Solitude: How & Why to Spend Time Alone

When was the last time you were alone? Not lonely, or isolated, or missing someone. But alone, happily, by choice?

If you’re still thinking, it’s been too long. 

Modern society has developed some negative associations with the idea of being alone. When kids misbehave, parents send them to their rooms to sit in silence as a punishment for their bad behavior. Staying at home alone on a Friday or Saturday night is frowned upon. You’d be considered a “loser” for doing so and your friends would ask if you’re okay.

We’ve been wired to believe that solitude is our enemy.

We’ve also confused “being alone” with “being lonely”. But that, of course, is not the case. Being alone doesn’t necessarily cause loneliness and many people can feel lonely despite being in the constant presence of other people.

Loneliness is about perceiving that no one is there for you. But solitude is about making a choice to be alone with your thoughts.

Amy Morin

The truth is, solitude is necessary for our well-being and potential success.

Research has come to prove that there are several long-term benefits to solitude.

  1. It allows you to learn more about yourself and find your own voice.
    In a world where information is available at your fingertips and everyone has an opinion to share, sometimes it’s incredibly rewarding to trust that you have the answers you seek. All it takes it to build the habit of looking within to converse with yourself. Solitude becomes a medium to learn more about who you are as a person. 
  2. It empowers you to become comfortable with who you are.
    The more you learn to shun out external influence, the more comfortable and confident you feel about your authenticity. This confidence, in turn, will project in the future decisions you will make. 
  3. It boosts your creativity. A recent study found that people who enjoy solitude tend to be more creative. I personally really appreciate my alone time. It allows me to rewind, to reflect and more so, allow my imagination to wander. Most often it’s when I roam in nature that I get my best ideas.
  4. It gives you an opportunity to plan your life.
    We plan our business meetings and our upcoming vacations. At work, there are quarterly business reviews and bi-annual performance reviews. We plan and reflect for work and fun — but why don’t we do the same for our dreams, aspirations and personal lives? Take a break from the rhythm of rush to reflect on whether you’re living a life true to you and your goals. 
  5. It improves your mental wellbeing.
    Studies have shown that people who learn to find comfort in solitude tend to be happier, experience lower levels of stress and are less likely to have depression.

How to Spend Your ‘Alone Time’

You don’t have to go to a cabin in the woods or fly all the way to a remote island to learn how to spend time alone. All it takes is to integrate 10 minutes per day to be alone with your thoughts — and if that’s too difficult to start with, I recommend you block out 10 minutes every Sunday evening for yourself.

Is that too difficult of a task to do? I highly doubt it.

But how do you actually spend time with yourself? Is there more to it than just sitting in silence with no distractions? You bet! Here are a few other recommendations that might inspire you.

1. Pick Up An Old Hobby Or Try A New One

What better way to pass the time than by doing something you love? Maybe it’s something that you did during your college days. Or maybe it’s something that you’ve always wanted to do. 

News flash: you don’t need anyone else! You can do it by yourself. Using your alone time to do something that makes you happy will never feel like a chore. 

2. Journal Through Your Thoughts

Grab your pen and paper and have a heart-to-heart with your journal. Journaling has so many benefits for mental health, which makes it an excellent way to spend your coveted alone time. 

3. Do Nothing

Sometimes it’s really powerful to just sit and do nothing. Let your mind wander and be reassured knowing there’s absolutely nothing you have to do except be there in the moment. 

4. Meditate

Meditation calms you down and sharpens your focus muscle. It’s hard at first, but with time, you will love it so much that it becomes a pillar in your daily routine. 

5. Set Goals

Take control of your life. If you don’t invest the time to be alone with your thoughts and ask yourself “what do I want to achieve this year” then you’ll end up living your life on autopilot. You need a goal — a destination to work towards. Take the time to plan where you want to go in life.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

It’s not easy to be able to sit alone with your thoughts for extended periods of time, but at an age when social connectivity is the constant, it’s imperative for our mental health to frequently unplug.

You need to give yourself the time you deserve to be with your mind, to look within, and engage in a meditative experience. You can sit in silence. You can journal. You can plan your week ahead. You can go for a walk in nature.

It doesn’t matter what you use your time alone for.

The most important thing is that you build the habit of embracing solitude and inviting more of it into your life. You’ll learn more about yourself and you’ll become more aware of your emotions. In short, it’s the best form of self-care.

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