In Defense of Solitude
The Benefits of Meditation, Mindfulness, and Spending More Time Alone
All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone. BLAISE PASCAL
We live in a world where we can be constantly connected to people. We can talk on the phone, text, or peruse social media everywhere we go (including the bedroom, the bathroom, the dinner table, etc.). Of course, this means we have fewer opportunities to be alone with our own thoughts. We can choose to include more time for solitude, though, and strengthen our mindset and our resilience. Taking time alone can help us get out of our technology funk and reconnect with our true selves.
Constant communication interrupts your daily activities and can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Don’t forget to make the most of your time alone and make sure the life you’re so caught up in is headed in a direction that’s right for you. Solitude has so many benefits, and it’s something almost everyone could use more of in their lives.
Benefits of Solitude
- Increases productivity (at work or at home)
- Increases empathy and compassion
- Increases creativity
- Good for mental health
- Good for kids
- Increases happiness and life satisfaction
- Decreases symptoms of depression
- Improves stress management
- Provides an opportunity to recharge your batteries
- Time alone in nature offers rest and renewal
Don’t surround yourself with so much noise that you’re unable to take a few moments to recharge your batteries. Be sure to take at least ten minutes every day to meditate — sit quietly by yourself and do nothing but think. If you’re used to constant noise and activity, silence may feel uncomfortable at first. However, with practice, it gets easier.
Time in Solitude Can Allow You To
- Figure out your real desires and goals. The first step to creating the life you want is envisioning a brilliant future to work toward.
- Reflect on your goals and set future goals. Think about your personal or professional goals, what you’re doing to reach them, and what more you could begin adding in.
- Pay attention to your feelings. Check in with yourself about how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Think about your stress level. Evaluate whether you’re taking good enough care of yourself and think about how you might continue to improve your life.
Ways to Spend Your Alone Time
No matter who you are, I absolutely recommend taking at least 30 minutes to an hour every day for solitude and reflection. I highly recommend doing this in the morning and meditating, exercising, stretching, expressing gratitude, journaling, whatever.
If mornings don’t work for your schedule, that’s okay. Plug this time in right after work to decompress or in the evening before you go to bed. Adapt to your schedule and your needs, but don’t skip it. Solitude is SO important and definitely worth finding time for in your day.
Meditation has so many incredible benefits on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Meditation has been linked to a variety of emotional benefits, including helping those who practice to reduce negative emotions and to gain a new perspective on stressful situations. Meditation also decreases anxiety and depression. It makes your life so much better in ways you can’t even anticipate yet, and it is absolutely worth incorporating as a daily practice.
Journaling can be a powerful tool in helping you to better understand and learn from your emotions. Making a habit of journaling can help you express and work through your thoughts, and it is shown to boost your immune system, decreases stress, and improve mental health.
Mindfulness has a lot of similar benefits to meditation: reduced stress, improved memory, and improved satisfaction in relationships and life. It can help increase happiness and focus and allow you to truly experience the moment that you’re in and appreciate all that you have. Many researchers suggest mindfulness could be the key to happiness.
GO ON A DATE WITH YOURSELF
Having a date with yourself if the BEST. You can do whatever you want to do, and you don’t have to compromise with anyone. Plus, the more time you push past barriers and increase your alone time, you can get better at being in solitude. Spend some time in nature, go to your favorite restaurant on your own, or just stay home and appreciate your solitude. Don’t text or play on your phone. Rather, just try to enjoy yourself and be alone with your thoughts.
Spending time alone, whether you choose to meditate or spend some quiet time to reflect on your goals, is the best way to really get to know yourself. Just like it’s important to spend quality time with loved ones that you want to get to know, it’s imperative that you spend time getting to know yourself. Developing an improved sense of self-awareness can help you continue to recognize what’s holding you back from reaching your full potential.
Why is Solitude So Difficult?
