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

2010s or 1920s – In the World of Work, the Only Constant is Change

How are you dealing with the 21st century? Those who’ve been in the work market for a couple of decades or more have witnessed a hastening evolution of how things are done and what you need to do just to get by – let alone to excel.

Even millennials can find themselves somewhat adrift when new skills become outdated and employers experiment with workplace environments that are wildly different to what you were prepared for in school.

However, we’re lucky enough to live in an age of apparently infinite resources for self-improvement, career development and entrepreneurship. The online world is full of advice, training courses (many for free), and forums filled with like-minded individuals and more experienced professionals who are eager to share their knowledge.

Look back ninety years or more and the picture is quite different. The forerunner of that same communication network, the phone system, was made to function not by codes and algorithms but by real live “Hello Girls” whose job was to connect caller to call-taker by plugging and unplugging jacks and cables at the telephone exchange. Imagine if the same process happened every time you typed a different URL into your browser!

Even getting up to go to work in the morning was a more difficult process. Today, aside from the few lucky people who can reliably depend on their ‘internal clock’ to wake them in the morning, even the most ambitious among us need our iPhone or old school alarm clock to stir us from slumber. In those days, you might make more money as one of the few professional ‘knocker uppers’ – human alarm clocks – than the factory workers who relied on them. Which would you have been: the knocker upper, banging on windows before the sun rose, or the factory worker with a job for life but no real sense of self-determination?

But professionals in the 1920s had to deal with changing times and technological progress just like the rest of us. For example, in 1927, movies started to be released with synchronised sound, which meant that many of the legendary stars who’d been admired in the silents were now heard speaking for the first time. If an actor’s voice was not as luscious as his or her looks, or they just couldn’t act to the standards now required, they would soon become yesterday’s news – and end up joining the rest of us in the queue to become a salesman, a laborer or a telephone operator. Those knocker-uppers were replaced by radio alarms and smart phones, and robots are still in the process of taking over the factories.

To see where you might have ended up in the 1920s, and what your financial prospects might have been, have a look at this new infographic from OnStride Financial. It might make your feel a little more empowered over your 21st century career!

John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

(Image Source: OnStride Financial)

Warding Off Ghosts

Hint: this post has nothing to do with ghosts

HAVE you ever seen a ghost? Or been told a ghost story by someone who claims to have seen one?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who explained to me that his apartment is inhabited by an unfriendly ghost.

How do you ward off a ghost? A liberal dose of garlic is the usual prescription but, to suspend disbelief for a minute, what would you do if ghosts actually existed and one happened to be living in your apartment?

Not being an expert on ghosts, I suggested to my friend that his ghost, if it exists, must live in either the physical, mental or spiritual realm. It is generally accepted that ghosts are not physical creatures, and so the ghost must merely be a mental or spiritual manifestation. If it is mental, then the ghost could be defeated by thinking differently. If it is spiritual, then the ghost could be defeated by changing his beliefs.

What kind of ‘evil spirits’ inhabit your daily life? For example, do you suffer from poor health, anxiety, or fatigue? Do you lack the skills, resources, or qualifications needed to be excellent at what you do everyday? Or, do you find it difficult to save money, sell products, or perform well in interviews?

Consider for a moment whether these ‘evil spirits’ are physical, mental, or spiritual in nature:

  • Are there small changes in the way you operate that would drastically improve your performance? For example, changing the way you organise your desk.
  • Are there different ways of thinking or additional information which would help you thrive? For example, obtaining an MBA or additional on-the-job training.
  • Are your current beliefs holding you back? For example, if a salesperson believes that she is imposing a burden on every customer she calls then she may find it difficult to make sales. If she instead believes that she is offering customers an opportunity to benefit from using a wonderful product, then her sales performance is likely to improve.