Happiness Myth No. 9: Spending Some Time Alone Will Make You Feel Better.

As I’ve studied happiness over the past few years, I’ve learned many things that surprised me. Each day for two weeks, I’m debunking one “happiness myth” that I believed before I started my happiness project. Yesterday I wrote about Happiness Myth No. 8: You’ll Be Happy As Soon As You…

Happiness Myth No. 9: Spending Some Time Alone Will Make You Feel Better.

Wrong. Although it can be tempting to take a “personal day” when you’re feeling blue, or to isolate yourself until you feel better, you’re better off doing just the opposite.

Connecting with other people, even if you don’t feel like it, is more likely to improve your mood – and this is true even for introverts.

In fact, researchers reported that out of fifteen daily activities, such as exercising, commuting, or doing housework, everything is more fun with company. They found only one activity during which people were happier alone rather than with other people — and that was praying. To my mind, that’s no exception; the point of praying is that you’re not talking to yourself!

I’ve certainly found this to be true in my own life. I spend most of my days by myself, reading and writing, and I’ve noticed that I always get a big burst of energy and cheer when I have a chance to be with other people. Even if I leave my desk feeling enraged, annoyed, or insecure, I feel better after talking to someone else – not talking about what’s bothering me, but just talking about anything at all. In fact, I usually feel better if I’m distracted from my concerns, rather than try to discuss them.

So if you just went through a painful break-up so are tempted to not meet your friends after work but instead stay home on the sofa with the remote control, or if you just lost your job so don’t want to deal with going to the the neighborhood BBQ, make the effort to push yourself out the door. Most likely, you’ll feel better if you do.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Tanya

    I agree mostly with this. I also think it depends (for me) on the reason for my melancholy or bad mood. I work with the public and have children and a husband at home when I am off work. I have noticed that spending time alone each day helps restore my mood (or take on my daily work) with more energy and optimism. Spending time alone gives me the ability to release negative thoughts/energy on paper, canvas, or through meditation or exercise – whatever suits me at the time. However, spending too much time alone can backfire on me as well. For me, balancing time alone and with others is the key.

    • sisizhang

      excellent,I totally agree with you

  • carmanlam

    I agree that most activities can be augmented with company but I think there’s a lot that some time alone can do for someone. It allows a ‘time-out’ to breathe and be away from what it may be that is upsetting you. Time alone usually allows introverts to recharge as being with people constantly can be draining.
    As with most things in life, there’s got to be a balanced. I can how being around people and socializing can bring someone happiness and I can see how being alone and with yourself can bring happiness, too.

  • anon

    Sometimes you need alone time. I’m constantly with someone and I never get to be alone to just relax and not be bothered. I enjoy company but I really value my alone time.

  • Oscar Wilde said something along the lines of you’ve got to spent time alone so that you can know yourself/so you can tell yourself apart from others. It’s good to get out there and keep busy. No question. Energy begets energy. Smiles beget smiles. But, solitude is valuable, especially if you’re looking to understand the self and also looking for solace and a peace of mind. Lastly, it is these private moments that allow you to create art, I.e. to write and so on. Through digging deep and creating good art it is then that we can keep moving forward and be happy. (Pardon grammar and typos. I did this from my phone.)

  • G4Dualie

    Wrong? I think one thing everyone can agree on is, time alone WILL make you feel better if you possess the proper attitude. Or at least, a proper understanding of what time alone truly means.

    You’ve deftly illustrated how you use time alone to read and write and you even leave your desk at times unhappy, but the moment you see others you experience a big burst of energy and cheer? Disorder or disarray, you decide.

    Who would argue, true happiness comes from within, except those who seek happiness from an external source? One need only ask who your audience is, to put Myth 9 in the proper context.

    You invented Happiness Myth #9 and then created a squabble that supports your first Myth. Very clever of you, I’m sure your audience would agree, yes? no?

    Time alone heals all wounds
    and when that work is finished,
    share your joy, and love.

    Haiku for Gretchen Rubin  Michael Jeffrey Valadez

  • This is one of those posts that I can relate so much too. There are numerous times in my past when I have had moments of struggle and challenge. My instinct wanted to stay at home, to take the day off, and even to this day (years later) I can remember those days never helped me out. If anything they made me worse. The danger for me was getting lost in my own thoughts.

  • Tessera

    I homeschool, so I am with people almost 24/7. I have 7 hours of planned solitude on Tuesdays and I need that time the way I need air. I need it no matter what my mood is, and it always makes me feel better, more relaxed and refreshed. So I’d say whether this is a myth, depends very much on the person. As for activities, I love sitting down by myself to a guilty pleasure TV show or a cup of cocoa and a book. Adding company wouldn’t improve the experience at all.

    • Tessera

      Update: Now that my kids are in regular high school, I am alone for 8.5 hours four days a week. I’ve never been happier; it truly is the perfect amount of solitude for me.

  • HJM

    I disagree totally. I need space and time to myself to recharge my batteries. Being with my cats is my best medicine.

    • sisizhang

      sometimes,I like stay with my company,but I enjoy stay alone too