Being Alone: The Pros and Cons of Time Alone

Some people naturally prefer time alone and that can be fine. Roughly 50% of the population can be categorized as introverts, meaning they get the most value in life out of time spent on their own.  Being alone can offer a rich psychological experience, but too much isolation can have a negative impact on both one’s physical and mental health.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of being alone.

Pros of Being Alone

Being Alone Allows Our Brains to Recharge

Our brains need balance. While social interactions are crucial to certain areas of brain activity, time alone is necessary for our brains to unwind and recharge. Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter explains, “Constantly being ‘on’ doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself. Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.”

Being Alone Increases Productivity

Let’s face it, people can be pretty distracting. “When you remove as many distractions and interruptions as you can from your day,” says Dr. Carter, “You are better able to concentrate, which will help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time.” Small interruptions from coworkers or family members can disrupt our trains of thought and make it difficult to get back into a project. Even the ping of a text message or an email notification can throw off our concentration and reduce productivity.

Being Alone Boosts Creativity

Creativity tends to flourish in solitude.  Studies are now showing that people are actually more likely to come up with their best ideas on their own, rather than during group brainstorming sessions. Human beings in general, and creativity in particular, are sensitive to criticism from others, which is one reason why so many of us are able to think more freely and express ourselves more clearly when we are alone. Additionally, the lack of interruption from others allows us to reflect and think differently, leading to more creative “meta-cognitions.”

Being Alone Can Actually Strengthen Relationships with Others

There are several reasons why spending some time alone can actually improve our relationships. For starters, differentiation (being a separate, autonomous individual) and linkage (being emotionally and physically close) are essential ingredients for a healthy relationship. Maintaining a certain level of independence helps keep the spark alive in a relationship. Furthermore, time alone allows us to appreciate our time with others more, rather than taking it for granted or feeling overwhelmed by it. Alone time can also help us understand others better. Introverts tend to have high levels of both empathy and self-awareness, two qualities that contribute to healthy relationships with others. Lastly, according to Dr. Carter, “By spending time with yourself and gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you desire in life, you’re more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around.”

Cons of Being Alone

Being Alone Makes Us Vulnerable to Our Inner Critics

Being alone with our thoughts isn’t always a good thing. Isolation can be the perfect breeding ground for negative, self-critical thoughts. We all have an inner critic, a nasty coach that lives inside our heads and seeks any opportunity to criticize us. These “critical inner voices” tend to multiply when we are left alone with our thoughts. The “critical inner voices” tend to be at their worst when we are not only alone, but are also feeling lonely.  At these times, the inner critic tells us that something is wrong with us and we don’t belong around other people. In this sense, we are our own worst enemy.

Being Alone Can Lead to Painful Loneliness

It is important to distinguish between time spent happily alone and time spent feeling lonely. Neuroscientist John Cacioppo, who has made a career out of studying loneliness, defines loneliness as “perceived social isolation, or the discrepancy between what you want from your social relationships and your perception of those relationships.” In this sense, loneliness is not defined by the amount of time we spend alone, but rather by how we feel about the time we spend alone. Feeling lonely can trigger feelings of being unloved or unlikeable, which can lead us to turn on ourselves. Feeling lonely is actually painful on a physical level, as well as emotional level. Cacioppo explains, “The absence of social connection triggers the same, primal alarm bells as hunger, thirst and physical pain.”

Being Alone/Lonely Can Lead to Depression

Time spent alone and feeling lonely can lead to depression. In fact, studies now show that a lonely brain is structurally and biochemically different. When someone is lonely, their neural responses to positive images and events get suppressed, so the world is perceived through a negative filter. We are more likely  to believe that things are hopeless when we are lonely. This makes it more difficult to summon up the energy and bravery to find happiness and change.

Being Alone Can Be Bad for Our Health

Too much time alone is bad for our physical health. Studies have found that social isolation and loneliness can increase the likelihood of mortality by up to 30%. Researchers claim, “Being socially connected is not only influential for psychological and emotional well-being but it also has a significant and positive influence on physical well-being and overall longevity.” It is important to maintain strong social connections, even if you prefer to spend a majority of your time alone.

