For many, working from home during lockdowns meant a lot more time spent alone. But for some, spending time alone was difficult, with kids attending online school and spouses also at home. Thus, people began to appreciate the power of solitude. On the one hand, too much time to ourselves triggered feelings of loneliness. On the other, the inability to find time alone led to frustration and stress. Thus, it’s important to consider exactly how much solitude is the right amount.
In the past, most of the research involving solitude involved its association with loneliness. As scientists have long noted, human beings are social creatures that thrive in relationships and interactions. But increasingly, many are now recognizing that solitude is also important when it comes to health and wellness. The pandemic has certainly been a catalyst in this regard as it forced us to appreciate the power of solitude. Spending time alone is something each of us need. Unfortunately, determining just how much time is tricky. In order to figure out how much time alone you require, it helps to appreciate how solitude affects our overall wellbeing.
Exactly What Is Solitude?
For most people, the term solitude is associated with spending time alone in a physical sense. In other words, any time when we’re away from other people was considered a state of solitude. But in today’s highly connected world, this is no longer the case. We can be completely alone at home but be connected to others through all types of devices and media. From live gaming, to online chats, to social media, solitude has become harder to define and harder to achieve. In this regard, the power of solitude we often crave can actually be harder to find in today’s tech environment.
While technological advances have made it more difficult to tap into the power of solitude, it’s not impossible to find. In fact, we could be sitting in a crowded room and find solitude if we want. Spending time alone doesn’t have to mean we are completely isolated from others’ presence. But it does mean we are not interacting or communicating with them. The key feature of solitude is the feeling of aloneness regardless of the setting. From this perspective, solitude is best defined as a feeling of being alone without any form of communication with others.
Understanding the Power of Solitude
As mentioned, solitude can be associated with some negative effects. Spending time alone in excess can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This was clearly evident for many during the pandemic, which played a role in higher rates of depression. But solitude is also associated with many benefits. For example, solitude provides an opportunity for self-reflection and self-knowledge. This ultimately helps us form more meaningful relationships because we know ourselves better. Solitude can also boost self-confidence as we better appreciate who we are and what we value. This is why some degree of solitude is essential for us to be our very best. (Read more about the importance of building meaningful relationships in this Project Bold Life story!)
There are other notable advantages in having the power of solitude. When we find time to be alone with our own thoughts and emotions, we tend to enhance our creativity. We give our imagination a chance to explore. The right amount of solitude has also been linked to lower amounts of stress and to a positive mood. The key, however, is find that middle ground of solitude where it’s not too much or too little. And in this regard, everyone seems to differ in the amount of solitude they require.
Great Ways to Spend Time Alone
In order to get the most out of your time alone, there are a number of activities that can help. One of the most effective ways to capture the power of solitude is through meditation. Being mindful and meditating on your feelings, thoughts, and life goals can be incredibly rewarding. Likewise, these practices enable us to better reflect on our dreams and our present life. Other activities you might consider when spending time alone also include journaling. The act of writing feelings and thoughts down requires concentration and introspection. By nature, this can enhance the benefits you can receive from solitude.
While meditation, journaling and self-reflection are usually performed when we’re physically alone, they don’t have to be. In fact, you can close your eyes regardless of your environment and enjoy a moment of solitude. You might even place headphones over your ears (without music or sound) to deter anyone from interacting with you. Researchers have found that as little as 15 minutes of solitude can provide us with its advantages. Therefore, spending time alone even for a brief amount of time each day can be quite rewarding.
Using the Power of Solitude
When it comes to determining how much alone time you need, you’re your own best judge. However, there are some things that seem to matter for everyone. For example, there’s a difference between whether you intentionally choose to be alone or whether it is forced upon you. The pandemic forced many to be isolated even when they didn’t want to be. Also, the context matters as well. In some situations, you might be better off being social and interacting with others. Spending time alone in these instances might not be very beneficial.
Regardless, it’s evident that spending time alone is important to a degree. Each of us need some solitude to thrive, and making room for some alone time is important. If we want to be our best, then we need to tap into the power of solitude. While we may not need as much time alone as we have had during the pandemic, some solitude is still required. By appreciating this, and by making the most of our time alone, we increase our ability to be our best.
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