But being alone also has its mental health drawbacks. It’s very easy to forget that mental health is not just a personal issue–there is an incredibly important social component to it.
Here’s the truth: we know our mental health in relation to others. What is considered healthy? What is normal? What is the culture of our area?
And to go back to the idea of context, so much context is wrapped up in our relationships with others. One of the primary ways that we learn about the world is through our relationships. And, perhaps most important, most healing happens through relationships.
Being alone all the time would prevent you from getting important support and feedback from your world.
How to Know If You Need to Be Alone
We’ve looked at the good and a bit of the bad. Next up is to figure out what you need from life.
And so we return to what is quickly becoming the word of the day: context!
Think about context in these ways:
- Emotional Context
- Mental Context
- Physical Context
- Societal Context
- Family Context
The list could go on and on, but these terms cover the basics. For the most part, they are self-explanatory, but I’ll go over the key points.
You may remember context clues when you were first learning how to read in school. You need to look at all the words in a sentence–and the words in the sentences around any one sentence–to figure out the meaning of the content.
The same is true for your life and your happiness. What you need at any given time depends on the context of the world around you. For instance, do you have family obligations? Are you caring for a young child? Do you support others in the community who are less well off than you are? Then it may not be the best idea to spend hours and hours alone.
But wait. What is your body telling you, though? Are you absolutely worn out? So tired that you can’t even lift your head up? That would suggest that you need to have a conversation with the people around you to figure out how you can get the space to recharge. The many types of context supply the data for your life. It’s a scientific way to look at mental health, something that is often difficult to quantify.
I’m turning this over to you now.
Start with the above list of mental health context clues. Add terms of your own. You know your life best, and you know what kind of context is important to consider. This is just a start, but if you begin to look at your life in this systematic way, you’ll find that you solve your problems much faster. To be more specific, you’ll start to understand what it means to be alone and if being alone is good or bad for you.
For me, I learned years ago that I needed more alone time than I was getting. I didn’t need to be the center of attention. I didn’t need to try to make people laugh all the time. Being alone is where I found myself, my voice, and the gifts I have to share with the world.
So take this baton and run with it.
To know if being alone is good or bad, always consider the context.
Thanks for reading. Did this stir up some thoughts? Let me know!
P.S. You made it down here, you superfan you. So here’s a gift. Here’s a poem about being alone from my new book.
I hope you like it.
The Heat of My Own Fire
I think I know
why I wanted you to love me
I wanted your love
to fill the hole
that I had carved in my own heart
I wanted your warmth
to burn me alive
to engulf me
to show me who I am
through hot disintegration
I wanted your touch
to desensitize me
And I wanted your breath
to breathe for me
Because I was scared
that if I did it on my own
that no one would like me
that no one would want me
that there wouldn’t even be a me
You know me now
You know my mind
doesn’t plod along
where it should zag
It falls apart
into the most beautiful mess
I see that now
Because I see me now
why I wanted you to love me
I needed to find love
outside of me
But all along
it waited for me
to stop my endless search
and just sit down
to the heat of my own fire
so that I could rest and warm my hands