Posted on Apr 28, 2023, 1 p.m.
Some people like being alone and some people don’t, which is understandable. For some people being alone can induce a sense of fear, but there is a difference between moments of solitude and loneliness, this being that solitude is choosing the time to spend alone and not interact with other people. Loneliness on the other hand is defined as a distressed feeling that is experienced when a person doesn’t have or is unable to form social connections or relationships that were hoped for.
Definitions of solitude can vary, and to add to that being solitary doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no other people around. To clarify a little, some people can find solitude even when in public places, for example, they could be reading a book in a park or enjoying a nice hot cup of tea in a cafe, and some people can enjoy some solitude while listening to music or looking aimlessly out the window on public transit.
Research suggests that taking some time for yourself can have a rather positive impact on your mood which can come in handy after experiencing a hard day at work, when you feel overwhelmed or are just having one of those days when nothing seems to be going right. The good news is that the research is suggesting that learning to take a moment of solitude for yourself could help you deal with these uneasy feelings.
According to recent research, undergraduate students were brought into a room to sit quietly with themselves, sometimes backpacks and mobile devices were taken away while they sat with their thoughts, and at other times they were allowed to keep books or mobile devices. After 15 minutes of solitude, any strong emotions of anxiety, anger, frustration, agitation, or excitement were found to have dropped. The researchers concluded that solitude has the capacity to lower arousal levels.
While it is true that introverts prefer to be alone, they are not the only ones who enjoy it, nor are they the only ones to benefit from some solitude. A survey of over 18,000 adults revealed that more than half of the respondents voted as solitude for being one of the key things needed to engage in rest and relaxation.
For many, sitting alone with their thoughts is difficult, and they prefer to have something to do to avoid the feeling of boredom because forcing themselves to do nothing can cause them to find spending time alone to be less enjoyable.
During recent research, participants were given the choice to do nothing or sort pencils into boxes while in solitude, after being alone for 10 minutes most of the participants were observed to choose to sort the pencils. Even though this activity is boring, the choice to do the task stems from the desire to keep busy when other people are not there to occupy mental space.
More recently people are choosing to scroll when they have a few moments alone to cope with stress and boredom. But many people prefer to spend time alone doing their daily chores like doing laundry, dusting, vacuuming, or going grocery shopping, these are all valid solitary times.
However, for the most part, people avoid doing other more fun activities alone such as dining at a restaurant or going to see a movie. But there could be several reasons why fun activities are avoided like the tendency to think of them as things we do with friends and family, or not wanting to feel judged or self-conscious for doing them alone. For even more fun activities like traveling it can be intimidating to do alone, this is particularly true for women who may even feel more unsafe doing it alone.
Whenever you are looking for that moment of solitude the key benefit is the opportunity to find that sense of calmness and the freedom of being able to choose what you are going to do as well as exactly how you are going to do it whether that be reading, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk in the park, or gaze out the window on the flight home.
To help overcome the fear of being alone in solitude, we need to realize that it is not the same as being lonely and recognize that it can have some benefits so that we can see it as a positive choice not as being something that just happens to us.
Challenge yourself to do some of the fun activities during moments of solitude, you may find yourself finding the experience liberating and feel empowered. Perhaps traveling alone might be a little much to start off with, but you could find that taking a few moments for small doses of solitude might be just what your body and mind are looking for. Life is all about taking the time to enjoy the little things as much as the big things too, so stop and smell those roses.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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References/Sources/Materials provided by:
Nguyen, T., Weinstein, N., & Deci, E. (2022). Alone With Our Thoughts: Investigation of Autonomy Supportive Framing as a Driver of Enjoyment During Quiet Time in Solitude. Collabra: Psychology, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1525/collabra.31629