If we’re not surrounded by coworkers, family or friends, we’re on our phones or engaging with digital media. Even situations which should see us alone with our thoughts (running, going to the bathroom etc) are now invariably accompanied by some form of stimuli, be it music and/or our phones!
The result? We’re missing out the joy of solitude, and the many health benefits it brings.
Solitude vs. Isolation
The truth is, we often associate being ‘alone’ with negatives outcomes, such as loneliness and feeling isolated, so it’s really no wonder that the concept is so widely feared... and avoided. Whether knowingly, or out of habit, we swerve aloneness with external distractions, but this may not always be beneficial.
Contrary to this opinion, there are in fact circumstances when being on our own can be extremely therapeutic, self-strengthening and create a huge psychological boon! This is especially the case in times of personal turbulence, when it creates the perfect environment for practicing introspection and being what’s known as ‘together alone’.
The pursuit of solitude
The difference between loneliness and the more positive form of aloneness - solitude is that the latter is pursued by choice. We need to actively ‘find it’ and embrace it. This kind of productive solitude gives the feeling of being alone without being lonely. It is, however, dependent on three conditions being met.
1️⃣The aloneness has to be voluntary
2️⃣ Emotions and self-reflection must be regulated
3️⃣ The person should be able to join and maintain a social group when desired
If these conditions are met (and if boredom can be overridden) aloneness is a great thinking tool, and provides the ideal incubation environment for new ideas and creativity, as many artists, writers and scientists would probably concur.
So how do we find alone time, and use it for positive self-reconfiguring? Well, true solitude is amorphous. Some can find it sitting alone in a noisy cafe, headphones in, journal in hand. For others, it requires freedom from all stimuli that might detract from the process. The important thing- above all else - is to find what works for you to be able to engage with yourself, and to ‘find the time, to have time.’