The Benefits of Solitude
“I restore myself when I’m alone.” – Marilyn Monroe
Having spent most of my life in laid-back and low pressure environments (I grew up in the Philippines, rural Japan and suburban New Hampshire) there never seemed to be a shortage of opportunities to spend in solitude.
However, since relocating to a busy neighborhood in Boston, I’ve found it way too easy to get sucked into a vortex of incessant socializing, entertainment and stimulation. (I use the term “busy” loosely, as Coolidge Corner may seem tranquil compared to other areas in Boston proper.)
So after a busy week of training and teaching extra classes, I was eagerly anticipating a weekend of solitary silence.
With the exception of a friend’s dog, I spent my Saturday alone, blissfully hopping from park to park reading and enjoying the silence.
I shut my phone and computer off for most of the day and enjoyed being outside.
This momentary stint of detachment gently reminded me of how vital intermittent bouts of solitude can be to my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
Call it meditation, solitude, introspection, or a host of other synonyms, spending time alone can be therapeutic for the mind, body, and soul.
When you momentarily separate yourself, your mind and body calm down thus allowing raw feelings and masked emotions to emerge.
Through solitude, your true self is revealed.
In my own life, I have a tendency to hop from being a social butterfly to a complete hermit.
The challenge in my life has been finding the balance between the two.
One moment I’m having breakfast with a client, lunch with Mary, and dinner with my brother, to then completely sinking into my shell and shutting everything off around me.
And like a double edged sword, too much of either, can be counterproductive.
However, like the title suggests, there are many beneficial reasons to practice the art of intermittent solitude.
In our modern era of ceaseless beeps, notifications, texts, emails, tweets, messages, and perpetual stimulation, a bit of solitude can go a long way.
My time alone on Saturday, reminded me of those benefits and inspired me to share them with you. I hope you enjoy
Benefits of Solitude
1. Time to self-reflect and re-assess your path, goals and intentions.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are constantly influenced by the environment around us. Our friends, co-workers, family, and the media can all shape the direction of our life, good and bad.
By spending time alone, away from all of this, you can re-assess the direction your life is going without the influence of everyone else around you.
You can evaluate your intentions and discover if the choices and decisions in your life are truly coming from your heart, or from some external source.
2. Better sleep and lower stress.
Constant stimulation, whether from t.v.’s, computers, artificial light, noise, music, or just day to day living, can create an increase in stress levels in our body’s.
By temporarily removing as much external stress as possible, we give our nervous system a break.
This can naturally lower stress hormones like cortisol, which will not only help you sleep better, but help you repair your body, help you lose weight, and increase your emotional well-being.
3. Better appreciation of the people in your life.
One of the first signs that indicates its time for me to have a day to myself, is when I start to become irritated with the people in my life.
In the majority of my relationships, I take on the role of the listener and the supportor. And I take on this role with the upmost pride. So when I start to feel agitated with a close friend, I know it’s time back-off a bit.
By temporarily limiting interaction with the people I’m close to, it helps me to better appreciate their time and company when I am with them.
4. Increased creativity and imagination.
My best thinking and writing come after periods of silence and solitude. Inspiration hits me suddenly when I can step outside of my typical thought patterns and see the world in a clearer view.
Quoting an article from Zenhabits.net (one of my favorite blogs) some of the world’s most brilliant minds have attributed solitude to their accomplishments:
Mozart: “When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer–say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep–it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.”
Picasso: “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”
By reducing outside clatter and distractions, you allow your mind to think more clearly thus opening the door for your creativity and imagination to run wild.
5. Time to enjoy personal hobbies.
Some hobbies are just easier to partake alone.
For instance, I love drawing and painting. And although this can be done in a group setting, I find that I need the peace and quiet to really concentrate on creating a piece of art.
It can be tough to schedule time to work on your hobbies, but the effort is well worth it. I always find great satisfaction when I can spend an hour or two drawing or even just writing in my journal.
By having some time alone, you can enjoy your hobbies without distraction or rush which will help add more balance and peace into your life.
Coming from someone who works in a very social and public arena (I’m a personal trainer and being social and personable is how I make a living), I totally understand how hard it can be to squeeze in these necessary “me” times.
I have learned though, that by adding even just a few hours a week of complete solitude, you will not only think clearer, but you will feel more refreshed, less anxious, and more appreciative of the people and things in your life.
So the next time you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, agitated, or anxious, try spending some time alone.
It may be just the cure.