There's a reason canceled plans are so meme-able: People can definitely relate to the relief of getting a quiet night at home. But if you're looking for a readymade excuse the next time you feel the urge to stay in, we're here to help—because psychologically speaking, skipping a night out can be hugely beneficial, especially when life is particularly hectic. (Hold the guilt.)
"I like a night out with friends as much as anyone, but I'm also a big proponent of choosing to stay in sometimes," says sleep expert Kelsey Down. "Anyone who has been feeling heightened stress at work or in other areas of their lives may especially benefit from a night in. Taking some quiet alone time to care for yourself, however you like to do that, will help reduce stress and will offer you a chance to recharge in a way that's just not as easy when you're around a lot of noise and people and chaos."
Aside from allowing yourself a psychological breather from everything going on in your life, there are some other obvious health benefits to foregoing a late night as well. The opportunity to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep is a big one—even just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to heightened cortisol levels, which affect our appetite, stress, and even skin. Plus, if you typically drink when you're out with friends, skipping a night of alcohol can help regulate your blood sugar and hormone levels. (You're also all but guaranteed to avoid a rough morning.)
Now that you have some (extremely valid!) excuses for skipping out, it's time to make the most of your precious few hours of "me" time.
What to do instead
It's obviously up to you! If nothing would make you happier than cocooning yourself in a blanket and binge-watching something on Netflix, then go for it. Ultimately, it's about being mindful of our needs at any given moment, and sometimes that means vegging out with a glass of wine in hand. But you might also consider taking advantage of this free time to engage in wellness rituals and activities that aren't part of your regular routine. The goal, either way, is to wake up feeling refreshed, fulfilled, and happy tomorrow morning. (It's basically the antithesis of a hangover.)
Need some ideas?
- Log off of social media for the evening. This is especially important if you're prone to FOMO. "Social media evokes stronger emotional responses than a more passive activity like watching TV," says Down. Even better: For your most quality sleep, eliminate screentime altogether.
- Journal. Research shows that it's a really easy way to practice more self-awareness and, in turn, boost your mood—and it doesn't have to be a complicated endeavor. "Once I've turned off the TV and silenced my phone for the night, I like to set a five- or 10-minute timer and just write down anything that comes into my head during that time," says Down. "Often it turns into a bit of a brain dump where I scribble down all the little things weighing me down. The act of putting your thoughts to paper is therapeutic, and it can actually trigger your mind to work over those problems during sleep."
- Take a bath. It's a really easy way to soothe both your mind and your body, especially if you do it up right. Adding Epsom salts, for example, can help ease sore muscles and tension headaches. Check out our multi-step guide to taking your most spa-worthy bath ever.
- Take a walk outside. You don't have to take "staying in" so literally. The mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors—even just a few minutes—abound, so taking a quick stroll in the evening air might be the perfect way to decompress from a stressful week.
- Engage in some yoga or light stretching. No need to dive into your inversion practice (unless you want to, of course)—just some easy postures will be enough to ease tension and wind your body down for the evening.
- Meditate—whatever that means for you. Knowing what works may take some trial and error. "Meditation doesn't have to mean sitting completely still for half an hour," says Down. "You can free-write like, I do, or practice yoga or find a different activity that achieves the same calm state of mind. Try different things over a period of time and take note of how they help or hinder your sleep. You may be surprised at what works."
Want more ideas for a healthy night in? Our list of wellness rituals can help you feel more mindful.