The secret to calmness? Spend 15 minutes alone

The secret to calmness? Spend 15 minutes alone

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SINGAPORE: Feeling angry or nervous? Spending 15 minutes alone can help to tone down those emotions, according to new studies published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Experiments carried out on four groups of undergraduates were done by researchers from the University of Rochester. In these experiments, 350 participants spent 15 minutes alone, then answered a questionnaire to assess how strongly they felt about different emotions.

Thuy-vy Nguyen, a doctoral student at the University of Rochester, and her team found that across all the groups, some alone time “decreased positive and negative high-arousal affects”. This meant that spending time alone brought down distress and fear, but also dampened excitement and attentiveness.

In the first experiment, the researchers found that spending 15 minutes alone lowered the participants’ emotional states such as excitement and interest more than 15 minutes of conversation. But in the post-experiment survey, participants expressed a lower likelihood of feeling irritated, distressed or jittery.

A second group, which was also asked to sit or read alone for 15 minutes, reported calmness and relaxation. However, they reported loneliness and sadness as well.

The third group also spent 15 minutes alone but they were asked to think positive thoughts while doing so. The researchers found that this group reported less negative emotions afterwards.

The last group, which was tasked to clock in 15 minutes of alone time every day for a week, found that the participants' state of calmness spilled over to the following week when the researchers checked in on them.

The researchers wrote: “Although one might typically not want to decrease positive affect, there are times when one is over-energised or excited, so that deactivation could be settling and pleasant, for example, when one wants to go to sleep.”

“The studies also revealed that solitude yielded deactivation on high-arousal negative affect, such that it makes people less angry and anxious,” they added.

Source: CNA/bk