14 May, 2019

Your cell phone rings in the middle of a conference call and, as you glance down to see who’s calling, you notice you’ve missed a string of text messages. Just then, Slack starts pinging nonstop on your work laptop. Been there? So have most Americans.

With our attention being yanked in so many different directions simultaneously, the to-do list grows faster than it gets completed — and it’s a constant struggle to prioritize what to do next. We often feel like we’re stuck in a hamster wheel running a nonstop marathon with no end in sight. But in fact, there is one thing we should be putting at the top of the list: ‘me time’.

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The average American gets 43 minutes of ‘me time’ a day — or five hours a week — as revealed in a recent OnePoll study with Polywood. Considering there are 1,440 minutes a day, that means we spend the bulk of our time letting others run our lives.

On top of that, nearly 75 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed say that the lack of time for themselves “negatively impacted” their moods, citing noise, current events, and jobs as three of the top distractions.

It’s all about me (time)

Flashpacker Tony Stevens doing yoga in the Everest region of Nepal

While the term ‘me time’ may sound selfish, ignoring it can have serious psychological side effects. A report from Happify earlier this year noted that psychologists say alone time doesn’t just “help us unwind” and “allow time for deep thinking,” but also actually “reboots our brains,” “improves concentration,” and “makes us more productive.”

And it’s not just about the amount of time: The quality of the time matters too, according to British Psychological Society study. The definition quality can vary from person to person since some people may find washing dishes relaxing while others perceive it as a chore, as the researchers noted. So finding your own version of quality time with yourself is essential.

How to find your freedom

Me time

While it’s called ‘me time’, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be alone, it’s just time spent doing something that you want to be doing (yup, how scary is it that we only have 43 minutes a day doing what we want?!). The most popular things to do are watching television, hanging with friends, and being active (whether it’s running, going to the gym, or playing sports), according to Happify.

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But even small steps count too. Maybe it’s taking your lunch break in the park instead of at your desk or putting your phone on the other side of the room for an afternoon. A little change in your daily routine of feeling buried in a pile of other people’s needs can do wonders for the soul.

Get out of the house

Me time

The same OnePoll study also showed that almost three out of four people wished that they spent more time outside to unwind. The excuses for not stepping outdoors included 51 percent blaming the weather, 36 percent with work obligations, and 32 percent pointing to chores and other responsibilities.

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But just stepping out the door can reap enormous benefits.

Indeed, there is such a thing as green therapy — our brains actually shift in peaceful outdoor scenes. So whether it’s a walk in the local park or finally embarking on that solo trip that’s long been buried at the bottom of your bucket list, the more of that ‘me time’ that’s spent with a dose of fresh air can exponentially helpful you find your center.

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