So What’s the Verdict?

While human beings need time alone to allow their brains to rest and rejuvenate, too much time alone or a lack of social connections can be harmful to our mental and physical health. It is important to distinguish between healthy time alone, where we are being productive, creative and introspective, versus negative time alone, where we are being self-critical or feeling lonely.

If you find yourself constantly around others and feeling depleted, make sure to schedule some healthy alone time. If you find yourself predominantly alone or are feeling lonely, make sure to invest more time seeking meaningful social connections. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, it is important to find the right balance for you.

If you are having a hard time combating feelings of loneliness, please read this post on What to Do When You’re Feeling Alone.

To learn more about where loneliness comes from and how you can combat it, watch our Webinar on A Way Out of Loneliness

 If you are feeling isolated and may be experiencing symptoms of depression, here are some helpful resources:

National Institute of Mental Health – Depression
WebMD – Depression – Depression

This is a free hotline available 24 hours a day to anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.

International readers can click here for a list of helplines and crisis centers around the world.

About the Author

Lena Firestone Lena Firestone is a writer and new media specialist. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine. She currently works at and leads private writing workshops in Santa Barbara, CA.

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Most of the times I feel as though human beings are such a strain towards my energy, I don’t like being judged about anything, I don’t like being made a fool, I don’t like pretence and I certainly don’t feel well or comfortable with people who think they better than others.

So staying alone helps me avoid all this but in the interim I’ve lost connection with my family and friends. No connection with my mother my sister’s coz I just can’t stand speaking to them at times..I feel at peace alone but I think all Negetives. I think it’s better if I can move away maybe if I can miss them I will be fine coz now all I want is being alone and it affects me a lot more.

Jason Perdue

I agree with you mostly. I don’t agree with your assessment that your reason for wanting to be alone is to avoid judgment ect. From my person perspective, I could care less about being judged. But aside from that I agree with you. People are energy drainers. But they are also energy providers. It all depends on who your interacting with. Family tend to be energy depleters. I need my alone time every day. Most of my life is alone. I’m alone at home, with a dog. I am alone at work from job site to job site. I get enough human interaction every day. What I don’t get enough of is emotional human interaction. But, I still prefer to be alone than to force or artificially create a emotional connection or attachment. I want a wife very very very badly. But I also do not want a person to come into my life unless they really fit how my life works. Humans can be horrible additions to other humans lives. So, we much choose carefully. And only let those people who fit into our lives in. Making room for a person is a sure sign of failure.

Thabane Vundla

Sometimes we resort to solitude as a result of being heavily drained by an numerous past relationships. This again makes us eventually view people as all the same. We then isolate ourselves in fear of being broken from time to time. I personally, took a decision to be ever-isolated. I am used to it, and I’ll be honest, it does hurt me sometimes. What I’ve learnt is that people change , only God stays the same. This implies that it’s better to resort to solitude then to be involved in connectedness that will vanish soon and leave you wounded again. What I now prefer is to just help others, show compassion to them, and love them but also ensure that I don’t add them to my life. It ought to be clear that at times we choose solitude under the motive of securing our hearts. We are born lonely, we die alone, thus it’s has to be easy and enjoyable to live alone.

Connie Cleveland

I love being alone all the time. I know I suppose to be a 24 hours and 365 days. I get been lonely where i sign up. Social is bad for me. They don’t want me around. So I stop trying when was six to have social. I don’t need social. Anti social will help me. Y’all will see the only one I need is me.


Being alone is requisite for realization that Existence cannot be conceptualized.

Eli Richardson

After my aunt passed away, my cousin has been willing to move out alone. I understand that being alone helps to balance your brain, just like you mentioned it. He sure has a reason, so to show him my support, I will help him find a moving company to get things started.


Thank you mam for providing such a nice piece of information regarding solitude it helped me a lot ,and the scientific reasons explained for each point is really great.Your work is leading this world to a better place to live in.