These days, we tend to feel like being on our own is a bad thing, or at least exceptionally boring. When people are alone, they like to ‘busy’ their minds with TV or the radio. When they’re waiting in line or for an appointment, they play or text on their phones to stay busy. Things like meditation, journaling, and reading begin to sound boring too because they’re not social or interactive (and often don’t provide immediate gratification).
I’m pretty certain I’ve mentioned before that solitary confinement sounds like the worst thing in the world to me because I would just absolutely go crazy if I was stuck alone with my own mind. It was a joke, but it also wasn’t. Being alone can be scary and intimidating. If you have anxiety or depression, you might worry that time alone with your own thoughts can bring you down a rabbit hole or spiraling thoughts or negativity. Many of us feel uncomfortable with silence and think that being alone is synonymous with being lonely.
Solitude Is Not Loneliness
That’s why it’s so important for us to recognize that solitude is NOT the same thing as loneliness. In fact, many of our most lonely times are in the middle of a crowd of people. Loneliness is actually the feeling that no one is there for you while solitude is about choosing to spend time with yourself. Make sure to keep these two terms separate in your mind, and take advantage of solitude as a resource to help you be your very best.
When I lived in Europe by myself for a summer, I had to teach myself to go out to eat and go enjoy activities all on my own. It was totally unnatural. When I mentioned it to many of my friends, they said, “oh, I could never do that.” Even now, sometimes the thought of being out all alone can make it seem like I’m lonely or have no friends or that others around might judge me.
But, oh right, no one else cares because they’re all too worried about their own lives and insecurities. And even if they did, why would I possibly care?? It turns out, time alone has an incredible number of benefits. It so good for our lives and for our minds; all we have to do is change the way we look at solitude.
Now, I love solitude. I make time for it. I want to be alone with my thoughts and figure them out. I know that they help me reach my goals and understand what I really need and want. It takes time out of my busy days, but time in solitude allows me to grow so much more than any other time and it is one of my most valuable pastimes.
Solitude and Modern Society
Being alone has developed some negative associations in our society. We joke about someone becoming an “old cat lady” or “hermit” and remind people that, if you’re alone, it might be because you’re crazy. Yes, being alone all the time can have negative repercussions, but we seem to have a far too negative view of being alone.
This viewpoint makes us think that we must be in a relationship, have lots of friends, and keep busy schedules to be “cool” and “happy.” Unfortunately, this just isn’t right for everyone. Not everyone is meant to get married or be part of a couple. For many, having a few select friends and hobbies is much healthier than a robust schedule and obligations abounding. For most of us, our best chance of happiness comes from within and that’s the last place we tend to look.
For some people I know, staying busy serves as a great distraction. They don’t want to fall into their own head and their problems, so they stay active and in denial of what needs fixing. They aren’t working on themselves, their relationships, their career or money situation, and they will continue to be unsatisfied and complain about their lives while avoiding the obvious change that needs to be made. There are also societal pressures to be productive. It can make it more difficult to see the value in taking time to just sit and think because it doesn’t produce immediate tangible results.
People who fall prey to these societal beliefs are so terrified of being stuck alone with their own minds that they choose to keep their brains busy. They wrongfully think being alone means begin lonely, so they become even more negative. They might even begin to see worse sleep patterns, a weaker immune system, and more stress in their lives. Silence and self-care are not their priority.
Eschew societal norms, and choose to value yourself enough to spend more time in solitude and remember all the benefits it can provide. Spend more time alone and keep track of your ‘wins.’ As you begin to feel better and more connected with yourself, journal or leave little notes on sticky notes around the house. Find pleasure in the small moments and relish your newfound joy and confidence.
Make a Commitment To Yourself
Find a way to plug solitude into your days that works for you. Whether it’s 10 minutes of meditation, 30 minutes of time alone in the morning, or an hour before bed on your own, make a commitment to yourself to take advantage of solitude and make the most of your life.
I’ve seen the power that alone time can have on my mental well-being, my happiness, my relationships, and so much more. Taking time for myself helps me better understand who I want to become, pursue my passions, and become more confident and satisfied with myself and my life. Don’t you think you deserve the same?