but I need my solo time.

  8. I crave time alone. It’s hard for me to get it. I’m a full-time working single mom in a dating relationship with a guy who lives about fifty minutes away. What that means is that I want to be able to spend as much time with him on the weekends as I can…however…I still long to have some time to myself. I’m lucky if I get a couple of hours of my own on the weekend and a couple of hours alone on Tuesday nights, when my daughter goes to have dinner with her dad.

    I am really craving a day off by myself but I don’t want people to be hurt by not including them in my free time. I think I really need to figure this out.

    1. Rachel, I totally understand your craving. I’m an extreme introvert that had four children – and homeschooled them. Fortunately, my children are largely introverts with varying degrees of extroversion. I found that I really had to wait until they were all out of the house and off to college to get some awesome alone time – and it was worth it. I still love to spend a day at home by myself.

      My advice? Hang in there, take time for yourself when you can, but don’t sweat it. Your time will come.

    2. I can totally identify with this. I am in a very similar situation as you find yourself in. I’m a personal trainer so my days are spent focusing on someone else all day long and I spend most of my weekends with my gf (who also lives an hour away). I feel like I have no alone time for myself and I am constantly being worn down and not able to recharge myself.

    3. I could have written your post.. I’m in the same boat. I know this is old, but I find myself being mean to everyone when I’m overdue for alone time is causing a lot of problems I feel like I’m being forced to be on stage and I’m not ready!

  9. Never underestimate the value of silence.

    What I mean by that is that without external distractions, by quieting the mind, we can listen to our inner self, which often has profound things to tell us about all aspects of life. From that position of balance we can in turn offer more of ourselves to our friends, family, and the external world at large.

  10. I’m easily distracted, so any time I can get away from work during my lunch or my wife is away for work, I’ll endulge in it by breaking out a book and/or listening to music.

    I must say, this article is very well-written. Of course, so are the rest of them!

    1. So true!

      Mark, you probably get this all the time, but reading your site just makes me so happy. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  11. One of my best vacations ever was when I took 3.5 days before a huge work conference and did a photo tour in Carmel CA area. It was beautiful and it was a great experience of looking internally and deciding what was important to me and what I wanted.

    I just proposed to my partner yesterday that during the summer (when we are thankfully out of school for a few months) that we each take 2 days of a solo vacation and on the 3rd day we reconvene and talk about our experience. I think it’s important to do that level of processing separately and then together even in a close relationship. Great article Mark!

  12. I love my alone time. My alone time comes in the form of fishing. 90% of my fishing trips are all alone. It allows me to recharge, gather my thoughts, and I feel refreshed when I get back. I love to fish, but I realize that being alone is the other big part of the equation.

  13. I think many only children will completely agree with you on this post. As an only child myself, I cannot agree more.

    I definitely attribute my success in grade school to studying alone. Actually, EVERYTHING that I have ever been successful at in life has been from having plenty of alone time with the subject.

  14. I think one of the reasons my husband and I get along well is that we are both the type who needs alone time. We enjoy hanging out together, but also are very comfortable doing our own thing and not needing constant interaction from each other. I think it makes conversations more stimulating, they aren’t forced and aren’t just to fill silence. You talk when you have something to say. Hiking is therapeutic that way, the combination of solitude, silence and nature is so peaceful…until you run into a bear 😉

  15. I need my alone-time like I need air and water! Being a woman (and a Cancerian total-homebody besides) I do love being home alone. I work at home, and I focus so much better than I do in an office with others. But because I’m alone so much, I have to build in ways to be social. Otherwise I get too insular.

  16. As most of the other commenters, I really value my alone time. This may sound unnatural, but I find one of the easiest ways to get it is in the car. A long car trip by myself is just what I need to clear my head and really feel alone. Walks are good too, but if we could all recognize that hours spent in the car alone can count as peaceful alone time, I think we’d be better off!

  17. I think alone time is great, but quiet time is almost the same thing to me. If my husband is reading a book and I’m thinking and processing life, it seems just as beneficial to me.

