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04-07-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2020

Cognitive Therapy and Research 6/2020

Reframing Time Spent Alone: Reappraisal Buffers the Emotional Effects of Isolation

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 6/2020
Micaela Rodriguez, Benjamin W. Bellet, Richard J. McNally
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Loneliness, a transdiagnostic feature of psychopathology, is an experience of perceived isolation only weakly linked to the amount of time spent alone. Although traditional loneliness interventions aim to increase social contact, targeting maladaptive cognition about time alone may be an effective way to reduce loneliness. We investigated whether a brief reappraisal manipulation enables individuals to experience their time alone more positively. We also tested the impact of trait loneliness, compulsive social media use, and trait reappraisal on experiences of time alone.


College students and community members (N = 220) were randomly assigned to read a passage about the benefits of solitude (n = 74), the true prevalence of loneliness (n = 72), or a control topic (n = 74). Participants then sat alone for 10 min.


Across conditions, positive and negative mood significantly decreased after sitting alone. Participants who read about the benefits of solitude experienced a smaller reduction in positive mood than those in the control condition. Participants who less frequently used reappraisal in their everyday lives benefited most from the manipulation.


Our results provide preliminary evidence that reappraising time alone as solitude may boost resilience to the decrements in positive mood associated with time alone. Limitations, clinical implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

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