In today’s uber-connected digital world, we tend to keep our minds so busy that we hardly have time to get to know ourselves, let alone plan out our day or find to time ponder the meaning of life. Constant distraction from digital devices, multimedia experiences, and people vying for our attention can keep us from relaxing and make us feel overloaded.
One of the best ways to reboot our lives is to seek out time for solitude. But many in our modern society equate solitude with people who are sad, lonely and tend to avoid socializing with others. In short, they equate solitude with loneliness. While they both involve being alone with oneself, that is where the similarities end.
Let’s take a look at the differences between solitude and loneliness – and what makes one to be sought after and the other to be overcome;
Solitude and Loneliness Are Not The Same
Solitude and loneliness are very different. Loneliness is a negative state. Being lonely makes one feel an intense state of isolation, that something is missing from life. It can be harsh, deficient, and filled with discontentment. Loneliness can seem like a punishment and involve a sense of estrangement, a feeling of excess aloneness.
Solitude, on the other hand, is a positive, desirable state. It is one of being alone without being lonely. Solitude is a time for oneself that is set aside for reflection, for growth, for creativity, or inner searching. It is constructive and enjoyable.
Solitude, Loneliness and Their Effects On Your Health
Studies have shown that people who experience excessive loneliness are more prone to high levels of stress hormones, sleep disorders, respiratory disease, heart disease, inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, and cancer. Loneliness and social isolation can be more hazardous to your health than even obesity. A Brigham Young University study found that isolation may increase the risk of premature death by up to 50 percent, which is very significant since more than 43 million adults ages 45 and older suffer from chronic loneliness.
Solitude, on the other hand, can be healing and restorative. Studies have shown that the ability to engage in solitude has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, and improved stress management. People who enjoy solitude experience less depression. It also has been shown to increase empathy for others. Solitude is restorative for the body and the mind, whereas loneliness depletes them.
Here are some of the many benefits that solitude provides:
- Increases productivity – by removing distractions and interruptions, you are better able to concentrate, helping to get more work accomplished in a shorter amount of time.
- Revitalization of mind – being by yourself free from distractions allows you to replenish your mind, focus, and think more clearly
- Inner awareness – solitude helps you to find your inner voice and discover more about yourself, your likes and dislikes, your goals and ambitions
- Engagement in deep thought – by finding a set amount of time to remove yourself from commitments and responsibilities, your mind will be freer to think deeply and creatively, helping with problem-solving and information processing
- Better relationships with others – by spending time with yourself, you gain a better understanding of yourself and your desires. You will have a better understanding of who you want to be around and develop friendships.
Seeking Out Solitude For Your Life
Finding time alone in today’s world can be challenging. Here are a few ideas might make it easier to get some alone time:
- Unplug from your digital life – set aside some time each day in a space free from television, computing, and mobile phones. If you use your computer to write, load a program like FocusMe or Freedom that silences distractions and allows you to focus. A great app for your smartphone is Do Not Disturb, which allows you to fully silence your phone for a set period of time.
- Arise early in the morning – get up out of bed before anyone else in your dwelling and use that quiet time to put solitude into your life. Pray, meditate, ponder creative thoughts or solve a problem during the very peaceful morning hours.
- Pencil it in on your calendar – scheduling solitude by carving out time in your day is a great way to get some alone time. Plan your day out to make time between errands or meetings to regroup, relax and reboot your thoughts.
- Close your door – setting up a physical boundary between yourself and others is a great way to usher in solitude into your life. Put a sign on the door asking others not to disturb you for a set amount of time.
Whereas loneliness is a chronic perceived isolation that can damage our mind and our physical body, solitude is a time set aside for oneself to get to know our inner workings better, to restore our minds, and to increase productivity in our life. If you are feeling overwhelmed and distracted, try adding some solitude into your life today.