“Nobody wants to be lonely,” croon Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera in a duet of the same title. And it turns out they’re right. Research by a social psychologist at the University of Virginia found that most people would rather receive an electric shock than sit alone with their thoughts. Shocking right?
The research showed that left alone for 15 minutes in a room in which they could push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict a shock on themselves rather than sit and do nothing.
So, why are people so averse to spending time with themselves, doing nothing?
Simone Lingenfelder, Coaching Channel Executive at Biotic Health in Johannesburg, says there is a difference between being alone and being lonely, and many people fear that being alone would make them feel lonely.
“Loneliness is when one feels isolated and empty inside, and this ironically can occur even when in a crowd of people. Being afraid to be alone can be caused by many different things; maybe being alone was used as a threat or punishment when you were younger, or you suffer from depressive and sad thoughts and being alone with those thoughts makes you fearful of quiet times without company. Sometimes people also equate being alone with a feeling of abandonment, and feel that others don’t care for them or are even talking badly about them when they aren’t around,” she explains.
“Many of us have become used to filling our days with “artificial” stimulation from phones, TV and outside influences, and find it difficult to be at ease with our own company,” says Lingenfelder.
However, being alone is very important. Research by Introvert Dear shows that solitude has many benefits, including increased productivity, more creative thinking, self discovery and being able to solve problems more efficiently.
“Spending time alone can be considered a unique form of personal meditation, a way of spending quality time with someone you love – yourself. We spend very little time listening to our inner thoughts, wishes, desires and concerns, and time alone provides a gentle safe opportunity to do so. It also provides much-needed rest and time to quieten a busy and often stressed-out mind,” Lingenfelder says.
She explains that solitude can also boost your self confidence and says that the more you begin to love spending time alone, the more you will realise that you are worth loving and spending time with!
We lead busy, ‘plugged-in’ lives and many people feel as though they don’t have time to take a moment for themselves. From catching up with friends and family on the weekend to spending quality time with your partner and children, each and every hour seems to be allocated to doing something with and for others.
But it is essential spend time along. “People can begin to take small steps towards independent time for themselves each day, by carving out short initial periods of alone time, like five to 10 minutes of walking, sitting in the garden, having a quiet bath or just resting. This precious alone time can increase each week, and if it feels uncomfortable, just ease up and reduce the time to a period that feels more doable,” says Lingenfelder.