Do you sometimes just crave being alone in the midst of your busy days? Do you find your mind wandering, thinking of places and times when you were alone and enjoying your solitude? I know I do!
Finding solitude in today’s world is getting harder and harder these days. Everyone is so busy with work, family responsibilities, and social activities. And then there’s social media, and everyone on it telling you what you should believe and support. Do you ever find yourself wanting to just scream “STOP!”
I get it! I’m with you! Sometimes we NEED our “alone time”, “me time”, SOLITUDE. If you’re an introvert, I’m “preaching to the choir!” You already know what I’m talking about. But even extroverts need periods of solitude too. EVERYONE can benefit from solitude. So, let’s talk a bit about what solitude is and why it is important for all of us.
What is Solitude?
A very basic definition of solitude is simply being alone. But being alone doesn’t mean being lonely.
You could be lonely when you’re alone but loneliness is something entirely different from simply being alone. When we’re feeling lonely, there is a sense of sadness attached to the feeling. We can feel lonely in the middle of a crowd, such as at a party. Loneliness is more of a feeling of isolation, feeling unconnected to others.
Finding solitude, or being alone, is a way to connect with ourselves. Solitude allows us to go deep within ourselves. It allows us to get to know ourselves on a deeper level than simply defining ourselves as a daughter, mother, wife, friend, sister, etc. Spending time alone allows us to get to know the very core of our being, our existence.
What are the Benefits of Solitude?
There are several important benefits to finding solitude in our lives. Spending time alone without the feeling of loneliness is empowering.
Solitude Increases Empowerment
The Irish-born writer, Laurence Stern, once said, “In solitude, the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.” There is nothing more empowering than to know that you can lean upon your own strength in difficult times. In spending time alone with our own thoughts, we come to realize the lessons we have learned in life and how they can help us to move forward in our personal development.
One of the most empowering things I have ever done was to take a solo trip out west. Traveling from Louisiana through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, I spent time in Santa Fe, at the Grand Canyon, down along the border with Mexico, and out to California. I followed the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, then ventured over Donner Pass and on through Nevada to Idaho where I stopped to visit my daughter. I reveled in my time alone and did exactly as I pleased. I managed my own time and money and it was the most exciting and empowering experience of my life.
Author, Stephanie Rosenblum, writes about her similar experiences in the book, Alone Time. She talks of eating alone in a restaurant in Paris, spending time alone in a museum, traveling to Istanbul alone, and wandering the streets of Florence by herself. At times she had to find solitude and avoid the crowds of tourists that seemed to overrun the cities. But when she found her solitude, she found a feeling of peace and inner strength that only time alone with one’s thoughts can give. You can learn more of her solo travels and knowledge gained through them by reading her inspiring book. I’ve provided my affiliate link here for your convenience.
Solitude Increases C
Research tells us that solitude increases our clarity. When we take the time to find solitude, we have the time necessary to formulate our own thoughts without any outside influences. Of course, that means no social media access and no contact with others during this special alone time. This is a time when we can get away from the overwhelm of others’ messages and learn to find our own voice. We can focus on our own goals and plans and what they may mean for our future.
Solitude Increases Empathy for Others
Other studies have found that solitude increases our empathy for others. There is a concept in social psychology known as “groupthink.” It refers to members of a specific group who all have similar thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about certain things. When one member of the group declares a belief about a subject or person, the other members agree without doing any critical thinking of their own. That can be a very dangerous thing to do. It can lead to conditions such as bigotry, prejudice, or bullying. On the other hand, it can lead to the glorification of others, putting them high on a pedestal on which they don’t belong.
However, when we allow ourselves the time to think on our own, without falling into the immediate agreement with others, it can lead to putting ourselves in the shoes of the person in question, and developing empathy for them. It involves seeing the person from another perspective and imagining how they feel, how they live, what difficulties they face. I’d say we certainly need more empathy in the world today and less judging others which “groupthink” inevitably leads to. What do you think?
Solitude Increases Creativity
Psychologist Rollo May once said, “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”
Is it any wonder that artists, writers, and other creatives seek the proverbial “cabin in the woods” in order to work on their masterpieces? Finding solitude provides them the opportunity to get lost in their own thoughts, to be alone in order to bring forth deep musings on certain subjects. This is vitally important when creatives strive to produce something new, a paradigm shift even. That is what I consider a “constructive use of solitude.”
Even if you aren’t an artist or writer, solitude can produce the creativity to problem-solve or to “think outside the box” as it were. For example, remember when your children were young and perhaps had very different personalities? I certainly remember that!
When I was young, it hurt me far more for my daddy to tell me he was disappointed in me than any other punishment he could come up with. When my daughter was young, I tried the same method on her. Let’s just say, it failed miserably! She needed a far more structured approach to discipline. So, years later when my son came along, I used the same structured approach with him. Again, didn’t work. My two children required completely different approaches to discipline. When I tried the disappointment approach with my son, he totally broke down in tears. He was distraught! Clearly, I had to find some middle ground with him. That took some creativity on my part.
