Getting Back to Savoring Solitude
In today’s technology-driven world, we have community at our fingertips. Within seconds we can message friends, join a group chat, or electronically converse with colleagues face-to-face. We have endless ways to connect with others so we never have to be alone. And while this instantaneous access to community definitely has its perks, it can also hinder our ability to experience the benefits of solitude.
The “S” Word
The COVID lockdown gave solitude a bad name, as we had no choice but to physically isolate ourselves from one another. Staying in and staying away became the new normal, and we all experienced symptoms of social withdrawal.
According to psychalive.org, too much alone time can lead to depression, loneliness, self-critical thoughts, and even poor health. So, it’s no surprise that during this period of forced solitary confinement, many people struggled, and society as a whole began to loathe solitude.
But as life returns to its pre-pandemic state, should we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater? Or might there be some advantages to intentionally making space for times of solitude? Rather than being made to quarantine, what if we deliberately sought out moments of separation from the outside world? And, to take a step further, what if, as we learn to embrace these moments, we also learn to enjoy and look forward to them?
Benefits of Solitude
Whether you are extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in between, there are benefits of being alone for both your mental and physical health.
Ever struggle to quiet your thoughts? Does your brain sometimes run a mile-a-minute with no signs of slowing down? Being alone gives your brain the space and time it needs to recharge and to process those thoughts without the stress of external distractions. It also fosters an environment of creativity and increased productivity due to better focus.
And much like how our minds become exhausted when overstimulated, our bodies can begin to show signs of wear as well. Even though I have always been an extrovert, I find myself increasingly drained physically by social activities that require me to engage with others. The aftermath requires more rest on my part to replenish that expended energy.
Recognizing that our bodies and minds need time to recoup is half the battle.
So, as we learn about the health benefits of being alone, what are some ways we can maximize our moments of seclusion?
Healthline.com’s Ann Pietrangelo suggests taking a step back from social media — if not all technology — to reduce stress and promote a quiet mind. “Perform a test run and ban yourself from social media for 48 hours,” she says. “If that makes a difference, try giving yourself a daily limit of 10 to 15 minutes, and stick to it.”
Another way to incorporate alone time is via a creative outlet or hobby. “What have you always dreamed of doing, but have put off?” Pietrangelo asks. “Don’t worry if you’re not good at it. The point is to try something new and different, to take a step outside your comfort zone.” Want to take up painting? Learn a new instrument? Give it a try!
Here are a few other ideas for enjoying solitude:
- Go to your room for a little bit and shut the door
- Read outside on a sunny day
- Wake up early to enjoy a cup of coffee by yourself
- Take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood alone
- Meditate or pray
- Enjoy time with a pet
Of course, these are just a few small ideas to implement on your mental and physical health journey. You can learn how to enjoy your own company by trying different options that best suit your personality, hobbies, daily routines, and lifestyle.
If you are struggling with enjoying solitude or find yourself self-isolating too often, we at Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows can help. Our knowledgeable team of highly experienced professionals offer a variety of workshops that can help you on your journey to wellness, including Thrive. This workshop focuses on helping you to release worn-out patterns and roles and adopt newer, healthier ones. Reach out today to learn more.