  18. LOL, I’m the introvert extraordinaire. Scheduling alone time is absolutely not an issue; I would probably benefit from forcing myself to socialize more.

  19. My one hour of solitude comes first thing in the morning and I do not know what I would do without.

    Gives me a chance to plan my day and rank the most important things to get done. Also, drink my coffee!

  20. The woods. As long as there are trees and nobody else is around, everything is good.

  21. One thing I have noticed is that I miss the alone time I have while being deployed for the different military operations currently going on. It is good to be away from family and friends and be able to have an hour or two to myself. Sometimes the best times are walking the yard and watching the sunset over the Hindu Kush. Its easy to forget where you are for a couple of moments.

    I have been a loner for most of my life. I am able to make friends easily and have many, but it is nice to spend time alone. Even if it is just leaving the wife and kids at home for an afternoon while I am out running errands. But she does the same, would be better if I was able to work in some wilderness alone time.

    Great article as always Mark, keep em coming.

    1. Man, one of the toughest periods in my life was when I was in the Coast Guard and stationed aboard two different ships; jayzuz, you couldn’t get away from them. I always had a hidey-hole but “they” always managed to find me.

  22. This would be great… if my wife and I were not raising 3 kids under 4 years old together. Personal space and “alone time” are not in their vocabulary.

  23. I’m a loner and I think that being “connected” or being a member of this or that group or community is highly over-rated.

    I get weary of hearing how we need to be social … blahblahblah. Many, maybe even most people need and want that, but it’s just not for everyone. I’d rather handle snakes at the Holiness Church than join a group.

    1. “I’d rather handle snakes at the Holiness Church than join a group”…

      I LOVED this line! I’m still laughing about it.

      Anyone who craves alone time can totally relate!

    2. “Many, maybe even most people need and want [to be social], but it’s just not for everyone.”

      I believe there are far more introverts than extroverts — it’s just that the extroverts are much louder. 😉

  24. My husband and I work opposite shifts during the week which allows both of us alone time at home. We both find this very beneficial for both ourselves and our marriage.

    1. For over twelve years my husband and I worked opposite shifts, also. Yes, I agree about the benefits. Even raising three children during this time worked well for us. Sunday was family day, that we spent skiing, sailing, hiking. Our kids usually always had a parent available to them, but on the other hand it garnered them more independence. They knew at what price our Sundays cut into the usual chores, so laundry, housecleaning, yard work (with veggie garden) was considered daily work, just like homework.

  25. So there’s science behind my solo running and motorbiking! I knew it intuitively all along …

  26. Company is ok solitude is bliss.

    There is a certain freedom and potential to being alone where anything and everything feel possible.
    then you find yourself back with the same people the same friends almost like a cage , a trapped fixed , feeling I guess you could call it supportive.the way cement shoes are supportive.

    Song video : Tame Impala- solitude is Bliss

    Youtube it up Folks

  27. I’ve noticed that since becoming Primal (and thereby curing the bipolar) I now really appreciate silence and alone time. Days and days of it is just fine by me.

    I wonder whether it’s something we grow into more as we age as well. I used to like to be involved with everything and very busy but now I love to ‘just be’. That’s probably why yoga really appeals to me now too, once on the mat with my eyes closed that is my alone time, even in a class setting.

  28. I love spending time with myself and I am starting to crave a house out in the middle of nowhere where I can walk out the door and straight into the woods, like I had growing up. We currently live so close to the neighbors that opening any windows or doors allows us to hear their kids in the backyard. Not much solitude in that!

    My current way of escaping is waking up early, before most anyone else, and walking the dog in the quiet pre-dawn…then curling up with a good book and some hot tea until everyone else wakes up. 8)

  29. This is exactly why I’m doing my thru-hike – to spend the time in the woods alone, reflecting and simply being. I love getting out to where time doesn’t matter and the only way to tell it is if the sun is up or down. It’s a spartan lifestyle, but it allows for great processing of information.

