It’s the last full week of classes, and as we approach finals, many of us will likely fall into the all-too-familiar state of hermitage that faithfully accompanies the stress of final exams. Though isolating oneself in order to concentrate on studying is not the most fun activity, alone time has widely unrecognized yet tangible benefits. Whether it’s being used for studying or not, setting aside alone time for reflection or simple relaxation not only improves concentration, productivity and study habits but also improves the quality of our interpersonal relationships. Having even a little time to think and sort out problems or stressors in life can have a dramatic impact on the quality of our daily lives and our interactions with friends and classmates.
The University of Minnesota has more than 50,000 students, and on any given day, we see hundreds of strangers sitting in lecture or walking between classes on campus. We’re overwhelmed by incessant bursts of overstimulation: “Snapchat,” “Words with Friends” and other applications bombard our cellphones. Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media draw us deep into the intimate details of the lives of people we hardly know.
So there is an increasingly good case to be made for having at least some amount of alone time, both during finals and throughout the year. Time for meditation, self-reflection or even a few minutes to stare at the ceiling and let the mind unwind isn’t necessarily time wasted. It’s becoming increasingly important — for reasons both academic and personal — to occasionally disconnect ourselves from the constant stream of information. Particularly around this time of year, students should make an extra effort to spend some time alone away from life’s many distractions.