Both extraverts and introverts need solitude to recharge — although introverts prefer to have more alone time, psychologists find.
Wanting to be alone is not necessarily a red flag for depression or isolation, the research concludes.
In fact, choosing solitude can be a sign of self-acceptance and personal growth.
Periods of solitude can provide spiritual renewal, critical self-reflection and even a chance for creative expression.
Professor Margarita Azmitia, study co-author, said:
“Solitude has gotten a lot of bad press, especially for adolescents who get labeled as social misfits or lonely.
Sometimes, solitude is good.
Developmentally, learning to be alone is a skill, and it can be refreshing and restorative.”
Wanting to be alone is not necessarily about shyness or loneliness, Professor Azmitia said:
“There’s a stigma for kids who spend time alone.
They’re considered lacking in social skills, or they get labeled ‘loners’.
It’s beneficial to know when you need to be alone and when you need to be with others.
This study quantifies the benefits of solitude and distinguishes it from the costs of loneliness or isolation.”
The conclusions come from a study of 979 young people who completed a survey about solitude.
The results showed that those who sought solitude because they felt rejected were at a higher risk of depression and anxiety.
However, those who sought solitude for positive reasons did not face any of these risks.
Dr Virginia Thomas, the study’s first author, said:
“These results increase our awareness that being alone can be restorative and a positive thing.
The question is how to be alone without feeling like we’re missing out.
For many people, solitude is like exercising a muscle they’ve never used.
You have to develop it, flex it, and learn to use time alone to your benefit.”
Dr Thomas said both introverts and extraverts need solitude:
“Introverts just need more of it.
Our culture is pretty biased toward extroversion.
When we see any sign of shyness or introversion in children, we worry they won’t be popular.
But we overlook plenty of well-adjusted teens and young adults who are perfectly happy when alone, and who benefit from their solitude.”
The study was published in the Journal of Adolescence (Thomas et al., 2019).