The idea of being alone often frightens people. And I agree that being alone forever isn’t necessarily a desirable position to be in. However, being separated from the herd for a while to spend time by yourself can benefit us immensely. Let’s explore the power of solitude.
Human beings are social creatures. Nevertheless, there were many human beings throughout the ages that chose to live a solitary life.
Anthony The Great was one of the Desert Fathers; Christian monks who withdrew from society to live in the deserts of Egypt and follow God. Despite their seclusion, the Desert Fathers were highly influential on the development of Christianity.
Since ancient times, Buddhist monks spend time alone – sometimes many months – to deepen their meditation practice and, simply, because they know that happiness comes from within and does not require the presence of other people.
Our current society doesn’t like loners. The herd of today cannot stand non-participation. People that prefer being alone, seem to evoke suspicion. First, they are ridiculed: she must be a crazy person, no one likes her. Then they are feared: is he preparing a terrorist attack? Could she be a serial killer? Or maybe a witch? In popular culture, villains are often depicted as solitary creatures. Gollum from Lord of the Rings, the Joker from Batman and Gargamel from the Smurfs.
So, does that really mean that solitude is bad for you?
Not at all. Solitude can be a blessing, and science has proven that spending time alone can have tremendous benefits. If used wisely, solitude can be a powerful tool for achieving health, happiness, and success. Being alone is a great opportunity for reflection. By reflecting on life we can find out what direction to go and what to avoid in the future. Instead of running through life like a headless chicken, we can plan ahead and make a conscious decision to close a certain door and open new ones.
And when we’ve created our game plan, it’s time for the execution. Another power of solitude is productivity. When we spend time alone, we’re less likely to be distracted by other people. Of course, it’s essential that we don’t replace human interaction with other distractions like watching series on Netflix, swiping left and right on dating apps and the endless rabbit hole of funny clips and friends showing what their dog had for lunch on social media.
So, if you want to be productive in solitude, you might want to consider cutting back your time spent on the internet, deactivating your Facebook account and throwing your smartphone in the river. If you’ve done that, you’re ready to accomplish the great things you’ve always dreamed of. Like Nikola Tesla.
Tesla was a lifelong bachelor and a true hermit and he made great contributions to the world. The optimize his creativity he secluded himself, resulting in a razor-sharp focus. Many artists and authors spent time away from the noisy society to work on their projects. Personally I spend lots of time by myself to let my thoughts wander and the creativity flow. Pablo Picasso said: without great solitude, no serious work is possible.
Solitude doesn’t just benefit performance. It also puts us in a position to explore and, even, embrace ourselves. Meditation is an ancient practice in which we observe not only our thoughts but our emotions and physical sensations as well. By observing ourselves we find out what’s going on in our body and mind. Insight in ourselves helps us to make better life decisions.
Also, if we learn to appreciate our own company we become less dependent on other human beings. Some people have a tendency to cling to others. Oftentimes they cling to people that aren’t good company. Many relationships are destructive, but people stay in them because they fear the thought of being alone. If you’re content being by yourself, it’s easy to walk away from people that aren’t good for us.
An overlooked benefit of solitude is the opportunity to cultivate love. This may sound a bit strange if we assume that cultivating love can only be done by interaction. The key is that when we are alone, we aren’t spending time with a certain group of friends or co-workers, which makes us free of ingroup preferences. In solitude, we’re able to see the bigger picture and cultivate a love for a much wider range of people. A common practice among the Buddhists is ‘Metta meditation’ which evokes loving-kindness towards all beings in the universe.
So, if you want to be more compassionate, loving, productive and gain more insight in yourself, consider harvesting the power of solitude.