Picture this. It’s a Saturday morning, and autumn sunshine is falling through the blinds.
You have a cup of coffee, a book, and an easy chair. Best of all: you’re alone. Your family, housemates, spouse, or children are elsewhere, and three uninterrupted hours stretch before you.
Restful, right? For introverts, who—goes one popular definition—gain energy by spending time alone, gathering their thoughts and regrouping emotionally, solitude is the obvious choice when it comes to resting.
But a new study into the state of rest has found that for most people, activities done alone—including simple solitude itself—are the best ways to rest.
And that includes extroverts who, according to the same definition, tend to gain energy by being with others.
Reading was the most restful activity cited by the 18,000 people who filled out an online survey which the researchers, funded by Wellcome, a large health-focused charity, said was the biggest study run on rest to date. Second came being “in the natural environment,” followed by being alone, then listening to music, then “doing nothing in particular.”
“The analysis team was struck by the observation that a significant number of the top ten restful activities chosen by participants are often carried out alone,” the researchers wrote in their preliminary findings. “It’s interesting to note that social activities including seeing friends and family, or drinking socially, placed lower in the rankings. It’s also not just introverts who rate being alone as a restful activity. Extroverts also value time spent alone, and voted this pastime as more restful than being in the company of other people.”
The study was carried out by the BBC in conjunction with researchers from a number of universities and disciplines, including cognitive neuroscience and anthropology, and involved an online survey filled out by 18,000 people in 134 countries.
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