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