“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”
– Hans Margolius
In the world of chaos, the word “Solitude” sounds bizarre and the idea of being in solitude is even more scary. But, think of solitude as a way of spending time with yourself, your thoughts and taking a break from everything else. Solitude runs counter to the demands of society. Even so, happiness can be found in solitude, even though society depends on the combined efforts of all people to contribute to the greater good. Taking time for yourself is often viewed as selfish and unproductive.
Solitude is also uncomfortable for many people because they’re learned to derive their self-esteem from activities initiated by their “other selves” — that is, their efforts to satisfy themselves by satisfying others.
Your “other self” includes such roles as child, student, sibling, grandchild, Girl Scout, athlete, employee, employer, church deacon, neighbor, and citizen. When you serve your “other self” you achieve some measure of happiness — true — but there are also important benefits that come from spending time with your “personal self,” that part of you that doesn’t need other people to be happy.
The greatest men and women of all ages have practiced solitude regularly.They learned how to use silence to still their minds and tap into their superconscious powers for answers to their questions. It important to be aware of the fact that solitude doesn’t have to equal being lonely, as some of us fear.
What is Solitude, anyway?
Solitude is the act of getting quiet, seeking some alone time to be with your thoughts and a chance to recharge, refresh and reinvigorate. Most people don’t need to be overly concerned about rest and recovery because they’re not pushing themselves much beyond the typical routines of everyday life. Most champions are aware that due to their emotional nature, human beings need recovery strategies if they are going to be successful.
The simple act of solitude creates more space between a performer’s thoughts and helps him escape the bondage of excessive cognition. When it comes to getting big results, average performers often believe working harder and longer is the answer. The great ones often cut back on traditional work time to allow their creative minds to operate at greater capacity. This working-smarter strategy blends in beautifully in the 21st century, which is quickly becoming known as “The Age of The Mind.”
Why is Solitude important for Success and Happiness?
1. Solitude allows your body to catch up with your mind.
In this crazy aggressive existence that most people live in, we’re always tilting forward — our minds are way out in front of our bodies, thinking, analyzing, and planning ahead. It’s only when you stop and get off the merry-go-round of daily life that your mind and body can once again get back into sync.
2. Solitude allows your brain to rest.
In a world of overstimulation, our minds are constantly in an overactive mode. Solitude allows your mind to detach from all the endless chatter coming from the environment around you — the radio, the Internet, conversations, street noise, traffic sounds, barking dogs — and rest for a change.
3. Solitude jumpstarts the parasympathetic nervous system (the branch of the autonomic nervous system that calms you down).
When you’re able to get some time to yourself, your muscles relax, your blood pressure decreases, and your heart rate slows. Think of solitude as the anti-adrenaline system that kicks on when there’s no longer a need for the fight-or-flight response.
4. Solitude prevents burnout.
Burnout is what happens when you’re subjected to prolonged, intense, and unresolved stress. You run out of physical and psychological energy, and you act in a disorganized, inefficient, erratic manner.
5. Solitude enhances creativity.
Solitude frees the mind up from all the distractions of everyday life and allows it to focus more fully on one thing. It allows your brain to think outside the box and to come up with unique, extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems. That’s part of why artists — painters, sculptures, musicians, writers — spend so much time alone.
6. Solitude can be a time of self-discovery.
Solitude is your chance to learn something about yourself. Self-discovery is a process that involves asking and answering four basic questions:
Who am I?
What makes me unique?
Where am I going in life?
Am I comfortable with myself?
7. Solitude allows you an opportunity to deal with the big questions in your life.
At various times in your life, you’ll be faced with big questions like “It takes time and a lot of careful thought to come up with the answers. Such answers are more likely to come to mind in a quiet, introspective moment — solitude — than when you’re fully engaged in your usual day-to-day activities.
If you want to know if you’re suffering from vital exhaustion, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you feel fresh and rested when you first wake up in the morning?
Do you ever feel like a battery that’s losing its charge?
8. Solitude provides an opportunity for perspective.
When you’re caught up in the hassles of day-to-day life, all you can see is what’s directly in front of you — the problem of the moment. If you want to see and appreciate the big picture of what your life’s all about, you have to step back and get a bird’s-eye view — and that’s exactly what solitude allows you to do.
Now that we know why it’s of an utmost importance for us to practice solutide, the next question (and probably the hardest question) is:
How to practice and unlock the power of Solitude?
While anyone can practice solitude at any given time by just finding a quiet place to sit for an extended period of time, I have found these tips to be particularly helpful in developing a discipline of concentrated solitude:
1. Schedule time. If you are just hoping for an extra 30-45 minutes to show up in your day for solitude, it’ll never come. Time for solitude must be desired, scheduled, and created.
2. Give yourself enough time. If you are just starting, try 30 minutes. Typically, the first 15 minutes are filled with a busy mind still running fast. But after about 15 minutes, your mind will slow down enough to offer you deep reflection. And the longer you give it, the deeper it will go.
3. Find a calm location. Your surroundings will make a big difference. Avoid “fast-paced” locations such as offices, kitchens, or any place that reminds you of work. Also keep in mind that you’ll find solitude more fulfilling if your space is uncluttered.
4. Just allow your mind to wander. There are no set rules concerning what you should be thinking about. Just let your mind wander. As I mentioned, it will skip around at the very beginning. But eventually, your mind will settle in on something that your heart has been trying to tell you all along.
5. Grab a notebook
This is the optimum time to sit and just let it be. You may find yourself asking questions, the big questions of life. And in the quiet, you will have the time to listen to your internal dialogue. So, record those answers. This is YOUR personal time to have a conversation with yourself. Do just that.
It’s a very powerful way of being more self-aware and setting a pace for yourself. When was the last time you spend time in Solutide? If you can’t remember, then set this as a personal challenge and do it.