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Finding the right balance between alone time and loneliness

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 4 months ago

The holiday season is a time of nonstop gatherings and celebrations for many, but not everyone enjoys the constant social interactions. Some individuals crave alone time and seek peace and quiet amidst the festivities. Memes on social media highlight the need for "me" time, with some jokingly pretending to be on their phones to avoid conversation. However, excessive alone time may contribute to feelings of loneliness, which is already a widespread issue.

According to Matthias R. Mehl, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, time spent alone and loneliness are not as closely related as one might assume. Mehl and his colleagues conducted a study involving 426 participants who wore a smartphone app to record their social activity. They found a small but significant link between loneliness and time spent alone. The study revealed that individuals spent an average of 66% of their time alone, with considerable variation among participants. Surprisingly, older single adults were more likely to spend time alone than younger individuals.

The researchers discovered that loneliness becomes a significant factor when a person spends 75% or more of their time alone. However, for older adults, loneliness sets in even with less time alone. Mehl suggests that younger adults may feel lonely in social situations when they are not close to the people they are interacting with. On the other hand, older individuals tend to curate a smaller circle of close relationships and are less likely to feel lonely when spending time with those they value.

While there is a relationship between time spent alone and loneliness, loneliness itself is primarily influenced by one's perception. Thuy-Vy Nguyen, an associate professor of psychology at Durham University, emphasizes that the balance between solitude and socializing varies for each individual. Nguyen's research indicates that people generally feel lonelier and less satisfied on days with more alone time. However, the negative effects of alone time can be mitigated if it is a choice and does not accumulate over multiple days. Solitude can promote relaxation and reduce stress, but prolonged negative thinking during alone time can increase the risk of loneliness.

In conclusion, finding the ideal balance between alone time and socializing is a subjective matter. How one spends their alone time and their perception of it play crucial roles in determining whether loneliness creeps in. Engaging in activities such as gardening, walking, or reading during alone time can help individuals view it as an opportunity for rest and relaxation. It is also essential to consider an individual's baseline amount of alone time, as what may be excessive for one person could be the norm for another.

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