Our world is a busy place these days. There is hustle and bustle everywhere you turn. And, for many, it’s only going to get busier now that we are in the holiday season. There are work parties and family get-togethers, parades, concerts, cookie exchanges, and the list goes on. Even when you aren’t physically with people it can be difficult to find solitude and quiet. With modern technology, we can stay connected to others at all hours of the day. By simply logging on to social media we can have hundreds of “friends” at our fingertips and plenty of ways to connect with strangers too. But, is that really what we need?
The joy of solitude
Solitude isn’t a word that we hear used very often in the modern world. The definition according to dictionary.com is, “the state of being or living alone; seclusion; remoteness from habitations; absence of human activity; a lonely, unfrequented place”.
When you read that definition, you may think that solitude is a bad thing. Society trains us to think that we should always be connected to others and that being alone is bad. But, there is a lot of joy that can come from intentional solitude.
Benefits of solitude
There are actually many benefits to solitude in your life.
- You experience increased creativity. When you are able to escape from the “noise” of life and the opinions of others you are able to tap into your inner self. This allows you to connect with yourself and process through your ideas. It can bring out a level of creativity that you most likely wouldn’t experience if you never take the time to be alone.
- You learn more about yourself. When you are always around other people it’s easy to make their preferences your preferences. The more time you spend with someone the easier it is to become like them. That’s why it’s important that you have time alone with yourself, so you can stay in touch with who you are, what you believe, and what you like. Decisions that you make when you are alone won’t be as easily influenced by other people in your life.
- Your mind has a chance to rest. When you are with others you constantly have to be “on”. It can be exhausting, but if you are used to always being with others you may not even notice how tired it actually makes you. Solitude provides your mind a chance to relax and reboot.
- You appreciate your relationships more. There is some truth to that old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” When you are better in touch with yourself it makes you better for those that you are in a relationship with as well. And, if you are used to always being together a little time alone can remind you of how much you enjoy the time with that person.
The power of silence
Think for a minute about what complete silence sounds like. Imagine that you are standing out in the middle of a wide-open field on a day when there is no wind or even slight breeze to blow the grass. You are so far from society that you can’t hear a car, a voice, a phone notification, and there are no planes overhead. It is completely and utterly silent.
I don’t think we realize how noisy our world really is. We are used to our phones making noises, the television being on, and hearing the neighbor’s car as it pulls in their driveway. Even if we are home alone there are noises that can distract us. Not many of us live in a place like described above where we can experience complete silence, but there are still plenty of ways to find silence in our daily lives and there is a lot of power in doing so.
I touched a little on what makes silence so powerful above because solitude and silence often come hand in hand. Silence from the outside world allows you to touch base with yourself internally. It provides you the chance to hear your inner thoughts and not be distracted away from your own desires. Silence allows you to experience a deeper level of thinking. When you know that there isn’t another person that is going to interrupt or a text message that is going to come in, you can allow your mind to think to a deeper level.
Silence also allows you to get in touch with your body and health. When you shut out the noise of the world around you then you can start to “hear” what’s going on inside of you. You will be able to notice how events are impacting your mental health and physical health.
How to find solitude and silence in the modern world
Finding time to escape alone and experience solitude and silence might feel impossible in this busy world, but if you are intentional it can be done. If your schedule and budget allow, you could go away for a weekend alone to a quiet destination. But, there are other ways you can experience this in smaller portions:
- Go hiking alone at a local park. Look for a quiet place away from others to sit alone for a while. You can even spend a little time practicing mindfulness meditation while you are away.
- Wake up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later than the other members of your house. If you live in a full house or have kids that depend on you each day it’s hard to get away. Look for time with others are sleeping that you can be awake, alone, and sit in silence.
- Spend your lunch break alone. If you work in a crowded office space it can be difficult to find a place to sit alone. Consider taking your lunch break out in your car on nice days. You can sit silently and escape the hustle and bustle of the office and regain inner peace before heading back in to finish the day.
- Go on a retreat. This isn’t something you would do on a daily basis but consider going on an annual solitude and silent retreat. There are many that you can choose from around the country.
Studies have found that those who are comfortable being alone with themselves in silence are happier overall and have better mental health. This is a learned skill that might not come easily to you even though it sounds like it should. If you have questions or find that you struggle with your inner thoughts when you are alone, reach out to a local therapist to get to the root of the problem.