In todays society solitude is usually seen as something negative and related to people who are lonely, sad or antisocial. But solitude is actually quite healthy and there are many benefits to be gained by spending time alone. That said, there is of course a huge difference between being lonely and being alone – it’s very important to spend time with people who can help us develop and grow! Too much time with people however can be a bad thing with our digital lifestyle keeping us connected 24/7 and generating activity that can make us feel tired and even bizarrely lonely.
Solitude therefore is essential to our health and wellbeing. Bringing ‘alone’ time into your life can actually reduce feelings of loneliness by developing skills that allow you to become more comfortable being by yourself and building mental strength.
Here are just some of the benefits you can find in seeking solitude.
1. Revitalise. Constantly being on the go doesn’t allow your brain to rest and replenish. Being on your own with no distractions gives you the opportunity to revitalise your mind by clearing your thoughts, focusing and thinking more clearly.
2. Concentrate, create and do more. By removing distractions and interruptions you can concentrate better which will help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time. Many artists, musicians, and authors seek solitude as an important aid to the creative process so maybe open plan offices aren’t always such a good idea?
3. Be yourself. When you’re by yourself you tend to make choices without outside influences and this will help you develop a better insight into who you are. It will also help you be more comfortable with yourself and the better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to be yourself with other people. When you are part of a group, you’re more likely to go along with what everyone else is doing which may not be what you would have decided to do if you’d been on your own.
4. Think more deeply. The day-to-day events of life can make your to-do list seem endless and stop you from engaging in deep thought, inhibiting creativity and lessening productivity. It also makes you less proactive in planning your life so setting aside time to be alone can help you reflect on your goals, dreams, and aspirations and allow you to think about whether you’re living life to your values or whether you might want to make some changes.
5. Deal with problems. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with solutions to problems when you’re distracted by people. Removing incoming information can help you focus on an issue and come up with a solution. Studies have shown that people who set aside time to be alone tend to be happier, report better life satisfaction, lower levels of stress and are less likely to have depression.
6. Enhance relationships. By spending time by yourself you can gain a better understanding of who you are and what you want from life. This means you’ll be more likely to make better choices about who you want to be around and may come to appreciate your relationships more after you’ve spent some time alone. Spending all your time with close friends and family can also contribute to a “us and them” mentality where you see people who don’t fit into your inner circle as different from you so develop less empathy or compassion for them.
Taking ten minutes from your daily routine each day could be enough to help you rejuvenate. It doesn’t matter what you do, meditate, take a walk or write a journal but whatever you do, turn off your phone and tablet and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts. You could also try scheduling a treat just for yourself once a month – a trip to a new restaurant, the theatre or a sporting event.
Solitude, silence and lack of activity may feel uncomfortable at first but setting aside some time to be alone is an essential component in building mental strength and living a healthy life.