Why Solitude Is Necessary for Self-Improvement

Never in history have we had so much instant communication with others, whether they’re in the same town or on the other side of the world. Our busy lives in large communities mean that our communication with friends and family is often through electronic devices rather than in person and face-to-face. And even when we are physically together, we can still spend most of our time on our smartphones.

Ironically, our advanced communication devices can leave us feeling isolated, and this can lead to either loneliness or solitude. While the former can lead to depression, the latter is something entirely different. We need to choose it consciously by leaving our tech aside to be alone with our thoughts.

The Need for Solitude

Although we are social beings by nature, all of us require periods of solitude where we can reconnect with ourselves. Being “disconnected” is a problem because it tends to manifest as a lack of concentration. We are never present, we’re always thinking of what’s next on the agenda, either for work or for our personal lives, and our minds wander off when we least expect it.

We need to recharge our inner battery so that we can regain a connection with ourselves. Interim solutions for recharging can be a night out with friends or having a conversation that doesn’t include electronic devices. However, it can also be a good idea to spend some time in solitude periodically so that we can regain our inner focus.

Solitude can be physical or mental. It may not be practical for you to escape to a secluded private island, but you can cultivate a tranquil space in your mind; a place you go to be alone with your thoughts. Meditation is an excellent method for developing mental clarity, as are other methods for quiet self-reflection like prayer, yoga, tai chi, and other eastern disciplines.

Becoming Comfortable with Solitude

As social beings, most of us are uncomfortable with solitude. When we’re alone, we have to think, and many of us are unfamiliar not only with how to think but where to begin. We’re acquainted with distractions but not with the lack of them. We can’t truly know who we are or what we might want from life unless we spend some time with ourselves, a journey we can commence through solitude.

We’re bombarded with information telling us we’re not good enough. We’re told we always need a better electronic device, a better love life, a healthier diet, a slimmer and trimmer body, a better hairstyle; whatever it is, we could always do better. Many people aren’t comfortable being alone with themselves because they think they’re not good enough. This is a counterproductive way of thinking because you are who you were created to be. Making time for yourself needn’t be unkind, unloving, or even anti-social. Rather, it can be a way to ensure that you’re the best person you can be, which will benefit you and those around you.

Benefits of Solitude

When we set aside time for solitude, we allow time for introspection and deep thinking. Introspection is the process of looking inside ourselves, examining who we are, determining areas that need improvement, and evaluating our goals and aspirations. It’s an essential part of becoming a better person and making a more meaningful contribution.

Solitude can help us to become self-confident, self-sufficient, and mindful. Mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings and your actions, and accepting your feelings as legitimate. This can help you become more self-assured in your feelings and opinions rather than having to rely on others for approval.

Solitude can also help you identify your feelings and get to know yourself better. This can help you become comfortable in your own skin and find enjoyment in every day experiences. As you come to understand who and what you are, the joy of authentic living can slowly become more important than materialistic pursuits, freeing you to act in more altruistic and philanthropic ways.

What You Can Do

There are many ways that you can cultivate moments of solitude. Here are three suggestions.

Meditate: This is a practice of reflection and focusing the mind in order to achieve heightened levels of awareness. In theory, you can meditate anywhere, on the bus, on the train, in the elevator. However, if you are a beginner you should find a quiet space where you can be alone. It takes discipline and practice to be able to completely shut out your surroundings and achieve the single minded focus necessary for meditation.

A common meditation trick is to focus your attention on a single physical object. For example, you could sit by yourself in a quiet space, in a comfortable meditation position, and light a single candle. Gazing at the candle flame will focus your attention, causing other ideas and worries that you had been holding onto to slowly fade away.

Keep a journal: Writing your thoughts in a journal is an excellent way to track your progress, collect useful ideas, set short and long term goals, and ask questions of yourself. You may discover a recurring theme that you can learn from or gain a new appreciation of yourself.

Spend some time alone: Set aside time for yourself each week. Take a walk, go for a run, attend a concert, or take a day trip by yourself.

Before You Go

Periods of solitude, as opposed to loneliness, can improve mental health and reduce stress. They can improve focus and mental clarity, and thus help to spark your creativity. Don’t give in to social pressure or believe that you’re somehow selfish just for wanting to spend a few hours on your own. Not only can your private and professional life benefit from moments of solitude – only when you’re happy in yourself can you be truly happy working for the benefit of others.

Sandra Moncada is a cycling enthusiast, who frequently escapes to hang out with her literary and movie heroes. She is vitamin D’s biggest fan, who is passionate about meditation, Pilates and beating stress. When she’s not floating in the ocean or her outdoor pool, she loves to write about lifestyle improvements, self-development and stress-relief methods. You can connect with her @SandramoncadaOh

Image: Pexels

Stretching the Mind

The mind is a muscle, and meditation is a form of stretching

MOST PEOPLE wouldn’t find it strange if you told them to stretch their muscles before running a race.

Stretching limbers up the muscles, increases performance, and reduces the risk of injury.

And yet, and yet, every day people around the world turn up for work and run a mental race in which it never occurs to them to stop and stretch.

The mind is a muscle, and meditation is a form of stretching.

The problem with meditation is that many people believe it’s not for them. Meditation is for hippies and prayer is for religious folk, the thinking goes, and if you don’t fall into one of those buckets then you are likely to dismiss these practices altogether.

In the cut and thrust of the corporate world, meditation is often seen as a soft idea, the kind that may get you ridiculed or fired, the province of bohemians and tree hugging pinko lefties.

Easy, easy, there is no need for name calling. While it may be true that meditation is warmly embraced by creative types, that may just be because it actually works.

Your author is no hippie. A former lawyer with his fair share of war wounds and battle scars, he is also open to new ideas.

And so, and so, to see whether meditation may have anything of value to offer, we have been trialing it for the last two weeks using a very simple book of Chinese origin called The I Ching

The results are nothing but positive.

By taking 10 minutes out at the start of your day, 10 minutes before starting back after lunch, and 10 minutes before going to bed, you can relax the mind, reduce stress, increase productivity, and decrease the number of hours you need to sleep each night.

It is working for us.

Try it for yourself. There are lots of free meditation resources available online. We are interested to hear how you get on.

Report back with your results, and share your experiences in the consulting forum.