When we allow ourselves time to dig deep, to think, research, and find alternative approaches to problems, it increases our ability to be even more creative in the future. In effect, solitude allows us to “practice” being creative which leads to more creative thinking.
Solitude Decreases Stress
Solitude provides the space we need to relax and de-stress. We can stop worrying about what the world thinks of us and focus on what is more important, that is what we think of ourselves.
Finding space in our lives for our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions increases the comfort that we enjoy in being alone. Simply taking time to close our eyes and breathe fully, decreases our stress. If we do something physical while alone, it decreases stress even more. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the neighborhood while disconnected from our technology. Even a 30-minute walk every day can be beneficial in reducing stress as well as increasing energy and well-being.
But what if being alone, without others around is scary for you? What if it increases your stress? I have known friends in the past who didn’t feel comfortable going to a restaurant and eating alon or seeing a movie in a theatre alone.
Extroverts often feel most comfortable when others are around. They thrive on the social aspects of going to a party or vacationing with a group of friends. They may feel uncomfortable with the thought of intentionally seeking time to be alone. Yet, extroverts can still find benefits in seeking solitude. As I said earlier, everyone can benefit from spending time alone. This is a time to get to know ourselves a little better. It may take practice. It may mean starting very slow in five or ten minute increments. But the more time we spend alone with our own thoughts, the more comfortable we become with it.
How to Find and Enjoy Solitude
To help you get started in finding solitude in your life as I have in mine, I’ve prepared a little list of ways and places you can find your alone time.
- Take a walk in your neighborhood. Leave the earphones at home and just walk with your own thoughts.
- On your drive to work, turn off the radio and audiobooks, and spend time with yourself. Just drive in silence. Let your mind wander a bit and land on whatever it chooses.
- Sit on a park bench with your journal and jot down the thoughts that flow through your mind. Allowing yourself to be aware of your surroundings and thoughts about them is soothing and restorative
- Go to a museum alone and think about what attracts you to certain pieces. What does a specific painting or sculpture mean to you?
- Drive to a local state or national park and spend time in nature. Whenever I have had enough of the city, I drive to a favorite spot in a state park about twenty minutes away to BE with nature. Sometimes if the weather is not conducive to hiking, I sit in my car, alone with my thoughts. I have a friend who drives to a city park and watches geese on the lake on her lunch hour. Spending time with nature is relaxing and yet I feel energized and refreshed when I come back down from the park.
- Solo travel is empowering! Even spending just a night alone in a hotel to think and indulge yourself by doing things YOU enjoy is energizing and productive. You can eat what you want, do what you want, stay up as late as you want or turn in as early as you like. You don’t have to worry about compromising with anyone else. You are IN CHARGE!
- If you have an extra room in your house, especially now that the kids are on their own, consider turning it into space for yourself. You can use it for reading, crafting, listening to music, writing, painting, or whatever YOU like to do. Make this space comfortable for you and decorate it using your favorite colors. Even if you don’t have an extra room, try to carve out a space of your own with a comfortable chair and a lamp in a corner of your room. If you don’t have room for even that, lock the bathroom door and take a hot bath with a glass of wine or a book or BOTH. The point is to INDULGE yourself.
- Disconnect from technology. Technology is great and can save us time when doing a lot of tasks. But technology can also become overwhelming in its constant availability to others and their opinions and thoughts. Take time to totally disconnect from technology in order to be alone with your own thoughts.
- Schedule an appointment with yourself. Put it on your calendar and don’t let anything take its place. Treat it like any other appointment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10-minute appointment or a half-day appointment. YOU are important! So, keep the appointment with yourself.
- Learn to say no to others when you need time for yourself. Be kind when turning down an invitation and schedule another time to be with a friend so they don’t feel slighted. Be sure to let your significant other know why you need time alone and be sure do something special together before or after your alone time.
Solitude means spending time alone without feeling lonely. Spending time alone has many benefits such as finding your own voice, increasing creativity, increasing empathy for others, and decreasing stress to name a few. If you’re unfamiliar with spending time alone, it can be a little scary at first. It’s okay to start slowly with just a few minutes and increasing the time as you become more comfortable with spending time with your own thoughts. The more time you spend in solitude, the more empowered you become. In order to find the time and space you need, you may need to schedule an appointment with yourself. Use this time to go for a walk, immerse yourself in nature, or sit on a park bench with your journal. Learn to say no to others when you feel the need for solitude. Remember that you are in charge of your own life and your time for the solitude you need.
To read more about solitude and self-care you might be interested in this post: Top 10 Ways to Love Yourself This Valentine’s Day. If you want to keep up with the latest on Self-care, Travel, and the Empty Nester Lifestyle just go the box at the bottom of this page and subscribe to my emails. AND receive a freebie, my easy Travel Planner.
Subscribe and get your Free Travel Planner!
Subscribe to get your freebie and our latest content by email.