If you ask any introvert, they’ve got the market cornered on alone time.
A search on Twitter for “introvert alone time” results in endless comments about introverts’ need for alone time to recharge:
“I need the world to know that I am an introvert. I NEED alone time.”
“The trick to dating an introvert is to respect their alone time and be patient as it might take them a little time to open up.”
“Being an introvert means I like to socialize with people but I need to recharge with some ALONE time”
“Sometimes I just need to recharge my batteries. This usually involves alone time with some music or a good book. #introvert”
I have no doubt that alone time is restorative for each and every one of these people. The problem is each and every one of them also link their need for alone time to their introversion. Their statements seem to imply no introversion, no need for alone time.
But is that actually true?
The Rest Test
A recent (Fall 2015) study called “The Rest Test,” conducted by a partnership between Hubbub and BBC Radio 4, asked approximately 18,000 people from over 130 countries how they preferred to rest. The top three preferred methods of rest were surprisingly introvert-friendly:
- Reading (58%)
- Being in nature (53%)
- Being alone (52%)
Although the methods weren’t broken down by introvert vs. extrovert (at least in the data provided to the public), the researchers noted that even extroverts “voted [alone time] as more restful than being in the company of other people.”
Maybe Introverts Are More in Tune With Their Need for Alone Time Than Extroverts …
It’s one thing to be asked a question on a survey about what you consider restful versus actually doing the restful thing. I’ve met many extroverts who haven’t developed the introvert side of their personality (among other things, they haven’t realized the restorative nature of alone time). These “extroversion-heavy” extroverts are prone to running themselves in the ground because they don’t honor their need for rest (and alone time).
With their strong emphasis on and enjoyment of the social world, extroverts can become so focused on the world outside them that they develop a tendency to not check in with their inner needs. A time-out from a noisy world that would recharge their batteries and make them function better in the world is seldom considered, if it even comes to mind. Instead, they just keep going, going, going until they finally crash.
If you’re an extrovert, watch out for these danger signs that you’re “crashing” from lack of alone time:
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- A prolonged sickness, or frequent bouts of sickness
- A stress-induced medical condition
- Physical or emotional exhaustion
- Mentally “checking out” during social situations
The truth is that alone time is highly beneficial for all of us, not just introverts. Alone time can, among other things, help us clear our mind, discern what is important to us away from the influence of others, and discover and pursue enjoyable solitary pursuits.
… But Introverts Shouldn’t Become Overly Reliant on Alone Time
It’s one thing to like alone time, but it’s another thing to use it as an excuse to never step outside one’s comfort zone. There becomes a point at which too much alone time can become detrimental. Humans are social creatures, and spending an excessive amount of time alone just because it’s easy can become harmful personally, professionally, and socially.
If you’re an introvert, watch out for these danger signs that you might be at the point of becoming overly reliant on alone time:
- You find yourself running for solitude any chance you can get in a social situation.
- You automatically turn down social invites if they interfere with your usual block of alone time.
- You miss out on new professional and social connections because they might require you to be more social than you’re used to.
- You spend time alone because it’s easy and comfortable even when you probably could do something else.
- You become excessively angry or upset if someone interrupts your alone time (even temporarily).
Extrovert or Introvert, Step Outside Your Personality Comfort Zone
The truth is we only get about 26,000 days in our life. If only spend time doing things that come “naturally” to us, we can end up with a life not fully lived and many missed opportunities.
Extroverts should learn to be aware of and honor their body’s desire for alone time.
Introverts should learn to be aware of the dangers of excessive alone time and act accordingly.
Sometimes the best opportunities—personally, professionally, and socially—can come to us when we step outside our personality comfort zone and do things a little differently. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, challenge yourself to find the right balance of alone time for you and your life.