When seeing that it’s been scientifically proven that loneliness leads to health issues, are they talking about being lonely? Or being alone? Those are two different things. I am always alone, but I am not lonely. I enjoy being by myself and I am a very happy person for the most part. I think studies only show projections. I’m not doctor but I think if being around people messes with my zen and being alone keeps me calm and collected … how would that be a health issue if im happy and not stressed?

Happily introverted

Thanks for that comment because it’s the truth for me. Maybe not others but for me it is. When I was a teenager I remember thinking quite often that all I wanted was to just be happy. I’m a severe introvert and I’m happy to not be in crowds of people. I can only stand it for so long. I would rather work at home. You’re comment was also a reality check. Thank you. I really and actually need to hear this everyday.


Then there are those of us who are lonely for a reason: in my case, I have always wanted a romantic partner but in my 65 years have never had one. That is a legitimate, honourable desire and one cannot simply “do” enough things to not let it affect me, nor is pretending it does not matter work. I have a great life, I do interesting things, I am considered to be a leader, people enjoy me. I enjoy my alone time but having been alone my entire life. that aloneness no longer serves me well. And the “answer” for me is not to throw 100s of people at me; I want an intimate, full-time connection with a romantic partner. Why is that seen as such an unreasonable desire?

Paul Fenton

I have read your article some of what you saying is true but not all we are all individuals some people’s circumstances don’t allow for socialisation they don’t have control of there lives so can’t live a normal life ex prisoners don’t have the chance to have socialisation


With most women nowadays being very independent since they don’t even want a man anymore in their life to begin with, and this is why many of us single men can’t find love which this definitely has a lot to do with it unfortunately. Finding love in the past was very easy, the way our family members had it back then with no trouble at all either. Women today aren’t like those old days at all, and they were very old fashioned back then as well. Feminism is everywhere today altogether, making love even much harder for many of us men still looking for a very serious relationship now.


I couldn’t agree with you but at the same time, I do agree to an extent. I want to share life with someone instead of being alone all the time. I wish there was men who would see that yes I’m independent but I don’t want to keep doing this alone. Like right now being sick, damn tired of not having someone just to hold me and tell me everything is going to be ok or that sense of security you find in a relationship. Or being taken care of when sick. It’s like a rarity now days. Idk I just saw your comment and wanted to say, we do exist! I do anyway.


I feel extremely nervous and stressed out around people. I just don’t like to be seen, heard, or have anyone be aware I exist. I only feel happy when alone. I can’t enjoy anything when someone else is around, like my mind goes kind of blank, and I can’t even remember anything too well afterward. I haven’t left my house in 10 years. I think it’s okay to be alone all the time for some people.


This is how I feel when constantly alone. Being around people reminds me that I do exist and I like talking to people and learning because people are so interesting. Thank you for sharing this.


Then there are many of us single good men that have a lot of trouble finding love today unfortunately. And had we been born back in the old days which we definitely would had met the right good woman to settle down with, and we really could’ve avoided all of this today as well.


This really shed some light for me today. I’ve been expressing my concern to the few people in my life but I don’t think it’s doing me any good. I am alone all the time and feeling very isolated and extremely lonely. I walk 6 miles a day just to keep my sanity but I don’t live in a very safe community. I sit in my room otherwise. I am trying to find a work from home job so I can save up for a car and get back on track but with literally no help no support system and feeling so lonely, it’s very difficult. I wish my life wasn’t like this.

Francisca Adu

Inorder not to get any problem out there, I prefer enjoying the company of my family at home and if i’m out there i try to be nice to everyone and go my way.


I’m 31, and I’ve been alone for almost my entire life. I love it actually, but the problem is I really don’t know how to be social as I just need one simple connection, to promote my product/work.
Also good to mind one very annoying con. FOr me, people only contact you when they need help, yes, I’m kind of tool, nothing else. Wonderful people.


Being single and alone all the time has so many disadvantages as well. Wherever we go which we will always be alone, going out to eat in a restaurant by yourself is no fun at all for many of us single men, and going on a vacation alone is just as bad if not worse. That what makes the married life the best of all since you never have to worry about being all by yourself wherever you decide to go. Married life overall wins out. The real problem is that many of us single good men can’t meet the right good woman to share our life with, and a great deal of us aren’t single by choice either.


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