“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” ~ Ellen Burstyn …
Having spent a couple years immersed in nature in a cabin near Walden Pond, I am sure Henry David Thoreau would be able to relate rather well to this statement by Ellen. For Thoreau and many other transcendentalists, being alone is the ultimate way to encourage scientific inquiry and observation–a practice that allows one to emphasize the importance of empirical thinking and of spiritual matters over the physical world. However, for many of us, being alone seems a dull, boring, and unsatisfying life; a life filled with loneliness, longing, and want. In addition, society’s perception of those who spend time alone is that of alienation. How is it, then, that we are to find any benefits from being alone?
I feel lucky to have the natural inclination towards being an introvert. As such, I feel that is has been much easier for me to find the benefits of frequent alone time in my life than it has for many extroverts that I know. Still, it is important to note that regardless of our social natures, the benefits of aloneness are there for all of us to find–perhaps the most obvious of which is relaxation. Solitude allows us to reenergize our four quadrants of our beings–spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental–thereby reducing stress and allowing ourselves to live life more fully.
Solitude has also been shown to enhance creativity and concentration. By giving ourselves some quiet time to ponder questions, meanings, and ideas, we can focus our energies much more efficiently and effectively, not being interrupted by outside factors. I have even seen some studies that suggest that time spent alone by adolescents can result in lower rates of depression, which is definitely a healthier and easier way to help prevent and treat depression than putting children on medications–the majority of whom simply want someone to listen to them, be there for them, and show them genuine concern.
Teaching our young children the value of spending quality time alone with their own company is an important duty of adults and role models–especially parents, teachers, guardians, and those immediately entrusted to a child’s upbringing. Since society tends to push us in the opposite direction, it is crucial that we help them learn that the time they spend alone can be much more valuable if they have a healthy perspective on it.
So share with others the importance of solitude while they are young, and practice it yourself from time to time. Free yourself from interruption and interference and allow yourself the chance to clarify your ideas, to think things through, and simply to let things settle in your mind and heart. Here is where you will come to conclusions on our own; here is when you will learn to deal with problems that your mind will bring to you.
We all will have moments in our lives in which we find ourselves alone. It is up to us, however, to decide if we wish to spend them in loneliness or in solitude.
Spend some quality time alone today getting in touch with your heart and mind.
Questions to consider:
Why are so few of us willing to spend time and explore alone?
What is the difference between solitude and loneliness?
What kinds of things can you do on your own that would be thoroughly enjoyable?
For further thought:
“It would do the world good if every person in it would compel themselves occasionally to be absolutely alone. Most of the world’s progress has come out of such loneliness.” ~ Bruce Barton, The Man Nobody Knows