Mind & Body

Declare Your Independence

Spend time alone and get to know the real you.
Declare Your Independence
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In today’s constantly connected world, spending time alone has become almost obsolete. There’s even a new colloquial term tied to the incessant need to text, tweet and check our messages: “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out.” But here’s a news flash for your Facebook wall: Solitude is as important as the most fulfilling social connections. “Western culture tends to view people who spend time alone as sad or antisocial, but there are many benefits to solitude,” notes Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., a psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and author of High-Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books). Among those benefits, according to research: freedom, creativity, intimacy and spirituality.

“Independence and interdependence are both essential,” adds Los Angeles psychiatrist Judith Orloff, M.D., author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Harmony Books). “It’s a balance. But to feel strong and powerful, the relationship with the self is the most important relationship you’ll ever have.” So declare your independence with these go-solo strategies.

Rise and shine. Wake up an hour earlier than the rest of your household and use that time to meditate, read or do anything else that makes you—and only you—happy. “Keep the phone, computer and TV off so you can focus without any distractions,” says Bourg Carter. “This strategy also works if you can get to work before everyone else arrives and the phones begin to ring.”

Set boundaries. It’s especially important to spend time away from people Orloff calls “emotional vampires.” Interacting with such individuals tends to make you feel sick, angry, uncomfortable and/ or exhausted—and even to lose sight of your own identity because you’re so caught up in their drama. “If it’s someone you can’t let go of completely—like a family member or co-worker— simply do your best to spend less time with them,” Orloff advises. “If it’s a person you don’t need in your life, sever the ties.”

Date yourself. “When you’re with other people, you’re more likely to go along with what they want to do,” says Bourg Carter. So try going out for an occasional meal, movie or even a vacation on your own. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself when you’re the only one deciding where you want to go and what you want to do.