The importance of ‘me time’

Even if it’s for 15 minutes a day, switching off mentally and enjoying your own company has a multitude of physical and mental benefits.

Some of history’s greatest thinkers and most creative minds have celebrated the concept of solitude, but in today’s ever connected world it’s become harder to truly achieve.

Not to be confused with loneliness (which is linked to negative psychological effects and has reached “epidemic” levels in Australia, according to Lifeline), the act of voluntarily taking time for yourself has been shown to drastically contribute to overall health and wellbeing.

Why we need alone time

In a survey of more than than 18,000 people from 134 countries, “spending time on my own” was the fourth most popular answer when asked what rest meant to the respondent.

That was after reading, sleeping and being in nature.

Spending time with friends and family, however, ranked much lower on the results.

Another recent study links those who actively seek solitude (rather than those who avoid socialising out of fear) with increased creativity – an idea echoed by the likes of Albert Einstein and Henry David Thoreau.

Dr Almuth McDowall’s 2015 research suggests those who experience high-quality “me time” are more engaged and therefore more productive at work.

It’s not selfish to take ‘me time’

While traditionally “me time” has been considered self-indulgent, it’s actually the opposite because it better equips us for future social interaction.

“Pushing through life without taking care ourselves can lead to burnout, exhaustion and more frequent illness,” says psychologist Dr Marny Lishman.

“If we don’t look after ourselves first, then we are not fit to help others.”

Psychologists Christopher R. Long and James R Averill support this idea: “Solitude is inherently social (in) that it relies upon the human capacity to reflect upon and interpret one’s own experiences.”

How to get more ‘me time’

“I don’t have time,” is a frequent excuse for avoiding self-care.

But Dr Lishman says it depends on your priorities – and she says alone time should be high on the list.

“Make time. You do have it. You have exactly the same time as the busiest people on earth,” she says.

“We need to schedule (alone time) in as though it’s as important as an appointment or meeting.”

So get up half an hour earlier to meditate, take a walk during your lunch break or run a bath.

Even just closing your eyes for five minutes and concentrating on taking deep breaths can be all it takes to reap the benefits.

Written by Sophie Goulopoulos.