In the past few years, months-long mandated isolation, social distancing, and quarantines gave people a better understanding of solitude and loneliness. Most perceptions of being alone lean toward unhealthy, negative things, but they can also be good for you. Find out why a little solitude is good for you in this article.
Solitude Vs. Loneliness: What’s the Difference?
Most people frequently interchange the terms solitude and loneliness, thinking they both mean similar things. But the truth is that they’re far different from each other. Although solitude conjures negative connotations, many philosophers and great thinkers from ancient times, like Lao Tzu and Emerson, see solitude as something beneficial and needed by everyone.
Loneliness is often associated with feelings of isolation, unwantedness, and emptiness. The idea of being lonely meant a person feeling separated from other people either by external or internal factors. It’s something that, while empty, weighs heavily on an individual’s mind and body.
In addition, experts also link loneliness to several health issues, especially mental health disorders, Alzheimer’s, and depression. The most common reason for feeling lonely stems from involuntary social pain due to a lack of connection and feelings of isolation, even with other people present.
Unlike loneliness, solitude is the choice to be alone. The person who prefers solitude uses their time alone for self-reflection and enjoyment.
Due to solitude being an option, people can still connect and feel belongingness with others after taking time for themselves.
“There is vast opportunity for the growing body of research to pursue a deeper understanding of the benefits and costs of solitude; who benefits from or suffers in solitude and when; and how to intervene to promote positive solitude.” – Netta Weinstein, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Psychology, University of Reading (UK)
The Art of Solitude: What’re the Benefits of Alone Time?
Contrary to what many believe, both extroverts and introverts need time alone. Although some people prefer to be alone for long periods, everyone requires alone time every day, no matter how short. In addition to a break from socialization, studies also show people of different ages should experience solitude at varying degrees as they age. Here are some advantages to having alone time in your daily schedule.
Researchers in a 2017 study on solitude found that people actively choosing time alone experience better stress relief and feel more relaxed after making time for themselves in a quiet, regulated space. People, by nature, are social beings. To some degree, while different from each other, everyone needs socialization every day to feel a sense of belongingness. Due to this, many are under constant pressure to please whomever they interact with.
The study shows that when an individual spends time alone, the pressures they feel go away. In addition, solitude allows people the time to practice their preferred relaxation activities, like yoga, meditation, and exercise.
It Resets and Refreshes the Brain
Your brain is one of the most-worked organs of your body. Even if you’re active or at rest, the brain continues to work and function. It also becomes easily distracted when around people or in crowded spaces.
Due to these distractions, your mind works harder, making it difficult to think clearly. When you spend time alone, your brain has time to reset and clear itself. It’s also faster to focus and longer to stay clear-headed. Alone time gives your brain a much-needed rest, refreshing and revitalizing your mind and body.
Improved Self Exploration and Introspection
When you regularly spend time alone, you become more comfortable with yourself. This comfort gives you the freedom to explore your likes and passions without interference. In addition, nothing limits you from trying new things, acquiring more knowledge, and practicing better ways of self-expression.
Most people experience difficulties reconnecting with themselves and their passions due to the pressures and judgments coming from socializing. With solitude, people can explore themselves and pursue their wants without thinking of what others will say. Due to that, it’s easier to develop themselves and the skills they need for life and their careers.
In addition, many studies believe self-exploration from solitude makes people more productive and creative. Unlike loneliness, the choice of alone time is a positive psychological experience that lessens the risks of depression and gives higher life satisfaction.
“Solitude can be a context for self-renewal and a tool for the pursuit of creativity and insight, as one basks in the freedom and serenity it can offer.” – Eric Julian Manalastas, Systematic Reviewer, Visible Analytics
Signs You Need a Bit of Solitude and How to Spend Time Alone
Sometimes, the signs of overexposure to socialization and crowds are unrecognizable. Most people only find out when it becomes too much and overwhelms them. Knowing what signs to look out for can prevent you from struggling and help you restore your mental, emotional, and physical strengths.
Some signs you should watch out for include:
- A short-temper
- Easily irritated by minor events/things
- Losing interest in socialization
- Easily distracted
- Anxiety around people
Once you tick two or more boxes of these signs, it’s best to start distancing yourself from too much interaction. But when you start spending time alone, you must do it in ways that can benefit your mental well-being. You should be okay with returning to the social world whenever you like after a bit of solitude.
Pick a time of day or week allowing you more free time in solitude. Plan it in ways that nothing and no one can interrupt your alone time until it ends. In addition, preparing something to do can help you feel more comfortable, such as reading a book or exploring a new hobby. It’s also best you turn off your social media to eliminate distractions that encourage social comparisons.
Being Alone Is Good for You
The start of the 20s in this century tested and showed people newer perceptions of the idea of solitude and loneliness. Despite what you initially thought about alone time, putting time into these quiet sessions is good for you in many ways. It clears your head, reconnects you with your inner self, and lessens the risk of any health issue. 2023 is a year focused on rejuvenation and healing, and to reach peak health and stability, you may need a daily dose of solitude.
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