  30. I’ve known for years that my “inbox” gets full faster than other peoples, and everything that comes in after that just slides by. I retreat at that point, or I become a very unpleasant person; angry, put-upon, a cranky four-year-old in an adult body. I do tend to hold-up in my room; I think that getting out and doing some hiking might help. On my list of “crickets” as of today!

  31. Another great topic that is well timed. I personally tend to spend a lot of time alone, so I have lost an appreciation for it, I have to strive in the other direction for balance. I spend a lot of time alone at work as is the nature of my business, the walks I take during the day are more to get fresh air, not be alone. Your blog did touch on something else though, given the constant attachment cell phones and computers give us to everyone else.

    I’m not sure if I am the only person that feels this way, but texting and internet messaging do not feel like activities that satisfy my need for a connection, I don’t really get it to be honest. I like to either be alone as this article suggests or be with someone in person, truly connecting. This is where I feel a problem lies, so many people in this day and age are neither disconnecting or connecting, but remaining in a constant state of flirtatious limbo. Just another example of how new technologies aren’t always all good, feels like kind of a theme for us primal types.

    1. I’m with you, Jeff, I’ve never really gotten into using texting, IMing or twitter because they don’t provide the verbal and physical cues that face to face contact and interaction provide. (Yeah, there is some irony in leaving a reply to a blog comment) I’m also of the opinion of that continual connectedness to media output isn’t mentally healthy, particularly when the media output is negative and trivial.

      The vast majority of my work day is spent in solitude. I’m also an only child and the first three decades of my life had more than it’s fair share of solitude (and there are times when I’m truly over it). I still some need time to myself and it’s only beneficial when it’s away from my family or my workplace – and it’s outside in the elements.

      1. I was thinking the same thing about how ironic it is to complain about texting and internet communication via a internet blog. I guess balance it the key :P.

  32. Solitude is key to mastering anything – when I lost my drivers licence for 8 months I managed to build amazing skill at a few things because I stopped socializing – almost to the point of unhealthiness lol

  33. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one that needs her alone time! I, too, have more extroverted friends that can’t figure me out.
    But, then, I can’t understand their need for constant socializing, either! The only way I can think or process things going on in my life is by being alone. I feel I am a much healthier person as a result. Great article, Mark!

  34. I’m an only child, as are my parents so I come from a family of people who like – and NEED – their alone time. I am a full-time grad student so I am at home a lot during the day by myself, and it is wonderful.

  35. I have always thought that one reason school for kids doesn’t work very well is that they never have an opportunity to read or write or think alone while at school, or even after school. It’s very hard to learn in a room with thirty of your closest friends!

    I spend a lot of time alone during the summers and for a month in winter, when I’m at my farm, away from the city where I work. I love it and I find that I can focus better on my work. In the afternoons I go for a walk and sometimes see neighbors at that time. I like to get together with other people in the evening, after a day of work by myself. That seems like the right balance to me.

    I have noticed that some young people spend a great deal of time alone, but the whole time they are “alone,” they are actually “socializing” online. Thus they are neither truly alone in a healthy way, nor are they socializing in a healthy, real way. Some young people seem to have lost the ability to both be alone or with other people: they can only relate to other people easily via media. This is not good.

  36. I love spending time alone in a beautiful scenic spot ..I believe that in order to truly tune in to life you have to tune out every once in a while 🙂

  37. Interesting that men like outdoors more than woman. It seemed to me that part of seclusion is re-connecting with the environment instead of people. Cool research though.

    1. i’m not sure that’s true. there are times i’d love to be alone in a wilderness situation, but am not too sure of the safety of the situation. (i live in a high-crime metropolitan area.) if i can take my dog, it’s a different story…. one feels both secure and grounded in one’s own house, able to completely immerse oneself in solitude.

