It might not surprise you to know that everyone needs time alone every once in a while, or even once a day, but what might surprise you is that we actually need time to ourselves minute by minute. Even with almost seemingly endless social interaction the research shows that every three seconds, on average, we ‘slip away’ to be with our own thoughts and to internalize what is happening around us. This ‘downtime’ allows our brains the time it needs to process the information that is happening all around us.
We know someone is in downtime by their body language which includes having the head titled away or to the side, shifting the shoulders at an angle, or looking to the right or left for a fraction of a second. The eye patterns in downtime are what psychologists call “conjugate lateral eye movements.” All these cues are tells that the mind has moved into processing mode and is no longer accepting new information. Other cues indicating emotional downtime include pauses in breathing, subtle chewing of the lips, or very brief eye freezes, glazing over, or eye contact avoidance, blank faces, head dropping, and generally switching off.