“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass
You don’t need to be a monk to find solitude, nor do you need to be a hermit to enjoy it. Solitude is a lost art in these days of ultra-connectedness, and while I don’t really mind being constantly connected, I do think there’s a need to step back from it on a regular basis.
When I suggest to my clients that they take a day out and talk to no-one, meet no-one, connect with no-one. I am met with resistance. What is it about being alone that scares so many people? Why do we try and avoid it – we seem to fill our spare time with any electronic gadget as long as we are not alone!
It’s all too easy isn’t it to spend a few hours drifting from page to page on YouTube, playing games on your phone or watching endless amount of television. The truth is: technology disconnects you from yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, technology is not to blame, but rather our poor use of it. It captures our short attention spans and distracts us from ourselves.
When we are too busy in the world, filling our days and nights with people, things and places — we lose perspective. Without perspective, we can’t see what’s really going on.
Solitude is an absolute necessity. It is essential for our personal well-being and the health of our relationships. Solitude allows us time to rejuvenate and get in touch with ourselves.
However, solitude is often mistaken for loneliness, when we are lonely we feel that our aloneness isn’t by choice; we feel excluded, rejected, isolated, unwanted, or cut off from others. But, loneliness is not resolved by company; have you ever felt lonely even when you are surrounded by other people? Loneliness stems from feelings of emptiness, inadequacy and a lack of self-love. In loneliness, we feel disconnected, but it is not because we are disconnected from others, it is because we are disconnected from ourselves. And in Eastern philosophy, this is considered the cause of all suffering.
Solitude, on the other hand, is a when we are content and happy to be by our self, Loneliness feels depleting, but solitude restores and rejuvenates us.
Here are the benefits of solitude:
You Get to Know Yourself
Most of us are afraid to explore ourselves; we tend to cling to our social identities and our roles in daily life. When we are alone, we have the opportunity to let those roles go, but this can be frightening because, without an identity to hold on to, we are forced to explore who we are. Solitude is necessary to recalibrate our sense of self and gain a perspective on life. In solitude, we also discover our unique strengths. It takes time with our self to know what our strengths are and how we can contribute those strengths. Taking time for oneself is often misunderstood as being self-indulgent, but unless we get to know ourselves in a deeper way, we don’t know what we have inside to offer.
You Get to Accept Yourself
We feel lonely when we are not understood by others, but when we understand ourselves, we don’t expect or need everyone to understand us. We are firm in ourselves, realizing that we are enough. The need for approval from others falls away as we find more assurance in ourselves. Solitude is a way to commit to taking the time we need to be able to engage in our life from a deeper, more meaningful place.
You Get to Problem Solve
Solitude gives us permission to quiet our mind and create space for fresh insights. We need solitude to solve problems, find answers, and let new discoveries emerge. Even the boredom which often comes with solitude contributes to the creative process. If we do not have empty time, there is no space for inspiration to come through. As much as we try to avoid boredom, sitting with it has a purpose. From boredom comes insights into new ways to do things.
You Get to Practice Necessary Self-Care
Self-care is a requirement, just like food or water. We are told to drink before we are thirsty, because by the time our body communicates thirst, we are already dehydrated. When we crave alone time, we are already beyond our need for it.
Taking time to ourselves is most commonly seen as something we do when life becomes overwhelming, or we have burnt out, but it is important to take time for ourselves before we get to this point. When we spend time alone we can wind-down, rest, and restore; we bring our lives into balance before becoming entirely depleted from the stresses of daily life. When there is time without obligations, we can go inside, notice what is there, and discover what we need. Slowing down allows us to hear the needs of our soul.
Taking adequate solitude as a form of self-care also prevents resentment from building in our relationships. When we overextend ourselves, we feel like others are “taking” our time, but in reality, we are not giving it to ourselves. Taking time to nourish ourselves first allows us to build up a reserve to be able to better give to others and when we give to ourselves, the desire to reach out and give to others is more sincere.
You Get to Nurture Healthy Relationships
Our most significant relationship is our relationship with our self. If we are happy and at peace with our self, then we can cultivate healthy relationships with others. If we are not content with our self, we will never find satisfaction from those around us. When we are full in ourselves, we don’t seek company to fill the emptiness. Looking to others to meet our needs leads to co-dependency, but others are not responsible for our well-being. Solitude helps us learn to be more accountable for ourselves, to not be hurt when others don’t provide the attention that we desire.
How to Find Solitude
You start by disconnecting. Take every means of connecting with others, and sever them. Disconnect from email, from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, from forums and social media, from instant messaging and Skype, from news websites and blogs. Turn off your mobile device and phones.
- Turn off the computer … unless you’re going to use the computer to create, in which case, shut off the Internet, close your browser, and shut down every other program used to connect with others.
- Take your lunch hour by yourself in a park or a cafe.
- Wake up 30 minutes earlier than everyone else in your house or go to bed 30 minutes later to have space to yourself.
- Arrive at appointments early, so you have time to sit and read.
- Schedule a small block of time for yourself in your day.
- Set a weekly date with yourself to do an activity you usually would not do alone – this could be a visit to a museum, a concert, or a walk in the park.
- When at work or home close your door to distractions.
- When in nature take a moment to pause and notice the beauty of it.
Warning: Don’t Blow Off the Family
It is very important to communicate your need for alone time in a way that shows you still value your relationships. Suddenly disappearing or blowing people off will harm your relationships. Avoid being vague when expressing your need for solitude “I need space” or “I need time to myself” usually comes across as a rejection. We can talk about a need for solitude without making it seem like we are pushing others away, alienating them, or avoiding deeper intimacy. Stating a need for self-care, quiet relaxation, or a specific activity that you like to do by yourself will be better received and prevent others from worrying about you or feeling rejected by you.
If you would like other ways to improve your health, feel free to sign up for a complimentary consultation where we can chat.