  38. So it’s not just me!!! 🙂 I love alone time and it’s pretty much the rule rather than the exception. It starts every morning with two labs hiking, some time with a horse….I enjoy social time when it comes along and have thought I need to schedule it in more to make sure I don’t get too disconnected, because I am so very comfortable and at peace alone. Social time is great and has its own great value, but I think people must really be very different from me if they don’t mind not getting their alone time (albeit with dogs, cats, horses, etc.) Time alone gives your mind a chance to be quiet and know where it is and where it wants to go. It’s been particularly invaluable at times in life when big life-changing decisions are called for. Clutter-free head.

  39. I am an introvert, I love spending time by myself to think and process things. I don’t hike by myself because I am a little scared to do so, but we have a big park by our house that I can go and walk in so when its nice out I spend an hour or two there loving nature. I love people and do need them in my life but I definitely value time by myself.

  40. Is that Lake Crescent in Washington???? We have that view all summer…its like our little piece of heaven here!!

  41. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that the actual definition of an introvert was not a person who was shy, nor was an extrovert an outgoing person. An introvert recharges themselves in solitude while an extrovert gains energy through a crowd. Needless to say this particular outgoing, people person re-classified herself as an introvert. Working a room takes actual work! Give me quiet time with the dog when it comes to feeling better.

  42. If I don’t have plenty of alone time, you most certainly don’t want to be around me during social time. I’ve got to find my peace to spread the peace.

  43. Great article! I love my alone time and find that I get irritable and make poor company when I don’t get enough of it. My preferred alone time is usually trail running. I will usually head to a nearby forest trail and run for at least an hour near a stream and through the redwood forest that we have here. It recharges me in a way that nothing else does. I find that it clears my mind and helps me solve problems that I am struggling with too. I usually come back with new ideas for how to address them. All in all, a worthwhile investment.

  44. While growing up, my family labeled me “antisocial.” I spent my days outside as much as possible in the company of animals. When forced to join in social circles, I would people watch and be ridiculed for not talking. What I don’t think they realized was how much information I was processing about them and their interactions…..including my own.

    60 years later I have a small circle of friends, but through the years what amazes my mom and dad is how easily I can put others at ease and even make total strangers smile and converse. I feel my alone time (over 80%) makes me more in tune with what others may be feeling or needing. Possibly because my own needs are being met?

    1. My childhood sounds very similar in this regard to yours. I have become very good at reading people by being more of an observer. Interestingly, animals are the same way. It is a very important survival mechanism. I do natural horsemanship training (for fun, not profit) and I feel I am a better “trainer” because of my honed observational skills. Just one of the many benefits of being more of an introvert.

  45. I really love having time to myself and it’s true, you do get alot more done this way. I really enjoy going to the woods on a rainy day as I get the whole park to myself as most people will not travel to the parks even when a light shower is on. Going to the parks on holidays works well too as everyone else seems to be at home or at the movies no one really thinks to spend time at the park or beach. Which leaves it all to me !!!

  46. I am definitely a “people person”, no doubt about that! I work in an industry (restaurant) where I interact with hundreds of people weekly. I used to sell real estate, lol. I connect well with people and have lots of social relationships on different levels.
    What I miss is being able to crash out on the beach for 8 hrs alone..or to camp in the woods..a Hubby who hates to camp and 2 kids later, I do not seem to get as much “recharge” time as I like. Although, now that Hubby is working mornings again, and the kids are in school, I at least may get some peace…my green thumb is also itchy again after being on hiatus. I have decided to have my city garden after all!
    This goes with the previous article about writing, it is difficult to do without some peace and quiet!
    I get “grumpy” during the winter because I am stuck inside. I don’t enjoy the cold/wet/snow/ice/rain that my New England winters bring. I myself blossom come spring warm weather, which lets me enjoy some outdoor time..and yes, I feel happier. Which makes me more pleasant to be around:)

  47. After many years of being unavailable for family functions(I have a HUGE family)due to my abnormal work schedule, (I make way too much money to take off a random weekend day/night) The expectations over the years have disappeared. Maybe I’ll make it, or not. What a relief.I make it a point to be there for the most important things, but they will do just fine without me!I am not obligated in the least.

