Dr. B is a naturopathic doctor in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of "Rules of Health," a comprehensive guide on healthy living.
The Importance of Solitude
Solitude seems to have developed a bad reputation in our modern world. When someone thinks of solitude, immediate association to loneliness and despair ensues. Most people spend their whole lives trying to keep themselves busy through relationships, hobbies or work—anything to avoid spending time alone with themselves. After all, humans are supposed to be social creatures, so how can anyone find happiness in solitude?
It is possible and may even be one of the keys to happiness. In our fast-paced world of appointments, deadlines and commitments, we lose sight of what is most important, our sanity. Our mental energy can only go on so long before it needs to recharge. Just like our bodies need food and sleep to rejuvenate, our minds need solitude, some alone time to return to a state of balance and harmony. Solitude provides the much-needed space to process thoughts and renews our energy. Introverts need for solitude in most cases is more than the needs of extroverts, and for the introverts out there, acknowledge your introversion and embrace your quiet side, you will be happier and healthier for it.
There are many benefits to spending time with yourself. One of the main benefits to solitude is peace and happiness. Let me elucidate: True happiness doesn’t come from external forces; it derives from our internal mechanism. Our minds are in a constant state of agitation. Just like when water is agitated one cannot see through it clearly, one can find the answers one seeks when the mind settles making our thoughts clear. Giving yourself time to reflect on thoughts without distraction will pull on reserves of creativity and inspiration you never thought you had. You will be able to integrate the mind, body and spirit and bring about peace in your life.
Further to peace of mind, there are health benefits to solitude as well. When we slow down our minds, our parasympathetic system—a branch of the autonomic nervous system—gets activated. This system is responsible for the rest and relaxation response. Your muscles will relax, heart rate slows down and blood pressure normalizes. Furthermore, we achieve lower levels of stress hormones which have long-lasting benefits on body weight and lowered risk for cancer and autoimmune diseases.
During solitude we can reach a state where one feels more connected with the universe, questions that once plagued us gets answered. A chance of self-discovery presents itself. For example, what drives you or excites you? What are your needs and desires? You may find answers to questions like, who am I? Or where am I going in life? Or am I happy with my current state? Such questions need time and introspection to develop answers that are meaningful to you and resonate with your inner core. Sometimes when life’s problems are right there in your face you cannot see and appreciate the big picture until you take a step back and look at it from a different perspective. Solitude is what provides you the perspective of the big picture.
An Easy Step-By-Step Guide for Using Your Alone Time Wisely to Become Happier
Now that we know the benefits of Solitude let’s look into how you can incorporate it in your daily life, without disrupting your rhythm too much.
- First, one needs to realize that solitude is not a luxury but a necessity. It is just as important as going to work or buying groceries.
- Watching TV alone, or playing with your smartphone or reading a book don’t count as activities of solitude. The idea is to get you alone with your thoughts. As scary as it may sound to some, it’s not so bad once you do it a few times. It’s giving you quality time with yourself, to get to know you. Think of it as putting time into the ‘ME bank’. The more quality time you deposit regularly the bigger the returns, in the way of happiness and fulfillment.
- Decide on how much time you want to dedicate to being alone. It can be a little time every day or a bigger chunk of time once in a while. There is no right answer. The length of time depends on you and how much time you need. It can be a few hours a week or few minutes every day. The amount may change over time. You could dedicate maybe a half hour every day to be alone for example.
- Let the people in your life, especially loved ones know that you will be taking alone time and this is something that you need to stay healthy and happy. Significant others may initially feel threatened that you need your own space but should come around once you lovingly explain that this has nothing to do with the relationship but it’s for your own peace of mind. And a happier you will mean a happier and healthier relationship between the two of you.
- Choose a location that is remote enough that no one will disturb you. You could sit quietly in a room, however, In my opinion, nothing beats being in nature. Going to a park and sitting on a bench and just getting lost in the beauty of your surroundings. Or going for a walk in nature and touching the grass and trees, smelling the aromas of the flowers and greenery, watching the birds and animals, all are wonderful activities to do in your alone time. This quality alone time will help you connect with your inner self and become more aware of who you really are. Not to mention the health benefits of exercise and fresh air.
- Meditating on our thoughts is another productive way of spending alone time. The quietness that being alone provides is perfect for meditation and periods of introspection. First start by paying attention to your breath and the movement of your chest and belly as you breathe slowly. Try keeping your focus on your breath and if you get distracted bring your attention back to your breath. Once you feel a sense of calm within start by observing your thoughts. Just be an impartial observer at first and see where your thoughts lead you. Don't follow any thoughts, just let them go and come back to the silence in your mind. Once you have meditated and calmed your mind, spend some time just sensing how you feel. Do you feel more relaxed? Maybe happier than when you started. How is your stress levels? You can also use this opportunity to examine your deeper thoughts or any issues you may be facing in your life. Start delving on a difficulty and see what solutions you can come up with. Look at the problem from all different angles and try to think outside the box. If no solution is presenting itself for your problem then put the problem away for some time and just keep your mind blank. It’s in the space between thoughts that creativity lives. Sometimes when we least expect it our minds will unleash the most amazing ideas and solutions.
- Enjoy your alone time. It’s time you chose just for yourself. This time is precious and it’s all yours, don’t waste it. Find your balance, center your mind, get creative, develop solutions, enjoy nature, enjoy being in your own skin and when you are energized and ready come back and be the social creature society expects you to be, or don’t be, the choice is up to you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Behzad Azargoshasb
Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on January 31, 2019:
I had never really thought of this before, that having time alone would be an integral part of my personal well being. Now that I think about it, when we travel or spend time at other people's homes, I get restless and start to feel closed in, like I need some time away to myself. When I am at home, I have time daily, especially in the early morning and late evening, just to myself. I feel grounded, and am rejuvenated.