There was an article in the paper recently about our modern struggle with being alone. There were a few different perspectives offered, including the role of technology in making us so dependent on each other that we can't bear to be alone anymore. There was the suggestion that the minute we feel unstimulated we reach for our technology to check out social media and see what is happening in the world. I must admit experiencing this during times of boredom such as on public transport.
I also experienced it recently when my phone was not working following a mishap during a routine update. It sure felt uncomfortable not being able to be contacted by my family or friends. So there's certainly something to be said for technology impacting on how we spend our time and how we feel when not connected with each other. Of course we also know that it's very important that we feel connected with each other for our positive mental health and wellbeing. Virtual communities can be just as effective as real ones in achieving this. So we probably need to be cautious about critiquing our need to belong and connect with each other.
Having said that though, there are also benefits to being comfortable with being alone. Being able to trust ourselves to feel safe and nurture ourselves is really important. It is during alone time that we can think through our values and beliefs, truly get to know ourselves and organise our thoughts and feelings. Valuing and appreciating time that we have alone can make it a precious time, rather than a time when we feel deprived or lost.
There was also the suggestion that it can actually be hard to be by ourselves. Being by ourselves can force us to face what is difficult to face. Perhaps there are emotions or memories that are difficult for us and we really benefit from being with others to support us. This is a tricky situation because learning to trust ourselves, learning to self soothe and learning to value our time by ourselves can be important to our development. But we also need to care for ourselves and protect our mental health. Perhaps it's best to build in some alone time gradually, taking small steps so that it's safe and, while a little challenging, manageable.This might build our self confidence and over time our ability to be alone might grow and become a resource to help us instead of something to fear. Meditation or journalling might be useful for coping during alone time.
On the other hand entirely, we might be craving some alone time. Parents or people busy with work demands for example can feel that they never have any time to themselves. There always seem to be demands on them, people around them or tasks to be completed that they can't sit and reflect by themselves, ever. So for some of us finding alone time can be the challenge. Then knowing what to do with it in order to make the most of it can be the next challenge.
Alone time is something that we can continue to build in to our lives as we go through various phases. As part of a balanced lifestyle, having some alone time while maintaining our social connections and having busy time could all be important. Keeping these in balance might be the real challenge for us all.