'Alonement' author explains why it's vital we start cherishing our alone time

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By Fournine

Dec 31, 20215 mins

'Alonement' author explains why it's vital we start cherishing our alone time

If you're someone who avoids alone time at all costs, then allow us to let you in on this well-kept secret: Learning to be alone - learning to love being alone - could change your life beyond recognition.

It really doesn't have to be the dark, dismal vacuum it's often made out to be. In fact, according to author and podcaster Francesca Specter, alone time is something to cherish.

Francesca would know - she went from being an "extreme extrovert", which she associates with a love of being around others, to now regularly treating herself to her own company. She's even launched a whole platform, aptly named Alonement, to bring awareness to this new lifestyle that prioritises self-care and self-appreciation.

Four Nine spoke to Francesca recently to discuss her Alonement platform, which includes a website, podcast, and book of the same name.

The platform, which has since become an empowering cultural movement, started with a new year's resolution.

The bestselling author tells Four Nine: "I was this extreme extrovert who had no concept of how alone time could ever be a good thing. As an extrovert, I thought that my reason for being was to be out with other people and that time alone held no value."

However, in the aftermath of a breakup in November 2018, Francesca made a commitment to herself to finally start valuing her alone time and has kept at it ever since.

This recognition of a need to be content in her own company was a far cry from how she had previously viewed solitude.

The author tells Four Nine that when her mother, an introvert, once suggested she spend more time alone, Francesca initially rejected the idea.

However, with her breakup and the various other things that were going on in her personal life, she felt compelled to make a change for good.

She explains: "I realised that I had been neglecting so many things. I had been neglecting self-care, neglecting my own ambitions, I'd been neglecting just having a space for myself just to think about what I wanted in my life."

Francesca recognised that she had been trying to avoid being by herself and that the more she did, the less happy she felt.

"I started to realise that maybe alone time does hold some value," she says, adding: "It was definitely a Plan B, probably more likely a Plan F. It was far down my list of ways to try and change my life."

Despite it never having been a priority early on in her life, she was now determined to "lean into the thing that scared" her. And she found that it wasn't quite as scary as she thought. In fact, it was liberating.

She says: "I became more calm, more fulfilled. I was getting a chance to do all the things that I wanted to do."

But although Francesca was now reaping the benefits of alone time, she realised there wasn't really a word she could use to refer to time spent alone as a positive experience.

And that's when she coined the term alonement.

Alonement is essentially the idea that it is universally beneficial to set aside time to be alone and to do something fulfilling and worthwhile in that time.

She says: "In the same way that we're told we're social beings, we benefit from communities, we benefit from interactions, and we 1000 per cent do, we're never really told that we have this need for alone time.

"We're not really told to value our alone time, our relationship with ourselves. Making alone time a positive experience - that's a celebration of your relationship with yourself."

However, that's not to say that all time spent alone is inherently good.

"Quite often it's bad," Francesca admits. "Quite often my alone time is bad because I haven't been proactive enough."

She adds: "If you have a couple of nights in and you spend them eating junk food or scrolling WhatsApp or doing all the things that make you miserable, that's not going to make you want to do it again... You want to make it positive."

Alonement, however, is an inherently positive experience. It's alone time spent in a restorative, fulfilling, or productive way.

In her book, she gives the example of "a bubble bath, a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a copy of Middlemarch and Radio 4 playing in the background, before changing into silk pyjamas and dancing around to 'Superfreak' like Cameron Diaz at the start of Charlie's Angels."

While this sort of downtime might seem as though it's better suited to introverts, who are more naturally drawn to solitude, Francesca believes alonement is essential for extroverts as well as introverts.

Alonement benefits introverts as it allows them to feel "validated and justified" in relishing their much-needed alone time. And including "alonement" in their vocabulary diminishes any guilt they might have felt about needing space.

But it's also a "useful" concept for extroverts, Francesca says. As an extrovert herself, alonement has given her a much more balanced and fulfilled life. And while extroverts may not have a natural inclination to spend time alone, they can learn "solitude skills" in the same way that introverts can learn to hone their social skills.

Yes, if you want to engage in alonement properly, you'll have to brush up on your solitude skills.

One such skill is to "get in the habit of planning ahead" and "schedule in alone time". It's also vital that we learn how to tell people close to us that we would like time alone.

Francesca explains: "I think a lot of people find it hard to ask that permission... being able to express your alone time needs to other people is a big solitary skill."

The truth is, though, many people struggle with being on their own. And there's no getting away from the fact that in most cases, being alone is a prerequisite to feeling lonely - an inherently negative experience.

But Francesca argues that while lonely people are generally alone, the two are too often conflated.

She describes "alone" as an "objective state of being," whereas "being lonely is when you feel a lack of connection, you feel disconnected and it feels like a lack rather than something that is restorative. And that can be feeling a lack of connection to yourself."

It's important to remember here that loneliness is a very nuanced concept and there are many different ways to experience it. Being alone does not necessarily mean that you feel lonely, and being surrounded by people by no means rules out the possibility of loneliness.

Yes, we are social creatures, and yes, we greatly benefit from communities, but enjoying our own company doesn't make that any less the case.

Just ask Francesca - despite spearheading an entire movement around alone time, she is still very much a people person.

"I still need and love time with people," she tells us. "And that's OK, you can be a complex human."

It's perfectly fine - healthy even - to want social contact. But the bottom line is that your relationship with yourself is perhaps the most important of all and feeling content in your own company can have huge benefits.

Featured image credit: Westend61 GmbH / Alamy


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