This is something I learned from a 2018 “Best of BBC Future” post by Kristine Ro, which I have commented on before.
Because it seems to be a given in this society that social isolation is bad for your health, here Ro’s opposite view. She says:
“For those of us who just prefer plenty of alone time, emerging research suggests some good news: There are upsides to being reclusive – for both our work lives and our emotional well-being.”
In a nut-shell, she says these benefits are:
- Improved creativity
- Stronger inner focus
- Loners are more likely to experience more ‘mental rest’ which can have the benefit of restoring a stressed/weary personality. “Being alone can activate a part of the brain that, paradoxically, strengthens the ability to have social bonds”.
- “Introverts tend to have fewer but stronger friendships – which has been linked to greater happiness”.
A few thoughts come to mind.
This shouldn’t be surprising really. Almost all of the great artists in history worked alone. Even screen plays are usually written by one person alone. You would think that all people, not just introverts, the shy, and those on the spectrum would be better able to focus when alone.
Everyone who seeks time alone, knows about ‘mental rest” being restorative. If for no other reason, the mental strength we regain that way at least strengthens our ability to socialize. I’m not so sure about the bonding.
As for introverts having ‘fewer but stronger friendships’, that has been my experience throughout my life. Strong friendships last longer, which is probably the reason for greater happiness.
And yes, autistic people belong in this discussion too. A loner all my life, when I discovered the research on autism I began to see autism as a new word for, and way of understanding, those who live primarily alone. I’ve written about that in more detail in my book, The Shyness Guide.
I checked BBC Future today and could no longer find that post, but it is a site brimming with interesting science news, and Christine Ro is still there – reporting this week about how mandatory vaccination has been used in the past.