The power of one
Being number one is shorthand for excelling, for being regarded as the best in your field. But in real life, being one – single, solo, alone – is often regarded as much less desirable.
Loneliness is undoubtedly a significant social issue, with serious implications for mental and physical health, and it affects far too many people. Back in 2016, a study by the Co-op and the British Red Cross found that almost one in five of us (18 per cent) were always or often lonely.
But while this issue is now being taken so seriously that the government appointed its first minister for loneliness in 2018, spending time alone can still sometimes be viewed with suspicion.
For many, it’s something to avoid, perhaps negatively associated with a lack of popularity or shyness.
In our digital age, even when there’s no-one else around it’s easy to text, email or check our social media feeds. Research has shown that we spend something approaching a day a week going online via our smartphones; in other words, even when we are physically alone, we’re seeking out virtual company.
If the lines between being alone and loneliness have blurred, a different perspective on spending time on your own can produce a rather more positive spin. In 2016, 18,000 people from 134 countries took part in the online Rest Test, a survey led by Durham University, to explore their attitudes towards relaxation.
One of the questions asked participants to identify the activities they found most restful – and the top five were all pastimes most often carried out alone, including reading, being in a natural environment and listening to music. Simply being on your own and doing nothing in particular were the other top choices.
In the moment
Mindfulness meditation has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over recent years as a technique to improve mental health and wellbeing. It involves ‘tuning in’ to your thoughts, feelings and the sensations our bodies experience, and turns the experience of being alone into a positive, as you are better placed to evaluate your situation and ground yourself in your surroundings.
If the prospect of spending time alone still seems daunting, it’s reassuring to know that it doesn’t have to be for long to be beneficial. Research has shown that even 15 minutes spent alone without any devices or social interaction can help ease anxiety and calm negative emotions.
Time to think
In a world where finding a breathing space amongst all the hustle and bustle of work and family life can be tough, perhaps spending time alone needs to be re-evaluated – and really valued. Rather than turning to our smartphones for company, we can turn inwards and get to know ourselves better instead.
Time alone is also a great opportunity to take a mental deep breath, take stock and focus on the challenges or big issues we are facing and decide how we want to tackle them. And it’s ideal for counting our blessings: appreciating all the good and the positive things that are happening in our lives.
Carving out time
Finding a slot for ‘aloneness’ in a busy day-to-day schedule can be tricky, so a weekend away or a holiday is a perfect time to start your new regime. It can be particularly effective if it’s in a place like Aqua Sana, where the natural world – which research has shown to be so beneficial for our mental and physical wellbeing – is on your doorstep.
It’s a brave move to go solo, so make it easy on yourself. A trip to Aqua Sana is a great way to spend some quality solo time, in a tranquil and welcoming environment tailored towards rest, relaxation and restoring your mental and physical balance. You could discover that your lucky number really is one.