10 signs being alone brings out the best in you, according to psychology

Ryan Frawley by Ryan Frawley | February 14, 2024, 11:17 am

Are you better off alone?

Humans are social creatures by nature. In fact, we are capable of cooperation with one another in ways that no other animal on earth could even imagine. And it’s that cooperation and social nature that has made us the dominant species on the planet.

Plus, we live in a world that, thanks to technology, is more connected than ever. I can go on my social media feeds and discover what people I don’t even know had for breakfast on the other side of the world.

Human companionship is a basic need for all of us. But we all need different levels of it to be truly happy.

It’s quite possible that, like me, you are at your best and you are on your own.

Here are some signs that you are a person who functions best in a group of one.

1) You are never lonely

There’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely.

As this article in Psychology Today puts it, “loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and actual experiences of it.”

In other words, it takes more than just being alone to be lonely. Instead, being lonely happens when you want to be connected to others, but can’t actually do it.

That’s why a crowded street in a busy city can often be a lonelier place than an empty trail in the wilderness.

And it’s why, if your desire for social connection is extremely low, you’ll almost never feel lonely.

After all, even if you are completely alone, you’re already getting all the social interaction you need.

2) You know yourself really well

Being alone gives you more time to reflect on yourself. And this kind of introspection leads to people who understand themselves, their thoughts, and their impulses extremely well.

Introspection means examining your thought processes to better understand the workings of your own mind.

It means subjecting your thoughts and feelings to critical analysis to determine why you feel the way you do and whether your feelings and thoughts reflect the observable truth of the world around you.

As you might imagine, this kind of introspection can make you a lot smarter and more self-aware.

Everybody thinks they know themselves. But really, unless they make time for regular introspection, they’re probably far more deluded about their own personality, drives, judgments, and prejudices than they think.

Generally, this kind of introspection is something you can only do by yourself. And that’s just one of the ways that being alone can bring out the best in you.

3) You think independently

People who take pleasure in their own company are often independent thinkers.

By not spending too much time around people, they aren’t tempted to adopt the views and opinions of others. They feel less social pressure to conform and are more likely to form their own views based on the evidence they see.

Also, people who aren’t afraid of being alone don’t feel the same pressure to fit in as others. Instead of thinking what those around them think, they will think for themselves, even if others don’t like it.

Independent thinkers:

  • question authority
  • reject cognitive biases
  • research their opinions
  • prioritize the truth
  • separate their sense of self-worth from their opinions
  • develop creative solutions

These traits make independent thinkers great leaders in the workplace and fascinating people to be around in social settings.

But often, this ability to think independently is one of the gifts from spending time alone.

4) You prefer deep conversation to small talk

Often, people who are more comfortable spending time by themselves are introverted. And most people think that being introverted means that you don’t ever want to be around people, or that you are shy and unwilling to talk to others.

But that’s not the case. Instead, it might just be that the things other people talk about aren’t the things that interest you.

In her popular book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain quotes Jacquelyn Strickland on sensitive people:

“It’s not that there is no small talk…It’s that it comes not at the beginning of conversations but at the end…Sensitive people…’enjoy small talk only after they’ve gone deep’ says Strickland. ‘When sensitive people are in environments that nurture their authenticity, they laugh and chitchat just as much as anyone else.”

In other words, people who are comfortable being alone would rather focus on deep topics of conversation.

 5) You are self-reliant

Being alone means relying on yourself. And this can make you a stronger and more resilient person.

From where I’m sitting in my office right now, I can look across the hallway to the storeroom where I keep shelves full of canned food and bottled water.

I’m not paranoid. I’m not preparing for doomsday.

I’m just aware of the fragility of the supply lines in our modern society, and don’t want to get caught out if there’s another pandemic or something else that disrupts the supply of food and water, even for a few days.

That’s a very practical form of self-reliance. But people who are comfortable being alone are often psychologically self-reliant, too.

Psychologist Catherine Moore uses the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson as inspiration to formulate the qualities of self-reliance:

  • independent thinking
  • embracing your individuality
  • pursuing your own goals

Ultimately, spending time alone helps you develop the qualities you need to support yourself in hard times without relying on anyone else.

6) You are smarter than average

This is an interesting one.

Satoshi Kanazawa’s savanna theory of happiness suggests that the things that made our ancestors living on the African savanna happy are the same things that make us happy today. But the more intelligent a person is, the less true this becomes.

The study also found that while greater social interaction makes most people more happy, the opposite is true of highly intelligent individuals. They actually become less happy the more time they spend around other people.

7) You don’t care what other people think

I truly believe that one of the keys to happiness in life is not worrying very much about what other people think of you.

And there’s evidence to back me up on that.

Psychiatrist David Sack writes that when we worry too much about what other people think, it can have several harmful effects on our life.

We may obsess over other people’s reactions to us. We may people-please, ignoring our own boundaries and allowing people to take advantage of us. We may exhaust ourselves trying to win the approval of others.

Spending time alone is the antidote to all of that. When you spend a lot of time by yourself understanding your own thought processes, you realize that the only opinion of you that really matters is your own.

8) You prefer solitary activities

Some of the best things to do in life are done alone.

And when I look at my own hobbies, I see that they are all based around solitude.

I like reading. I like hiking. I like kayaking. I like writing.

And while I can do some of these with other people, more often than not, I do them by myself.

Having hobbies you can do alone is a sure sign of someone who is comfortable with their own company. In fact, some of the best times they have may be by themselves.

9) You get deeply invested in your interests

Often, people who are comfortable spending time alone are passionate about their interests.

That’s because they don’t choose what to like based on what others think they should. Instead, they do what makes them happy and pursue their interests wherever they take them.

This can make them extremely knowledgeable about a given subject, such as history, science, or mathematics. It can also make them highly skilled at anything they set out to do, such as playing an instrument.

When you are fully absorbed in an enjoyable activity, you don’t even notice that other people aren’t around.

In fact, it’s often easier to get completely absorbed in something you care about when you are by yourself with no one else to interrupt you.

10) You are exhausted by social interaction

Probably the most classic sign of an introverted personality type is this.

Contrary to what others may think, introverts are not necessarily shy or awkward. It’s just that their energy level drops when they are around others, and they need to spend time alone to recharge their batteries. That’s the opposite to extroverts, who find that they are energized by being around other people.

“During social events, people are expected to make small talk with strangers, stick to upbeat topics and get to know loads of new people. If you are a natural extrovert, you might thrive in these settings, but for the introverts, they might be too much to handle,” writes author and consultant Beverly D Flaxington.

If you are an introvert, spending time alone is the only way to keep yourself energized, focused, and happy.

And that’s how your solitary time may bring out the best in you.