Embrace Solitude

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“Your inner voice is the voice of divinity. To hear it, we need to be in solitude, even in crowded places.” -  A. R. Rahman

Hate being alone?  Well, you’re hardly alone on that one. Turns out we’d rather be electrically shocked than spend time alone. There are many reasons to fear being alone, as it reminds us all of the consequences of social isolation.  But there is a key difference between lonely and alone.  Solitude, in its potentially beneficial forms, has not been studied much in the past, but psychologists are beginning to look into why people might choose to be alone and why that might be good for us.  

After all, creative types and introverts have extolled the virtues of solitude for centuries. It supposedly gives us time to recharge, clear our minds and tap into creative and spiritual forces. Modern scientists have recently jumped in with two interesting studies on the benefits of alone-time.

One such study from the Department of Psychology, University of Texas, reinforces that intuitive idea that thinking solo might lead to more creativity. The research found that group brainstorming did not produce the best ideas and that instead people working alone generated a larger number of unique and creative thoughts.

Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet, agrees, and spoke to Scientific American about why being alone is not just beneficial for introverts, who crave it, but for everyone.

"Solitude is a crucial and underrated ingredient for creativity," says Cain, "From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude… An interesting line of research by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist suggests that the most creative people in many fields are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.”

It turns out teenagers, seemingly sulking in their rooms, are actually just benefitting from much needed solitude. “The findings show that for seventh through ninth graders solitude had a positive after effect on emotional state. Also adolescents who spent an intermediate amount of their time alone were better adjusted than those who spent little or a great deal of time alone. As a whole, the findings suggest that in early adolescence solitude comes to have a more constructive role in daily life as a strategic retreat that complements social experience.”

Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together, also wants us to seriously consider embracing solitude in the highly “on” digital age. “If we don’t have experience with solitude—and this is often the case today—we start to equate loneliness and solitude. This reflects the impoverishment of our experience. If we don’t know the satisfactions of solitude, we only know the panic of loneliness.”

So, try it out.  Choose solitude over electric shock this week.  Are you wondering how? Walk in the woods, sit in the sun, meditate and for other wonderful ideas watch this video from filmmaker, Andrea Dorfman, and poet/singer/songwriter, Tanya Davis -- a beautifully illustrated work that serves as both inspiration and a how to on embracing being alone.




Human Unlimited
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