  48. I understand that need for alone time, I get the most in my garden. Like others mentioned if I’m not getting my quotient I get cranky. That is part of my problem with winter, my alone time decreases

  49. Hurray for introverts. 😀 Anything in excess isn’t very good. Too much socializing, especially for introverts, could be taxing and emotionally draining.

  50. I’m going to go against the grain here and say that I sometimes feel I have too much alone time. I often crave company but feel like I don’t get enough of it due to not having that many friends I can rely on to hang out with, so end up being a bit lonely.

    I think a balance is needed for those like me who’re in the middle of the extra-to-intro-vert scale. I completely understand the need to be alone after spending a long time socialising, or the wonders of a good solo hike, or solitude for learning, art, spirituality, etc but I need time with people too 🙂

  51. Sometimes I dream of just sitting. Just being. In the quiet. Just me. No screaming or tantrums. No one to interrupt as I eat a meal in complete peace, or complete a run in silence, or finish a hike with just the birds and the bees for company. (I have a two year old. He is throwing a tantrum at this very moment. So I dream…). Very nice post today.

    1. Hang in there, Dawn. I’m right there with you. BTW, totally understand about eating a meal in peace.

  52. I don’t need any encouragement to be alone.

    Working in an office or dealing with a husband and kids is about as much of other people as I can manage.

    Reflecting, reading, journaling, working quietly in a focused way are how I spend the rest of my time. Too much extroversion and I’m quickly exhausted.

  53. I love alone time. For years, as a stay-at-home-homeschooling Mom, I got it so rarely, I often felt at the end of my rope. Now, the kids are in public school and I get a lot more time just me, myself, and I. It’s priceless, and I know it makes me a better Mom, wife, friend, self, etc. I do also try to give my kids and husband time for solitude. It’s not easy with all of us in such a small apartment, but it’s important enough to make the effort. Because it would feel even smaller in here if we didn’t get alone time.

  54. I love being alone. In fact, I love going places when I know I’m going to be there…. 🙂

  55. As a leave no trace wilderness backpacker who does ten or so days alone each summer, it is impossible to assess the good that the solitude of California’s Sierrs Nevada have offered. Immesurably beneficial is my estimation of solitude.

  56. Lone time is a cherished point for me, even being single. To be able to read a book, workout, cook, nap – and not have to answer to anyone is priceless. Another thing I enjoy during some Quiet Time is reflection. I whip out my Moleskine and dump my brain of anything that’s is occupying precious memory. I make a list of goals for the week or ideas of things I want to do. Segmenting your Moleskine to categorize such items is a great way to keep things organized and then you can go back and review at will.

  57. I’m in my 40s and was/am an only child. I crave alone time and it’s tough to get any with a wife (who doesn’t understand my need) and 4-year-old. Matter of fact, my wife sees a huge problem with our son being an only child and this article almost give me an argument to keep him that way. Thanks

  58. I am lucky enough to get all I need. A couple of hours cycling on a lonely hilly road with gorgeous views, sweet.

  59. I’m a bit of a loner myself. I do like meeting people and socializing, in fact I really need it in order to stay sane, but some of my golden moments are when I’m alone 🙂

  60. This post makes me yearn even more than normal for my first solo camping trip of the year near Lake Michigan. While it ain’t the Appalachian Trail – there are secret places for solitude I share only with the best of friends. Back to nature is the best!

  61. Wow, what a lot of primal introverts! Am I the only one who doesn’t like being alone? I would go so far as to say I hate being alone. I think after years of studying at a distance, working alone from home and having a husband who travels a lot for work alone time feels like a ‘waste’ or something to get away from.

    Having said that I now work in a busy office and have more local friends, and get stressed a lot – maybe more deliberate alone time would be good.

    Frankly the idea of it bores / slightly terrifies me. I’m working on it though 🙂

    And I wouldn’t say I need a crowd – I’m not a big crowds person, but I like one other person, or a small group around. And I am a big joiner of clubs.

