Author and philosopher Mark Vernon agrees. ‘Consumer culture means we are so used to being distracted that we go into a panic when we are alone, but it’s an important part of life,’ he says.
‘If you don’t love yourself you won’t be doing any good for others. Being alone forces you to enjoy your own company and enjoying your own company makes you very attractive to others.
‘It shows that when you’re in a relationship your love and attention is directed at them, you’re not just trying to get self-love through them.’
And it’s not just relationships that can be improved by a bit of alone time — it helps our brains, too. Solitude has long been linked with creativity, spirituality and intellectual might. In his book Solitude: A Return To The Self, the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr cited Beethoven, Kafka and Newton as examples of solitary genius.
‘You don’t have to be sitting at home writing War And Peace,’ says Hodson. ‘But being alone helps you process your thoughts and come to your own conclusions about the world, which is part of being an independent, thinking adult.
‘It also takes us out of the cycle of doing and talking and into a healthy state of just being.’
Indeed, meditation — by definition a solitary practice — is advocated by doctors as a way of de-stressing, re-energising and giving us clarity in life. Likewise, going for a long walk is the way that many of us work through various problems in our head, make big decisions or take stock of the present.
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So, if it’s good for us why is it that so many are terrified of time on their own?
‘One of the fundamental distinctions between people is whether hell is other people or hell is solitude,’ says Hodson.
‘It’s pretty much a 50-50 split. For extroverts, being around other people isn’t wearing, it’s stimulating. Introverts need time alone to be in their head.’
People may also find themselves unable to tolerate their own company because they are running away from their feelings.
‘We’re scared of what we’ll find when we’re alone with our thoughts. Hidden parts of our personality can surface and it’s frightening,’ says Vernon. ‘But ignoring our feelings by keeping busy will work for only so long before they burst to the surface.’
But before I become too smug about preferring my own company, Hodson and Vernon have a warning: if loners like me spend too much time in their heads, they can become people-hating, self-centred bores.
‘There is a danger you can go to far: you turn inwards and don’t turn outwards, which can lead to misanthropy,’ says Vernon. ‘Too much time in our own company can make you self-obsessed. Our lives are spent monitoring our feelings rather than relating to others.’
Hodson adds: ‘We need relationships to remind us the world does not revolve around us.’
And, indeed, it doesn’t; we are social animals who are not designed to fend for ourselves all the time.
‘If you woke up and your family had been killed and your house razed to the ground, the first thing you would do is look to others for help,’ says Hodson. But isolate yourself too much and you might find this support is not there.
And it’s not just the bad times; we need people in the good times, too. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent with people. I realise I’m lucky not to have driven them away by my cranky ways. I also think a big part of why I can enjoy time alone is because I know I don’t have to be alone all the time, just when I choose to be.
Maybe I won’t close my doors on the world quite yet — just don’t expect me to come out on Saturday night. I’ll be too busy ignoring my phone and rearranging my cutlery drawer.