Hyper-communication, social media and open spaces have become the new common ground of the 21st century, and as a consequence many people believe that solitude should be avoided at all costs, something to be dreaded or a sign of social failure.
The problem with such an idea is that most people often mistake solitude for loneliness and do not really understand what it entails, and why it should not be considered as a bad thing. So what is solitude then?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “a state or situation in which you are alone usually because you want to be”. The end of this sentence is the most important part: solitude is a conscious decision, a self-imposed temporary exile from the dizzying speed of the modern world. It means deliberately turning your back on outside stimuli in order to get some well-deserved “me” time.
Trying to avoid solitude at any cost is one of the most common pitfalls in life, and actually does more harm than good.
Why solitude is good for your wellbeing
When you have the entire world at your fingertips through a mouse click on your computer or an app on your phone, you are never truly alone unless you make a conscious decision to take some time out and deliberately ignore the constant stream of information and notifications that can turn your life into a wild dance of unbearable rhythm.
Any time spent in solitude is a fertile soil for introspection, to think about life-defining decisions, or simply to evacuate excessive amounts of stress. When you are alone with yourself you become the centre of your own universe, standing in a thick bubble that keeps you away from outside stimuli. Most people already do it instinctively from time to time. We have all had moments where we cancelled a night out or a scheduled appointment for no apparent reason, just because it did not feel right.
But while we all sometimes feel the urge to take a step back, if you are not really conscious of what you are doing and why, you might miss out on some of the most positive benefits you could draw from such an experience, which then turns into nothing more than a delaying tactic against the assaults of your everyday life.
Once you have learned to recognise this craving for solitude for what it is, it is surprisingly easy to put that time to good use and turn it into an essential and extremely beneficial way of life. Self-awareness of the process you are going through can do wonders for your physical and mental health.
The vital role of meditation
Meditation might be one of the best ways to use that alone time to recenter yourself and restore the balance that went off-track. Move to a room with as much space as possible, lock all the doors and dim the lights, put on some relaxing music, and just let yourself go. Try to clear your mind of any thought, it might be hard at first but practice will make it easier in time. Imagine that every stray thought is an intruder, like a door-to-door salesman ringing the bell on your day off, so just ignore it until it walks away.
When your mind is blank, it turns into an impressively strong battery for your inner energy, restoring your lost potential and putting you back on track with your life. Take as much time as you need. Once you are satisfied with yourself, it is time to open your mind to the outside world again.
This is when meditation should turn into introspection. When your mind is in a blank state and your brain starts sending back thoughts and signals again, try to “catch” every important thought and topic of your life as it comes rushing in. Take a step back from each of them, and try to objectively analyse what is going right, and what is going wrong. Meditation left you overflowing with energy, so it will be easier for you to determine what you could do to improve any situation or dilemma in your life.
Once you recognise your own need for solitude and time spent away from the world, you will also be better prepared for it and will not waste that alone time procrastinating, or letting yourself be drawn by the lure of instant distractions brought by the endless possibilities of the Internet. Try to focus your time on what you actually enjoy doing, watching one of your favorite movies or reading a good book with a warm cup of tea. Try to maximise the benefits that this experience will yield, and you will emerge from your bubble with more confidence and strength than you thought possible.
The benefits of solitude
- A clear head
- Body and mind both balanced and at rest
- A strength that comes from within to help you cope with any stress from the outside world.
These are the main benefits of solitude once you have learned how to see it and use it as a tool and ally rather than another obstacle in your path. Solitude is not the same thing as loneliness, and in a world that keeps changing and evolving faster and faster, where it is so easy to feel lost in a crowd, even when you are surrounded with friends and loved ones, it is a life preserver that can prevent you from drowning in a world of overwhelming information.
People who spend every single moment interacting with friends, colleagues, and family can sometimes be some of the loneliest people in the world. Do not let torrents of information and stimuli make you lose your sense of self. Loneliness and stress can be overcome simply by embracing your primal and very human need for solitude. Make the most of it, and even when you are alone you will never be lonely.
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