  62. Heh, as a card-carrying loner, being alone is an absolute necessity. If I’m in the presence of even a single person for more than a few hours I get twitchy. (“Jeremiah Johnson” and “Cast Away” are my two favorite movies.)

    I am thankful everyday my job allows me to be alone–almost isolated–95% to 100% of any given day.

    1. Addendum to my above post: I frickin’ LOVE texting and the occasional IM since there is no up-close-and-personal interaction with others.

  63. Nice to see more recognition of what those of us who spend time alone in the wilderness have always known. Ten years ago on the clearance shelf of a bookstore I found one of the rare books on the subject, “The Call Of Solitude: Alonetime In A World Of Attachment” by Esther Shaler Buchholz, PhD. Finally an academic who recognized solitude as necessary and therapeutic rather than indicative of some sort of mental or social pathology.

  64. Mark,

    I absolutely loved this post. I am totally the same way. I need “me” time sometimes, and sometimes people don’t get that, which can create weird situations. I get really antsy, and mild anxiety if I don’t get that “me” time every now and then.

    In fact, last summer, shortly after the NY times posted an article on dis-connecting from technology, I went out to mt. laguna for a camping trip – solo. It was a wonderful day to enjoy the wilderness, go for a bike ride, enjoy the views, listen to my own thoughts, do some writing, listen to the sounds of nature without the sounds of society (it always take a little bit to adapt, but the “feeling” of hearing nature is wonderful), and like your friend said: to just be. It was such a great weekend, and when I returned back home to people throwing chaos my way, I simply responded that I just got back from the mountains where I was trying to find a little peace, and I honestly don’t care about your little problems!

    Awesome, Awesome post.

  65. I am so relieved to have so many people validate my feelings. I too feel stressed if I can’t have quite a bit of time alone. I hear the same thing from every dating relationship I have “We don’t spend enough time togeter.” I pass for a total extrovert in social situations, but at my core I am introverted. Thanks for the great article Mark!

  66. And the introverts unite! 😛

    Another introvert here. Being introverted has meant mothering has been more challenging to me than I EVER could have expected.

    We know have it so that I get some scheduled alone time EVERY week, and hubby takes the boys (6 and 4) to do something fun. Works out GREAT.

  67. I am so glad that my loving being alone is not totally strange! My husband works all day, so I have the whole day to myself. It is WONDERFUL. Having a lot of social arrangements limed up stresses me out, I love to have the time to just be.

  68. Kids need solitude, but it can be almost impossible for them to get these days. I was blessed to grow up on the edge of backcountry in the mountain west, able to hike off by myself father and farther by the time I was six or seven. It was wonderful and filled the deepest needs for both solitude and adventure for a boy. Today’s parents face real challenges, how their kids can enjoy this sort of thing while still being reasonably protected from risk. I know that my mom and siblings needed me to be off by myself at times as much as I needed to be away!

  69. Solitude might be the best thing about running for me, aside from the obvious fitness benefits. Even if its only an hour, being alone, early in the morning, outside … honestly, sometimes I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

  70. Like Primal Toad, I too am very much an introvert. I have few friends, and rarely associate with them. I learned a long time ago that I can be in a group and still be “alone”. I simply shut everyone and everything else out. My wife used to ask if I was listening to her. Now she says I need a hearing aid. But I am focusing on my thoughts and feelings, and have shut out all the trash. So I don’t have to trek off to Alaska for solitude. I can do it anytime.

  71. I think the more time you spend by yourself, opens your eyes to so many different possibilities, you go away from the day to day troubles and you can chill in peace!

    Great post!

  72. Excellent article and comments!

    A lot of introverts are also highly creative types. You know… the outcasts of society… the “trouble makers” that people like to label, especially in school. And with that said, there is a great book called The Davinci Method that covers it pretty well. Anyone else read it? You can probably flip through it at a local barnes and noble.

