Get Healthier by
Sitting on Your Ass
Good news: enjoy cardiovascular benefits, clear skin and soothing peace of mind without having to stand!
How often do you treat yourself to some quality time ... with yourself? We humans are social creatures by nature, but we're so over-scheduled or constantly taking in stimuli from social media and other electronic communication that we leave little room for any serious solitude—a vital part of your psychological health. The author and cultural critic Marya Mannes once famously wrote, "The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit."
So much of our culture tends to equate a desire for solitude with people who are lonely, sad or have weird antisocial tendencies. But alone time isn't for losers. It's for people in need of a little self-care. And that's everyone. So why are so many people against? Like really against it. A somewhat troubling study published in Science found that the majority of people would rather do mundane activities or—are you ready for this?—administer electric shocks to themselves than be left alone with their thoughts. It might not come naturally, but a little "me time" does a body and mind good. Here's how.
Constantly being "on" never gives your brain a chance to rest. Meaning you prevent it from replenishing itself. Being by yourself, with no distractions, allows you to clear your mind, or let it wander. This actually improves your overall focus and provides the avenue to think more clearly. Relaxing alone with your thoughts is an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.
Although so many of us work in workplaces with open floor plans (so everyone can communicate more easily), studies show that being surrounded by people often kills productivity. People perform better when they have a little privacy. When you remove as many distractions and interruptions as you can from your day, you are better able to concentrate.
Freedom is more than simply doing whatever you want. It's the ability to trust your instincts, without any pressure or outside influence. When you're a part of a group, you're more likely to go along with what those people are doing or thinking, instead of going with your gut. Being on your own, even for just a little bit, will help. You develop a clearer understanding of who you are and what you're capable of—without the constraints of other people's opinions.
So many people set aside time to plan their vacations, weddings, career moves, but so few of us make time to examine how to get the most out of our lives. Without proper planning, we won't ever achieve the goals we have floating around in the periphery. Spending time alone gives you the opportunity to check-in with yourself and ensure that you're on the right path. The quiet reflection that comes with solitude allows you to adequately examine your goals and progress. Is all this hustling paying off the way you'd like it to be? If not, this is when you can think about ways to make some changes.
It seem counter-intuitive, but learning to enjoy solitude will ultimately benefit your relationship with others. While conducting research at a device-free summer camp, Sherry Turkle, founder of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, discovered being phoneless made the biggest impression on the teenage boys at the camp. "Their embrace of the virtue of disconnection suggests a crucial connection: The capacity for empathic conversation goes hand in hand with the capacity for solitude," she wrote in a New York Times op-ed. And scientific research also shows that solitude is an important time for humans to "center themselves," which in turn, facilitates more genuine connections with others.