Best Life points out that in our turbulent and complex times, we could all benefit from a little unstructured time to regroup. Our lives are so busy, between work, family responsibilities, and social obligations, with every available scrap of free time eaten up by social media, round-the-clock news coverage, email, and hobbies.
It’s hard to squeeze in any time at all that isn’t programmed for maximum productivity, yet it turns out that there are significant advantages to doing absolutely nothing.
Think of it this way – your mind and body work together to keep you healthy, and this happens when you are in “uptime” the right amount and in “downtime” the right amount.
This varies from individual to individual, so see how many of these advantages might inspire you to plan a little unplanned time in your busy schedule.
1. You’ll be mentally stronger. While a 2014 study from the University of Virginia showed that more people would rather receive electric shocks than be alone with their thoughts, research shows that mentally strong people take time to be alone with their thoughts.
2. You’ll be more compassionate. When you disengage the distractions and stresses of every day, the solitude gives you a chance to consider and better understand the human condition, and delve more deeply into your innermost feelings and convictions.
3. You’ll cope better with change and the unexpected. The HSE Laboratory of Positive Psychology tested 200 students and found that those who felt good about alone time tended to be more mature and more resilient to life’s challenges.
4. You’ll feel more well-rested. A survey of 18,000 participants showed that “spending time on my own” and doing nothing was one of the top choices on how to recharge.
5. You’ll be happier. A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Psychology asked 15,000 adults about their levels of life satisfaction and found that people who spent more time alone with less social interaction felt more fulfilled.
6. You’ll be more productive. People who take some downtime find that when they return to the usual daily activities, they feel rejuvenated and better equipped to get things done.
7. You’ll be more creative. A 2017 study from the University of Buffalo showed that individuals who spent time alone were better able to express themselves creatively.
8. You’ll be better at solving problems. Stepping back and clearing your mind, even sleeping on a problem, is often the shortest distance between you and your best answers.
9. You’ll be more self-reliant. Being fully engaged in our work, family and social circles breed dependence on others, while being alone generates self-esteem, self-dependency, and self-reliance.
10. You’ll reboot your brain. Seizing some unscheduled time can give you a break to let many thoughts settle, which makes it easier to restart your mental processes.
11. You’ll concentrate better. The influx of email, texts, phone messages, and other communications eat our bandwidth and clutter our thinking. Declaring a moratorium on such input makes it possible to take back control of your thoughts and mental capacity.
12. You’ll think more deeply. Our days are so packed with stuff to do and think about, it’s hard to separate out a little time to ponder the most important things in life. Taking a little time out gives you an opportunity to ruminate on your key values, beliefs, and organizing principles.
13. You’ll be less stressed. A research project at the University of Rochester in 2017 showed that quiet time slowed down the parts of the brain that caused heightened awareness, which led to easier access to relaxed states.
In this crazy era we live in, take a little time for yourself to be alone with your thoughts – you’ll be healthier, happier and you’ll perform better, too.