Researchers at the University of Buffalo (UB) found that being alone has its benefits: Being alone is conducive to creativity, according to the new study.
The researchers interviewed 295 people who value privacy for different reasons, therefore choosing to “spend a lot of time alone,” according to Study Finds. Reasons for the self-imposed solitude included feeling fear, social anxiety, and preference.
The study found a link between a preference for being alone and creativity. Far from finding it unhealthy or a sign of depression, as former research has suggested, UB found that some activities are more productive when done alone.
“We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits,” says Julie Bowker, the study’s lead author.
“When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, oftentimes they adopt a developmental perspective,” she continued. “During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers.”
Bowker says that those deemed “unsociable” may simply enjoy their alone time, leaving them to pursue singular activities such as reading. She believes that recent research, including that in the UB study, is pointing to the potential benefits of alone time.
The pivot point seems to be whether the solitude is an intentional choice, or whether it’s prompted by negative emotions.
Bowker hopes to shed light on the findings to lift the stigma of solitude. Despite some of the negative connotations of those deemed to be “loners,” self-imposed solitude may have positive health outcomes.
“Although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial,” Bowker said. “They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers. Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office.”
“Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal,” Bowker concludes. “But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”