Building More Alone Time Into Your Day Can Keep You From Burning Out. Here's How

As children, the concept of "alone time" was something that often had to be forced upon us, usually as part of some kind of punishment. Many people will remember being sent to their bedrooms after misbehaving, where they had to reflect on their actions in solitude. Or perhaps you recall being physically separated from the rest of your class at school if you ever did the wrong thing. But as people grow and mature, the value of alone time becomes increasingly obvious.

There's no universal amount of recommended alone time that will apply to everyone, but we all need at least a little time to ourselves on the regular. If you're introverted, you'll naturally crave more alone time than an extroverted person would, but extroverts still need moments of solitude (even if they don't know it), per Body and Soul. Working out exactly how much you need will often involve trial and error. Start with setting aside some time to be alone every day — even if it's only five minutes — and see how you feel. You'll soon learn how much you need to operate at your best.

If you are extroverted, the sound of alone time might still seem boring, draining, or even intimidating to you. But unlike being sent to your bedroom for not eating your Brussels sprouts, it's not supposed to be a punishment. Having more alone time can actually make you more productive at work and in life, along with leading to a plethora of other benefits.

You'll have the opportunity to address your needs

Alone time is crucial to any person's wellbeing because it gives you time and space to be totally selfish. While you might have learned that being selfish is a bad thing, taking care of your own needs and happiness is actually a trait that everyone should aspire to. Take responsibility for your own wellbeing so someone else doesn't have to.

The misconception tends to be that focusing on yourself means you don't care about anyone else. In reality, though, you can only tend to other people's needs properly (including those of a partner or children) when you're happy and healthy yourself. If you neglect to take care of yourself, your interactions with other people will suffer.

When you carve out time in your schedule to be alone, you're giving yourself permission to pay attention to your own life. You'll notice what you need, which you may not have realized before when surrounded by other people. And you'll be able to work on giving those things to yourself. This will lead to a healthier, happier, and more adjusted person who is less likely to feel mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, or burnt out (via

It also goes without saying that having alone time can be a powerful form of tension release. A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that both physical and mental solitude allows for the "absence of pressure."

You'll learn more about yourself and your emotions

Sitting alone with your thoughts might seem daunting if you don't do it regularly, or if you tend to feel recharged when spending time with other people. But once you get over this initial period of discomfort, you'll find that alone time presents a great opportunity to self-reflect. Along the way, you're guaranteed to learn more about yourself.

When you're constantly surrounded by other people, whether they depend on you or not, you're probably in the habit of considering other people's preferences and feelings before your own. But alone time gives you the chance to think only about what's going on inside of you. This self-reflection can clarify how you feel about things. It can also show you more about how you operate.

For example, if, in your alone time, you notice that you feel absolutely drained and a little miserable every night after work, you might come to the conclusion that you're not actually in the right job for you. But if you skip that self-reflection to head out for after-work drinks every night, you may not get the chance to actually realize the truth of the situation. And if you don't get clear on how you really feel about these pillars of your life, you can't do anything to change them. That will put you in a position where you're more likely to continue unknowingly feeling drained and miserable until you end up exhausted beyond repair.

It can increase creativity and productivity

According to Forbes, intentionally spending time alone regularly can boost your creativity. This is simply because being alone and not having to interact with anyone else gives you a chance to retreat inwards. Your brain will get the opportunity to daydream, which is how some of the best ideas are born.

Note that, as the outlet uses the example of writers completing their work in solitary cabins in the woods, this creativity comes about due to deprivation from other elements of the modern world, too. Alone time is important, but if you're spending your alone time mindlessly scrolling through social media or texting someone, you probably won't get the same creative benefits. What matters is that your mind is allowed to drift.

Similarly, alone time can improve your productivity. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that people worked less efficiently in open-plan offices when they didn't have access to privacy. In this case, the alone time would occur as part of your working hours rather than as part of your free time, but you may find that you get more work done or are able to problem-solve better without distractions. Being more productive at work means getting better results without having to over-exert yourself, which tends to lead to prolonged stress and burnout.

It gives you time to let your guard down

Whether we realize it or not, many of us adjust our behavior to get the approval of others. Even the most honest, genuine people won't act in the exact same way around others than they would alone. From the way you dress to the things you say, chances are you probably refine your existence when in the presence of other people, even if it's only to a small extent.

As Psych Central explains, having time alone allows you to be completely free of the expectations and opinions of others. You can completely let your guard down and just be you. Depending on your life situation, you may feel like you're regularly hiding who you are on a daily basis, or you might notice that you just alter your behavior slightly, even if you can mostly be yourself. But either way, alone time lets you totally be yourself, warts and all. In this case, it doesn't matter whether you are social media scrolling or watching TV or self-reflecting, as long as no one is around to judge you for it.

It's stressful having to hold up a façade 12 or more hours a day. If you have to keep your guard up constantly over a long period of time, you may end up feeling absolutely drained of energy. But you can avoid that by allowing for small, frequent pockets of time to be alone and yourself, without judgment.

You'll build independence and mental strength

Being alone is a skill that some people find easier to master than others. But ultimately, everyone needs to know how to be alone because almost everyone will face a period of solitude sooner or later. So one of the advantages of practicing regular alone time is actually learning to be alone and building confidence in your independence. You will learn to be by yourself and that you can actually enjoy it (via Psych Central).

Along the same lines, a solitude practice can help you to nurture and grow your mental strength. This is because you'll have the chance to practice sitting with your feelings, desires, thoughts, and everything else flowing through you, per Talkspace. As these can be uncomfortable, the practice teaches you how to respond to discomfort properly and work through the negative things in a healthy way. In turn, you'll be better equipped to tackle similar situations in the future, rather than getting bogged down beneath the stress of it all.