  73. Loved this post, and completely agree. Alone time allows a reconnection, a simmer of things that have angered, a chance to regroup. I have found I typically acheive more tasks that I attempt if I take them on solo as well. Group time is just as important, but the down time is a must! Great post!

  74. I have to echo much of what I see here. I’m an introvert married to an extrovert. It’s caused a lot of issues because I am percieved as not wanting to have any “fun.” I have to work hard to get any alone time, and when I do, it is not enough and comes with a lot of guilt.

  75. Haven’t posted here in a while, but I’m a regular reader. Pretty interesting read. I’m usually the type of person that sticks to himself. I’m an introvert. Not that I’m an outcast or don’t like to be around people, but for the most part I find peace in solitude. Maybe with one person (my girlfriend) I find peace, but other than that I tend to stick to myself. Oddly enough I’ll have moments where I crave being part of a group, but I think that stems mostly from a “need” of acceptance.

  76. I know this is an old post, but I saw this while flipping through the website. I teach English in Seoul and live in the same buildings as all the other English teachers. We are constantly around each other, even though we have our own apartments. This weekend I decided my time must be spent alone, because I need to recharge my batteries and do things my own way – active in the daytime, sleeping at night, just being me. I find that I get sick physically when I don’t take time out from other people.

  77. Mark, just getting around to work some of these articles off in my e-mail bucket (lol), but I found this article to be especially important and relevant.

    This late response probably won’t be very helpful but what the heck.

    I have found out 2 things in my life. 1: I have enjoyed solitude for a large duration of my life (even as an adolescent). 2: I have grown more and more introverted as I have gotten older.

    I suspect that the social/solitude balance is different for everyone depending on their extro/introvertedness balance (so to speak).

    For me, “down time” is where I get my power and focus. It is my opportunity to think/meditate and sort things out, plan for the near term or far term, etc. And I usually feel good as a result.

    This article was a huge confirmation of my feelings towards down time. Thanks for writing this!

  78. What a crack of shit, you guys should thank you have somebody at all in your lives. I am a sick person and I live my days on the most of the solitudes and my life is miserable. And I have been ill since I was 26, now I am 30 and still counting. No one accepts a person that complains all day and no one gives a shit about me, and that is not what I think, is what I live. By the way, I am not fat nor ugly, people just suck.

  79. I have always loved the “alone time”. Though I always have had a good no. of friends around me, I strongly feel that once a month or so, you need to take time out of your busy schedule just for YOURSELF. 🙂 🙂

  80. Jesus even spent in the wilderness…..he even told his followers to do it. Ive gotten so busy in the last few years. Its time to get back to time alone in the woods. Thanks for the reminder!

  81. I have just returned from a trip to Italy with my husband and daughter and that was 12 days ago. They both go back to work and school tomorrow and today I am so snappy and irritable as I havnt had much alone time recently. I helped my daughter do a scrapbook all morning and have retreated to my bedroom to ‘switch off’ I don’t think my husband understands but I am at home alone in term time and like it like that. I then need time with people again. Too much of people or alone time isnt good but getting the right amount is.

  82. I so value my alone time. I do get plenty of it, and at times question my need for it. I have many friends, several whom I am very close to, but really only desire to do social things a couple of times a month. Most of the time I read, do my photography, walk on the beach and, of course, social media has most likely usurped real time spent with humans! ha!

    It is nice to know there are other smart, healthy people who like their alone time, as well. I used to be very busy socializing in my twenties and thirties, then started shifting to more solitary time in my early forties.

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  84. Extreme introvert, hv always loved alone time to work on hobbies, small projects, or simply house cleaning; was an only child until age 10 and am pretty self-sufficient; hv a few very close friends, but I hv turned down socialites to hoard my weekend, during the week, I’m professional and responsible for many important things; my alone time is my “play time” and time to center, prayer to God is nesessary for my continued functionalities on daily life; I hv MDD and PTSD, so it all is a way of life to me; I’m not apologizing anymore for my need of alone time, it’s same as food, air and water to me; glad to see I’m really not weird.