You might not want to take a break from life, but your brain does. Every day, your brain is overloaded with the sights and sounds of the modern world. It barely gets a chance to digest all this information.
Our constant state of mental overload is bad for brain health, but the solution is pretty simple: you need to spend some time alone. We all do. Regular time alone in peace and quiet can help your brain work better. So do your brain a favor, and take a break.
Here are four ways time alone can help you.
You’ll improve your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize, express, and control your feelings. Often thought of simply as self-awareness, emotional intelligence is all about knowing how you feel and why.
It’s extremely important for personal development, and improving your emotional intelligence can help you in pretty much every area of your life. High emotional intelligence can make it easier to manage personal hardship, develop interpersonal relationships, communicate better, and deal with issues like stress and anxiety.
Spending time alone is scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to improve your emotional intelligence. However, just being alone isn’t enough; you need to set aside some of your alone time for quiet contemplation – ideally in complete silence.
The general explanation for this is fairly straight-forward: by turning down the volume of external stimuli, you’ll be able to hear what’s going on inside your own head. By paying better attention to your own internal dialogue, you improve your emotional intelligence and become a more resilient person.
Your brain will grow
A little piece and quiet might help your gray matter. That’s according to this study from the National Library of Medicine, which found exposure to prolonged silence can stimulate the brain to grow new cells.
However, some quiet time won’t just make your brain grow; it’ll also make it work harder. This UCLA study found that time alone can help the brain boost its ability to process information.
Specifically, it looked at volunteers who meditated regularly and compared them to a control group. In particular, the researchers compared the rates of cortical folding. This is a process by which the cerebral cortex “undergoes changes to create narrow furrows and folds called sulci and gyri.”
“Their formation may promote and enhance neural processing,” the researchers explained.
They continued, “Presumably then, the more folding that occurs, the better the brain is at processing information, making decisions, forming memories and so forth.”
While the researchers noted their study was far from conclusive, they argued it provided strong evidence to suggest spending time alone in contemplation can help you absorb new information quicker, improve your memory, and make it easier to make rational decisions.
Your memory will improve
Improving your memory is a walk in the park – literally. According to University of Illinois’ neuroscience expert Professor Arthur Kramer, taking a walk alone a few times a week can help grow your hippocampus.
“The hippocampus supports an important aspect of memory called episodic or relational memory,” he explained in an interview with NPR.
“An example would be meeting somebody at a party and trying to remember their name, their face, what you talked about and so forth, the hippocampus plays an important role in that,” he said.
Kramer continued by explaining that as the brain ages, the hippocampus becomes weaker, leading to memory problems like Alzheimer’s.
“The hippocampus is one of the few areas of the brain that produces new neurons from adult stem cells, supergenitor cells. So neural genesis, or the birth of new neurons that become functionally integrated with old neurons, occurs in the hippocampus,” he explained.
This means that keeping the hippocampus healthy is extremely important for adults, particularly when heading into middle age.
Luckily, it turns out that keeping your hippocampus in good working order isn’t as hard as it sounds. According to research by Kramer, a 40-minute walk, three times a week is enough to keep your hippocampus growing. This can improve your memory, and keep your brain young.
You’ll be able to solve more problems
Ever had one of those problems you can’t seem to work through? Perhaps something at work, or just some stubborn everyday conundrum? The best thing you can do is forget about it, according to psychologist and author Sherrie Bourg Carter. “Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind,” she explained.
This process allows your brain to take a break from being bombarded with new information, and instead work through the mass of knowledge it already possesses. By giving your brain this break time, you might find yourself making connections you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. In quiet, your powerful subconscious mind can do its job correctly, and help you solve those niggling problems.
Unfortunately, in our modern society, the peace and quiet our brains need to function isn’t always so easily found. It’s too easy to get distracted by a phone or TV, omnipresent advertising and those endless to-do lists. The complexity of modern life isn’t always so kind to our over-worked brains.
“It’s hard to think of effective solutions to problems when you’re distracted by incoming information, regardless of whether that information is electronic or human,” Bourg Carter noted.
How much time do you spend alone, and how does it benefit you?
-The Alternative Daily