It’s all too easy to get caught up in the trappings of modern life. Keeping on top of everything at home and at work – not to mention our social lives – can be difficult. Our seemingly never-ending to-do lists grow longer by the day. While most would agree that it’s not a bad thing to keep busy, active and productive, it’s also vital to remember to make time for yourself in your busy schedule.
Finding time to be alone is especially difficult at the moment. The pandemic has meant people are at home a lot more, and although spending more time with loved ones has been a hugely positive experience for many of us, it’s also fair to say that sometimes you might be getting under each other’s feet!
This is a situation that’s all too familiar to many people in retirement, who have switched from going out to work every day and encountering different people and experiences, to suddenly being at home with their partner full-time. This can place huge pressure on marriages and relationships and can lead to resentment. If you find yourself in this situation it’s worth taking time to agree on what your new lifestyle should entail. And spending some regular time apart can help contribute to a happy co-existence.
What are the benefits of spending time alone?
There are a number of reasons why indulging in some solitude is important:
- It allows your brain to rest. Being with other people and being busy means you’re always ‘on’, draining your mental and physical batteries. Spending time alone gives you space to switch off and recharge.
- It gives you the headspace to work through decisions and plans more effectively, without the clutter of distraction or conversation. Time spent pondering and processing thoughts is time well spent, but it’s impossible to do that when you’re busy.
- It gets your creative juices flowing. If you are looking for different ideas, some alone time can give you the breathing space and peace to let creative thoughts and energy flow.
- You can get to know yourself better. This is something that’s particularly important if you’ve recently made a significant life change, like retiring. You may have spent the last however-many years working hard and investing time in your family and have lost touch with who you are.
- You can unwind. It’s essential to be able to detach yourself from the everyday stresses that come with modern living, especially screen time. Take yourself away both physically and mentally. Allow yourself to have time with no stresses and no conditions.
So how can we make time to nurture ourselves?
We can often get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget to have some time alone. Don’t just wait for a moment to come along where you ‘luckily’ find yourself free and alone. Schedule it in, much like you would any other activity.
Approach it in the same way you would a meeting or an appointment. Set aside a specific time to ‘meet yourself’, which means putting it in your diary, being on time and turning off your phone. In short, treat yourself as you would a close friend who you’ve arranged to meet.
Do you need an activity to focus on?
You might find yourself looking at the hour-or-two slot that you’ve set aside for time alone and wondering what you’re actually going to do during that time. If it seems daunting, it might help to create a short list of activities that you could indulge in that will shortcut your route to peaceful solitude. Here are some ideas:
- Grab a book and head to the park. The fresh air, natural greenery and peace will provide the perfect atmosphere for unwinding and will allow you to catch up on those chapters you’ve been meaning to read.
- Go for a walk or a hike along the seafront or a river. The sound of the water will be refreshing and meditative. Maybe you could set yourself a little task, such as finding five different shells or five different types of leaf? Or just keep walking until you’ve had enough.
- Take up a new exercise. You could start cycling, or swimming, and schedule it in for the same hour every week. Go first thing in the morning to prepare yourself for the day, or in the evening as a way to unwind before bed. Not only will this keep your fitness in check and give you an endorphin boost, it will supply you with the ideal environment in which to collect your thoughts.
- Challenge yourself to a puzzle or take up painting. Regardless of your skill level, both hobbies are renowned for being great relaxation activities, as you’re concentrating so much on your task that you tend not to have the headspace to think about much else.
- Begin a regular meditation. Take an hour or so to yourself to practise mindfulness and/or yoga poses. For many people, meditation brings inner peace and allows both you’re the body and mind to relax. Yoga is good for keeping those joints supple, as well as allowing you to explore your body in a way you may not have done before.
How about creating your own little hideaway?
If you have a garden shed full of rusty tools and cobwebs, why not consider converting it into a space you can call your own? The time it takes to organise, clean and decorate will provide productive alone time. And the final product will be an invention of your making where you can carry out your hobbies in peace. There’s a lot to be said for a man-shed – or woman-shed!
It could become a lovely place in which to listen to your favourite podcasts or drama series on the radio, uninterrupted. Maybe it will simply be an area where you take your book or settle in for a tranquil afternoon siesta.
Alternatively, head to your garage. If it’s not where you house the car, but perhaps full of old boxes and tins of paint you’re never going to open again, you could convert it into a little sanctuary. Typically, bigger than a garden shed, an unused garage offers all sorts of possibilities. You could add games, an armchair or two, maybe even a bar!
If you have a spare room you’ve been using as an extra storage room, but you haven’t actually stepped more than two feet into it for as long as you can remember, it might be time to organise, re-decorate and convert. A mini library with comfy seating and some soft lighting will provide you with peace and comfort to relax.
If you haven’t got the space to spare at home, but you’re craving a relaxing area to retire to, uninterrupted, you could always go on a hunt for a place that’s quiet and welcoming and will always be there. You might find a spot in your local library that is often unfrequented, or there may be a coffee shop away from the hustle and bustle that has a specific corner you like the look of.
Wherever you go and whatever you decide to do, be sure to make time for you, to check in with your mind and body, and acknowledge the importance of me-time. You’ll thank yourself for it.