“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn that anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” — David Whyte
We are naturally social beings. Society encourages our evolutionary and heeds us to not be alone. Sociability ensures survival, and it also makes us feel good. So, it is no wonder that for some of us, the thought of being alone terrifies us.
Your aversion to solitude can be a result of stigma or a tumultuous childhood, for example, narcissistic parenting. Perhaps, it is because we often conflate loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is a negative state marked by isolation, whereas solitude is being alone without feeling lonely. But, regardless of the reason, having time alone can be beneficial.
During this quarantine, I’m sure many of us have had to adapt to a life alone in our homes. At first, loneliness can seem terrifying and isolating. But, solitude should not be feared. Many discoveries lie in wait when you take time to be alone.
Time alone affords you time for self-reflection and self-healing. In solitude, you can turn inwards to assess your needs and thoughts and find solutions to pressing problems. Solitude helps you achieve a degree of mental clarity that you might not have been aware that you needed.
Some guiding questions that you ask yourself are: am I holding on to something that does not serve me?, am I living intentionally?, and what matters most to me in life??
One way to make use of alone time is to find joy. We often are bogged down by all the things we have to do that we push aside what we want to do. Finding joy can be taking some time to meditate on your thoughts and emotions or doing something you actually want to do. In the process of exploration and discovery, be grateful for the solitude. Recently, I’ve started a happiness journal where I occasionally write down things that brought me joy. So far, it’s worked. I hope it works for you too.
Nurture your hobbies
Another way to spend time alone is by nurturing your hobbies. This is a perfect time to pick up water-coloring or practice the piano. Having or taking some time to be alone allows you to explore or re-explore those things you were once interested in but did not have time to do.
Nurturing your hobbies not only increases your skill levels but forces you to engage creatively in something, which in turn helps your brain’s development. (cite)
Take time for self-care
During this quarantine, it is important to take time for self-care. Self-care comes in many different packages. For some, it is a physical practice– soaking in a hot bath, painting your nails, or doing your hair. For others, it means disconnecting from social media, practicing yoga, or cleaning. Engage in whatever form of self-care you need. Not only will it give you something to do, but it will instill within you a sense of calm.
Learn something new
Solitude can is a great opportunity to learn something new. Whether you are learning a new language or a new skill, productively engaging your mind for the sake of curiosity is a wonderful way to spend time alone. Learning something new will not only make you feel more confident in your abilities but also helps you create a buffer against stress.
A recent research project found that engaging in learning activities helped workers create a buffer from detrimental effects such as negative emotions, unethical behavior, and burnout.
As we get older, we slowly lose our childhood sense of wonder and excitement over things. We lose our sense of play–engaging in an activity for the sake of the activity. When was the last time you did something for the sake of doing it? Personally, it’s been a while.
Play brings you to the present. While being in the present, the past, the future, and all of their worries dissolve. There are many spiritual, emotional, and mental benefits to play. The most beneficial is how it reduces stress.
As a full-fledged novice adult, play may seem like a waste of time. And, even if you are intrigued by the idea, how would you even play? Well, one way is to develop and retain your sense of wonder. Get curious about even the simplest things. That is the essence of childhood.
Solitude is not just a moment in time. It can also be a state that you go into to find answers about yourself and the world around you. There are many ways to find solitude– on a hike, in some lines of poetry, or during meditation. Being alone does not have to be scary. It is part of your journey back to your true self. It is time that you invest in knowing yourself a bit better–an opportunity to nurture love, find joy, and get curious.
Dahhaj, Z. K. (2018, June 07). Why We Have Lost The Art Of Play & How To Get It Back. Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://medium.com/@zaiderrr/why-we-have-lost-the-art-of-play-how-to-get-it-back-267e68975844
Dahhaj, Z. K. (2018, June 12). Here’s Why You’re Confusing Solitude With Loneliness. Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://medium.com/@zaiderrr/heres-why-your-confusing-solitude-with-loneliness-f636c28d3456
DePaulo, B., Ph.D. (2020, April 19). Finding Solace in Solitude: It’s Not Just About Introversion. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-single/202004/finding-solace-in-solitude-it-s-not-just-about-introversion
Estroff Marano, H. (2016, December 13). What Is Solitude? Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200307/what-is-solitude
McBride, K., Ph.D. (2011, September 3). Why Am I So Afraid of Being Alone? Retrieved 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201109/why-am-i-so-afraid-being-alone
Sreenivasan, S. (2018, December 02). The Benefits of Spending Time Alone. Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201812/the-benefits-spending-time-alone
Watson, R., MPH. (2015, June 3). A Date With Self: 14 Ways to Find Solitude and Its Benefits. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-gratitude/201506/date-self-14-ways-find-solitude-and-its-benefits
Xu, A. (2020, April 22). How to enjoy being alone. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIZyj5Kifrk&ab_channel=Lavendaire
Xu, A. (2020, March 17). 15 Self Care Ideas for Coronavirus Quarantine. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQxpQ94Euic&list=PL37ErCJmMWd2ZGFJ6I8tEg23X3ljLDxf4&index=30
Zhang, C., Myers, C. G., & Mayer, D. M. (2019, November 26). To Cope with Stress, Try Learning Something New. Retrieved November 20, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/09/to-cope-with-stress-try-learning-something-new