Silence engulfed me as I stood by myself on the 17th floor of my Gold Coast hotel. For the first time in almost six years an entire 24 hours of alone time was in front of me, and I could think of nothing better.
Yet my choice to just be with me was, at the time, perplexing to people. They could not grasp the concept that what I needed most was to escape all interactions so I could recalibrate before returning to my world.
It may seem anti-social, but the truth is I actually enjoy being alone.
The good news, according to Leanne Hall, a clinical psychologist and the Mind & Body expert for Channel 10’s The Living Room, is there’s much to benefit from time spent solo.
“It allows time for reflection, to check in with how we are feeling and work through any negative feelings and problems,” she says. “Alone time can also enhance our relationships with others as it allows us the opportunity to get to know ourselves better.”
Hall also details the difference between the two concepts. “Anti-social behaviour is more about avoidance of social situations,” she explains. “In other words, this type of behaviour is motivated by a desire to stay away from others as opposed to a pro-active choice to be alone.”
“People who are in fact ‘anti-social’ also often lack empathy and have very little self awareness,” Hall continues. “On the other hand, wanting some alone time is a healthy way of reconnecting with yourself and your values, unwinding, and managing stress.”
The alone time versus being viewed as anti-social predicament is one freelance writer Belinda* understands well. She too often seeks solace in her own company, yet while this is crucial to her emotional wellbeing, it is also something she is uncomfortable admitting to others.
“Although it makes sense to me I’m not particularly comfortable explaining it in those terms to anyone other than those I’m very close to, she confesses.”I’d rather lie than admit to not wanting to socialise.”
“Verbalising it sounds odd even to me. Somehow an illness or work commitment feels more of a legitimate reason,” she adds.
While Hall sees it as human nature to not want to offend anyone by turning down their invitation or request, what it actually does is put their needs ahead of your own.
“While it’s always important to consider how your behaviour affects others, it’s equally important to develop and then respect your own personal boundaries. By declining an invitation in favour of some much needed ‘me time’, you are simply asserting healthy boundaries, that’s all.”
She also warns that by not communicating honestly you can risk your precious time out being hijacked. “Telling little lies can just cause more anxiety so your quality “me” time ends up being
ambushed by guilt!”
As with everything in life, achieving a happy medium is healthiest. So while I, and many others, revel in the rare chance to enjoy our own company, it’s when this desire to be alone morphs into withdrawal that we need to worry about our actions.
“If a previously social person changes their behaviour and starts avoiding social situations on a regular basis, then this may indicate something more serious, such as depression and/or anxiety,” Hall states. “Balance is certainly the key here, and this looks different for each of us. It’s important to use your own intuition, which is funny because the only way to learn how to do this is to take alone time and reflect.
“Then, you are in a much better position to read your own internal cues, and find that balance between ‘me time’ and being social.”
*name has been changed