With the constant “ding” and “swipe” most people partake in – I wonder how many people still understand, cherish, and make room for “alone time” compared to 30 years ago.
Alone but Not Lonely: 6 Amazing Benefits of Solitude
by Nikki Harper
Solitude – what images does this word conjure up for you? Do you picture yourself in blissful isolation, enjoying downtime, peace and quiet, or do you picture yourself locked away somewhere remote, feeling lonely, bored and miserable? In today’s hyper-connected, high speed world, solitude can be difficult to find, even if you want to find it – and yet this state of aloneness can bring many benefits.
Craved by some, and feared by others, our relationship with solitude is somewhat mixed. We know that ‘solitary confinement’ is a disturbing kind of punishment, and we know that loneliness can severely impact mental health . Yet there’s a lot of research which shows that solitude can be a very positive choice – providing that it is indeed a choice, and not something imposed against someone’s will  .
What Do We Mean by Solitude?
To understand the benefits of solitude, it’s important to understand that solitude is not the same as loneliness. By definition, loneliness is a state of wishing for company or greater social contact, whereas solitude is a deliberate act of withdrawing from company. Loneliness can last for years, whereas solitude may last for only a few moments – half an hour or so of solitude here and there will still bring benefits.
Solitude does not necessarily mean being physically isolated. For sure, being miles from anywhere helps, but you can experience solitude in your own home, at work and in your normal neighborhood. It’s a state of mind that is not linked to your physical environment.
To experience micro solitude, in your daily life, when you don’t have much time, simply stop interacting with other people for a short while. Turn off all of your devices and let it be known that you’re not to be interrupted. Don’t work, or read, or attempt to entertain yourself – just be. You may experience solitude while out for a run, if you’re not actively engaging with other people, or in a crowded station where you’re sitting with just your own thoughts. You can create moments of solitude anywhere and at any time you choose – although admittedly it’s easier to notice the benefits if you’re in a cabin in the woods rather than in a bustling coffee shop. However, in today’s hectic world, moments of solitude are something of a luxury, to be grabbed when and where you can.
6 Benefits of Solitude
Hearing Your Own Thoughts
If you’re lucky enough to experience solitude somewhere very quiet, or if you’re good at tuning out extraneous noise, then you’ll start to notice more and more of your own thoughts. Many of us have an internal monologue as a constant companion in any case but few of us pay a great deal of attention to what it’s telling us. When you’re in solitude, you can hear your own thoughts much more clearly – and that means you can pick up on self-doubt, self-criticism and nagging insecurities. Once you know these are an issue, you can take steps to address them.
When you are in solitude, with just your own thoughts to occupy your mind, you’ll start to notice that your intuition is strengthened. In our busy daily lives, we tend to gloss over intuitive feelings, or not even notice them at all. A hint of a feeling that something isn’t right or that someone isn’t quite who they seem is easily suppressed when you have to get the dinner cooked or turn in that report. In solitude, you will notice these intuitive gut feelings and learn to hear them – and to trust them.
Better Decision Making
Regular solitude can help to provide clarity of mind. Extraneous details often cloud our judgment when we face a problem or a choice and it’s hard to hear or see clearly through the chaos. Periods of solitude strip away the unnecessary layers, allowing us to get to the heart of the matter. This, coupled with an increase in intuition, allows us to make more confident decisions, and to stop second-guessing ourselves.
Humility and Self-Sufficiency
When you’re in solitude – whether you’re on a week’s escape somewhere or simply taking 15 minutes out of your day to sit quietly in your car – you’re allowing the world to turn without you. And, turn it does. Who knew? You’re not as indispensable as you thought you were. Regular periods of solitude increase your sense of humility as your ego learns that the world does not depend on your presence. Crucially, you also learn that you do not depend on anyone else either, which is a very empowering realization.
An End to Harmful Comparisons
In our daily lives, we typically can’t help but compare ourselves to others – very often, unfavorably. So and so is younger, prettier, more artistic, more intelligent, richer, better liked, more loved – the list goes on. And on. During periods of solitude, even if they come in very short bursts, it’s just you. You’re not interacting with anyone else. There is nobody to compare yourself to. Sure, at first, your thoughts may still be dominated by this kind if negativity, but that will lessen as you practice solitude more and more. It’s a process which truly facilitates you being comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Discovery of the Divine
Periods of quiet solitude allow you to hear your own thoughts, as first mentioned above. However, they also allow you to hear something else too, something much more important – when your mental clutter has cleared, you’ll start to sense something of the divine interconnectedness around us. Moments of solitude are a great opportunity to practice mindfulness and meditation, which in turn can reveal your link to the divine. Spending solitude outdoors, close to nature, can also lead to divine insights, particularly if you spend time simply paying close attention to nature all around you.
Remember, to start experiencing the benefits of solitude, you don’t need to decamp to a hermit’s cave, and you don’t need to commit huge chunks of your day. Making a conscious decision to be alone – or mentally alone if not physically alone – is a glorious thing, and as little as 15 minutes a day is a great way to start.