Solitude can be uncomfortable at first – especially if you’re not used to spending much time alone.
In many ways, we’re taught from the time we’re children that solitude is a negative thing, such as when we’re put on “time out” as punishment. Then, as we grow older, taking time for yourself is often looked at as selfish. And that’s not to mention the FOMO (fear of missing out) that many of us feel when we’re not tuned into the world.
But solitude is incredibly important. And, although it might be uncomfortable at first, anyone can learn to enjoy it with a little practice. Time alone gives you a chance to unwind and reconnect with your thoughts and feelings. It even increases productivity, clarity, and creativity while reducing stress and anxiety.
At the same time that solitude benefits you individually, it also benefits those around you by enabling you to renew your personal energy to better spend it on the important people in your life.
Today, we’re going to briefly look at how to find joy in solitude, whether that's just a few minutes per day, a weekend alone, or several months of little contact with others.
Know the Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness
Many people conflate solitude with loneliness.
But they are actually two very different things. Loneliness is a negative state of mind where a person is isolated and often in mental and emotional duress. It’s especially difficult to deal with for extended periods of time and is inexorably linked to depression and addiction.
Solitude, on the other hand, is the state of being alone without feeling lonely. Of course, this is easier said than done. It’s also much easier to be alone without loneliness when solitude was your choice and not forced upon you.
Understand the Health Benefits of Solitude
Spending time alone is essential, even if it’s just a few moments each day. Not only does alone time give you the ability to unwind and process your thoughts, but it’s also energizing. It gives you a chance to relax and gain clarity which are directly linked to reduced stress and anxiety.
Check out our favorite health benefits of solitude.
Set Aside Daily “Me Time”
Start small. Even just a few moments of solitude per day are helpful. Taking five minutes of “me time” is a good start. On weekends, set aside a greater chunk of time – an hour if possible. You might even consider a solo retreat at some point in the future. These daily moments of solitude are especially important for those with families or partners where “me time” is normally at a minimum.
Consider Journaling Your Thoughts
Writing down your thoughts is one of the best ways to not only find joy in solitude but also to make the most out of its potential benefits. It’s a powerful self-connection tool. Not only does it help get your thoughts out, seeing them on paper is a great mode of reflection.
Find a Solo Activity You Love
When you’re not used to solitude, it’s important to fill your alone time with activities you love, especially those that take you offline. My favorites are those that take me into the wilderness – hiking and camping, especially. But even just simple nature bathing is a great way to feel a deeper connection to yourself and the world around you.
Challenge Yourself to a Solo Retreat
Once you are comfortable being alone, challenge yourself to an overnight retreat. Find a space where you can be alone for an entire night without any social distractions. Disconnect from the online world and leave your devices turned off. Once again, solo camping is a fantastic way to experience this, although simply planning a night alone at home for yourself is also beneficial.
What to Do When You Didn’t Choose Solitude
Solitude can be difficult enough to deal with when you choose it yourself. But it’s even more so when it’s forced upon you like during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
To make the most of long periods of time alone, it’s important to establish routines and rituals, fill your day with projects and activities, and stay connected with others through emails, phone calls, and video chats. Disciplined positive thinking (negative thoughts are okay if you don’t hold onto them for too long) and going out into nature also help immensely.