This morning before I ventured out on my solo walk on Arney’s Mount, I checked the calendar and guess what – it is National Solitude Day.
What do you think of when you hear the word “solitude”? Does it immediately conjure up a feeling of loneliness or anxiety? Or maybe you are imagining some well-deserved “alone” or quiet time? Either way, it is really what you make of it, right? And depending on your needs, it might be welcome or leave you wanting.
I, for one, love my private time and can spend an entire day not speaking with anyone. Perhaps I was a Tibetan monk in another life.
I find it valuable and enjoyable to have a separateness even when my husband is home. We know the other person is around, yet we don’t need to engage the majority of the time. I think he enjoys his solitary pursuits as well. And that is a good thing or there would be conflict if we weren’t getting our needs met.
Another thing that I quite enjoy, and it has greatly benefited my well-being is meditation. I have been doing my daily solo meditation for almost five years and I feel it is as much a part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth. Who would have thought! This daily morning practice sets me up for my day and I feel focused, present, and sanguine, no matter what.
Solitude is a skill that we can nurture.
So how can we better embrace this notion of solitude? And why should we? Is it a benefit or do you just feel like a “sad sack”?
We are social creatures and the idea of being alone can feel anxiety-provoking. It can also be perceived as a boring activity or just plain lonely.
That is probably because we just don’t know how to be alone constructively. And we don’t have the skillset yet to make the most of our aloneness.
Positive solitude is all about self-connection through solitary pursuits such as pleasure reading, being absorbed in a hobby or enjoying nature. Not an exhaustive list, I am sure you can come up with others.
People who seek out solitude have a playbook that makes their seclusion enjoyable and constructive. It is based on a desire to be alone, and engage in solitary pursuits, and connect with self. It is pleasurable and life-enhancing.
It is also a time for introspection. Introspection as a practice is how we look at our behavior patterns, the “big picture” and our personal values in a non-judgmental way. More of an observation, which I can attest to, as it is a part of my meditative practice. I observe with curiosity and seek self-awareness.
This is not to be confused with rumination, which is going over the same material over and over without resolution or dwelling on situations over which we have no control Let it go.
Sometimes in our isolation we are met with emotions and memories, some of which cause us distress. Rather than avoidance or suppression of these emotions, our solitude can be a time of integrative emotion regulation. By using these opportunities to become more self-aware and accepting, we can reduce our stress around some emotionally-charged memories or situations. It is about self-regulation through a lens of acceptance.
How do we develop the skills to be more comfortable being alone?
First, we need to validate that solitude is a good practice. Living in the United States, it is considered odd to not want to socialize, and extroversion is seen as more desirable that introversion. However, there has been some pushback lately from the introverts as evidenced by books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
Neither one is good or bad, just different, however the bias can make some quieter people feel less than or excluded. Know that it is okay to want to be alone with your own pursuits.
Use your alone time well. It doesn’t serve you to have quiet time and then start scrolling social media mindlessly to pass the time. That will certainly add to your stress, and FOMO feelings. Figure out what your alone time means to you, what will recharge you and what will make you smile. Then go do it, without a thought of what others think.
Schedule your alone time. If you don’t, you probably won’t do it consistently, so get it on your calendar. And you may have to negotiate with your partner and family to carve out this time to replenish and reconnect with yourself. Trust me, it will be worth the effort.
It’s all about balance.
As you navigate your solitary pursuits, especially if you are new to this facet of self-care, know that it will be a balancing act to spend time with family and friends while also allowing for this space.
Pay attention to your needs. Do you feel depleted and like you want to hide under the blankets, away from everyone else? You may need some quiet time to recharge. Listen to your body, it is very effective in letting you know what it needs.
And know when you need to engage with others. Again, pay attention to feelings of boredom or isolation, when you are alone and accept that is time to get back in the game.
Good luck and embrace your solitude!