Are you “alonely”? Or like me, is this a new term for you as well? Well according to Robert Carlton, a psychologist that studies loneliness and social isolation, alonely is when there is a need to spend time by oneself but an inability to do so. Think of it as the opposite end of the spectrum of loneliness.
For most, the pandemic has probably increased both a sense of aloneliness and loneliness, it is not a one or the other situation. We are spending more time at home with family or roommates while subsequently experiencing less fulfilling social experiences with friends and co-workers. It is possible we are not getting enough time for ourselves away from work, family, or facilitating remote learning for kids while also feeling cut off from social interactions. Once again, the key distinction between the two is when time alone is desired but not attainable.
Human beings are social creatures, and much like social relationships with others, it is just as important to have a meaningful relationship with ourselves. According to Nguyen, Ryan, & Deci (2018) being alone creates a deactivating effect, or decreasing high-arousal states brought about by being with other people. When the study participants actively choose to be alone this deactivation effect produced an increase in feelings of relaxation and decreased stress.
The motivation to be alone is a key driver in combating the feeling of aloneliness. It is important that the individual is actively choosing to spend time alone to be with themselves for recooperative purposes; such as being creative, engaging in a hobby, or simply engaging in self-reflection. What it is not is being alone to avoid discomfort or isolate oneself. Finally, there is no predetermined amount of time that everyone needs alone. Emotions are not a one-size-fits-all type of experience, what is important is being able to recognize your individual needs and find adaptive ways to meet your needs!
If this sounds like something you are struggling with we can reached here.