Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post
Neelam Khan

Solving Life: People would rather be shocked than be alone with their thoughts

Do you get unpleasant feelings when you're alone? You’re not the only one.


I love to have time for myself, whether it’s laying in my bed, sitting on College Green admiring the trees or taking long, warm showers. It feels good to think for myself and feel comfortable in my own skin. That comfort allows me to handle going to lunch alone and not feeling lame if I feel like staying in on a Saturday night. I don’t need the company of someone else to make my existence valid. That’s not saying I don’t feel lonely, but that I accept being alone.

But my recent encounters with friends and observing people on campus show the disturbing contrast of that view. One friend told me she has not been alone since she moved in. Other friends living in my dorm are constantly together, trying not to look lame when wandering the halls looking for someone to hang out with. Another friend who transferred to OU with me has made it obvious through Snapchat and other social networks that she has found friends, even when I know her crippling loneliness just wants the approval of others.

When I walk around campus I see people trying too hard to fit in, as though high school haunts them. What is so bad about being alone? Why have we created a social construct that belittles those who are alone?

That doesn’t just apply to OU’s campus. A study done by social psychologists at the University of Virginia revealed that people stuck alone with their thoughts are markedly less happy. They recruited hundreds of undergraduate students and community members to take part in “thinking periods” that required no physical distractions, meaning no cell phones or personal belongings.

{{tncms-asset app="editorial" id="26dd0914-6bd2-11e5-b7cc-fb83e83f772a"}}

These tests lasted six to 15 minutes. Participants were told to think about whatever they wanted or to choose a prompt. In both the free thinking and planned prompt scenarios, about 50 percent of people did not like the experience.

The researchers took the experiment one step further, leaving the participants in a lab room for 15 minutes in which they could press a button and shock themselves if they wanted to.

Sixty-seven percent of men and 25 percent of women shocked themselves in those 15 minutes.

People get so bored and uncomfortable being alone with their thoughts that they find it more entertaining to shock themselves. The research team suggested that since the unpredictable direction of our thoughts can lead many to an unpleasant feeling, meditation is key. When you are alone, you should be thinking about what makes you happy and learning how to control your thoughts and perceptions, which can lead to a happier outlook on life and yourself.

I use to hate being alone. I felt weird and pathetic. But by detaching myself from everything that controlled me, I felt happiness in the freedom to be whoever I wanted. We don’t need the approval of others. We need time for ourselves to grow and become accustomed to what makes us happy. Take time for yourself every day. Be alone. Get to know yourself. You’ll never know who you are or what you like being surrounded by people you might not even like at all. When you can be comfortable in your own skin, you’ll truly love being alone.

Neelam Khan is a sophomore studying screenwriting and producing. What do you think of alone time? Email her at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH