The power of one: why solitude is good for you
Solitude can help you beat stress, boost your mental health and help you work out what you want in life.
Solitude = perspective
It’s about being alone, but not lonely. ‘Loneliness is an unwanted emotion; we experience it when we’re cut off from close connections, like our family and friends,’ explains psychologist Emma Kenny. ‘But being alone is a choice, it’s an active action. We choose to spend time with ourselves, and that’s incredibly positive as it allows us to see what’s missing from our life and change it.’
Solitude = rest
‘Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives,’ says Dr Ester Schaler Buchholz, author of The Call of Solitude (Simon & Schuster, £18.99). ‘The stillness of being alone provides us with much-needed rest, restoring our energy. It brings out our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual. It teaches us how to understand and satisfy our own needs. “Alone time” is fuel for life.’
Solitude = luxury
Yet in this modern age we are never alone. We’re constantly connected via email, smartphones and social media. ‘Technology just fills time and space in our lives,’ warns Kenny. ‘If we don’t know how to fill our spare time – or we’re frightened of being alone – we’ll put the TV or tablet on, fill that space with noise and create a distraction.’ And it’s this constant distraction that prevents solitude, stopping us from taking proper time out.
Solitude = exploration
It’s so easy to avoid those big, serious life questions when we’re trawling through Twitter. ‘People worry about what sort of things might come up,’ says Kenny. It could evoke deep childhood fears about neglect or being abandoned, or finally allow us time to experience negative emotions such as unhappiness, anxiety or panic about situations in our life. ‘When you add that to our modern fear of missing out on doing ‘better’ activities with others – known as FOMO, many of us see time alone as a waste of time, and something to be avoided.’
Solitude = peace
If we’ve always got something to do, there’s a risk we’re forgetting how to just ‘be’. ‘Solitude is about being, and not doing. It’s meditating on who you are,’ adds Kenny. ‘An increasing lack of solitude means we’re slowly losing our ability to dream, which is dangerous as we make decisions based on our dreams and what we want out of life.’
Overcome these barriers and scope out some quality me time.