Raise your hand if you’ve ever struggled to find and enjoy time to be by yourself. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt lonely when you’ve been alone. To me, solitude and being lonely were synonyms.
As I was looking for an appropriate definition of solitude for this article, I came across many terms that defined it as the contrary of what I intended to say. Some of the synonyms found were: emptiness, loneliness, seclusion. Finally, I found the one that encompassed the meaning I wanted to express: Solitude is the state of being alone, especially when this is peaceful and pleasant.+
Isn’t it funny? Solitude is a wonderful blissful thing and yet, it is not generally regarded as such.
In one of the episodes of The Simple Sophisticate podcast, the host, Shannon Ables talks about how powerful solitude is. She states: “…it all begins with solitude. No matter how much or how little, take time to yourself to get to know yourself, understand your language, so you can speak as fluently as you dare in your everyday life.”
Shannon’s podcast opened my eyes to the uplifting power of solitude, and for a few years now I have come to understand that solitude is essential for one’s own happiness. Spending time alone, helps us quiet the mind. It brings clarity. It fosters contentment. It enables us to hear the message from our higher self. It sparks creativity.
Before we even believe in the benefits of solitude, we may ask: “What is the point to be by ourselves?” To start, by spending time alone we’re able to get to know ourselves better. Personally, I had never been by myself since I was in my teenage years. I was inadvertently trying to avoid being in my own company. It wasn’t till I made the choice to try something new through spending time alone that I discovered who I was. It wasn’t easy. It felt foreign. It took time. But, once I was able to enjoy the freedom in making my own choices, my own plans and spending time however I wanted more of it. I fully embraced it and preserved it.
Solitude acts like a filter. It helps us select and refine what brings us joy, what works for us and what doesn’t. So it is necessary that we give ourselves that time alone because we can’t find the answers if we’re constantly surrounded by people or too invested in someone else’s life rather than our own.
At the same time, we see how being in the company of others is enlightening. Some of the wisest advice I have come across in recent years has been in the presence of friends. When we’re with our favorite people, we’re happy, we feel uplifted and positive. It is a powerful catalyst for happiness indeed. However, what I have found is that only solitude gives us the opportunity of self discovery and the best answers that solely our higher self can provide.
So, without further ado, here are five tried-and-true ways in which we can embrace the uplifting power of solitude.
Take yourself on a date (regularly) - In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about weekly dates with yourself. If you like art for example, visit an art gallery. If you like cooking, sign up for a cooking class. As Cameron puts it: “(…) a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.” To me it is taking my camera out and going to new and old places. To you it might be something else. The point is to make it a part of your weekly routine to do something fun in your own company.
Treat yourself to your favorite meal - In my early adult years, I dreaded being seen eating alone in public. I felt insecure and self-conscious. It took some time (and practice!) to be able to sit at a table and order the menu without thinking that everybody was watching. A decade later, treating myself to a nice meal is something I honestly enjoy. I’ve come to realize that people are more interested in what’s on their plate than in who is around them. Give it a try. Bon appétit.
Define your own idea of “me time”- Having time to ourselves to do what is good for our wellbeing is honoring what our body and soul need. It could be taking a long bath with essential oils, getting a haircut, sleeping in or meditating, reading a book with a nice cuppa tea, go to a yoga class or just taking a break somewhere in our home to close our eyes and breathe. Only we can define what “me time” means with whatever feels good and right to us. No comparing.
Schedule the time to do your thing - Whether it’s painting, writing, cooking or anything that you don’t often get a chance to do, prioritize the thing that helps you recharge in solitude. Many of us can’t take a whole hour to do what we enjoy, but putting aside 30 minutes to invest in our wellbeing is feasible. If it’s scheduled in the calendar it is more likely to take place. The article Why Your Most Important Appointment Is the Booking You Make with Yourself by Darren Stehle talks more about the importance of putting yourself first.
Travel solo - Dare to get those plane tickets to the destination you’ve always wanted to go. Fill your itinerary with the activities that will make you the happiest. Book that dream excursion, volunteer program or course in an interesting place. Go out to see the world and feed your soul. Traveling solo shows us how uplifting and enriching solitude can be.
I remember my first solo trip was full of anticipation and excitement as well as anxiety. However, the Universe (which for me is God) sent me an angel on the flight from the US to Scotland. A very friendly and kind woman sat next to me. We chatted throughout the flight and then she pulled out her deck of fairy cards and the one that I pulled out was “self-reliance”. The message was so clear and timely! Meeting this woman was also a gift. We’ve kept in touch ever since. #giftsofsolitude
Once we learn to be comfortable in our own presence and experience the joy of being alone, we seek more of those moments and value how precious they actually are. However, it doesn’t come easily to many of us and it can actually be quite scary in the beginning. In her blog, writer Elizabeth Gilbert shares: “We have to learn how to endure our own company and hold our heads high. And sometimes, after enough time alone, we can even learn to enjoy ourselves. And best of all, after enough time and practice, we can sometimes even learn to revere ourselves.” Could this be any truer? Click here to read the full article.
Had I not had the courage to taste the gifts of solitude I would have missed out on a decade of wonder and fulfillment. Journaling at the Piazza della Signoria in Florence and reading a spiritual guidebook overlooking the coastline in Manarola, Cinque Terre, spending the night at the beautiful Kragerup Gods, a 14th century estate in the Danish country side and more recently, my two-week trip to Nepal. Going places is wonderful. Doing it by ourselves and in our own terms is priceless. When you travel solo, you absorb everything with all of your senses.
With solitude we have more time to decompress and we have less mental chatter, When we spend time alone, we have time and space to declutter the mind and let go of the inner noise. Being in solitude, even if it is 30 min a day, helps us notice and discern our thinking patterns.
With all these benefits, why wouldn’t we give ourselves the opportunity for more personal growth and spiritual connection?
Et vous? How was solitude enriched your life? Is there something that you wish you could do more of in your own company? Leave your comments in the section below.
Thank you for being here!
+ solitude. 2019. In collinsdictionary.com.
Retrieved May 5, 2019 from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/solitude