Nuns and monks spend prolonged periods in solitude and silence. Philosophers like Plato, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau used solitude to ponder the weightier topics about life and artists spend time alone to spark their creativity.
Solitude is a discipline that has become devalued in today’s fast-paced world – a world suffering from FOMO. And if we are honest; we all have it. We are so afraid to miss out on the latest news, which these days could be the Kardashians’ newest shade of lipstick, that we are connected to the world 24/7 on multiple devices. And the cost? We have become disconnected from the person who matters most: ourselves.
Sherry Turkle, who wrote the book Alone Together, and delivered a Ted Talk on the same topic, said if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely. Sherry believes that we don’t know how to be alone and still. Look at motorists at a stop street or those in line at the supermarket. Everyone usually is looking at some device to pass the time. It’s like being still and alone makes us panic and reach for the closest device.
The answer to loneliness? Being alone. Because this is when you find yourself. When you leave the distractions of the world behind, your mind brings new ideas and thoughts to the fore. And research proves it. Studies have shown that the brain integrates internal and external information when it is at rest.
For those who are uncomfortable with being alone, solitude might seem like torture. And it might seem counterintuitive to suggest being alone to combat loneliness because they might look the same. There is a difference: solitude is being alone, while loneliness is the negative emotional reaction to solitude.
According to Inc.com, spending time alone can help you build the mental strength you need to reach your greatest potential. Here’s how:
- Solitude helps you get to know yourself: Being alone helps you become more comfortable in your skin and helps you make choices for yourself without worrying about other people’s feelings.
- Alone time can improve your relationships: You have carved out quality time for yourself, so you are able to devote your energy to the most important relationships.
- Solitude boosts creativity and productivity: Artists seek out a private space when they want to create something. Studies show employees perform better when they have privacy.
- Solitude improves psychological well-being: It is proven that when people make time to be alone, they are happier, have lower stress levels and are less likely to be depressed.
- Being alone gives you the opportunity to plan your life: Solitude helps you assess your life goals and whether you need to make changes.
Why are we so uncomfortable with being alone? Yes, it does take time to be truly comfortable with being by yourself, but there is tremendous value in identifying the fear or negative emotion behind the discomfort.
Sometimes the parts of us that we are most afraid of hold the key to the greatest awareness. Take the time to get to know yourself. You spend so much time listening to others, isn’t time you listened to yourself?
If you would like to watch Sherry Turkle’s video, click here.