In today’s world we have loneliness, but rarely solitude. Western culture tends to portray anyone who wants solitude as being anti-social or unhappy. But, as I’d like to argue, getting more time by yourself can actually increase the quality of your communication. Instead of surrounding yourself with the crowd, you can focus on having real conversations.
Why Spend More Time Alone?
Staying connected at all times seems to be the addiction of the 21st century. Instead of having real conversations and social interactions, people are just filling up their alone time with noise.
If being disconnected for a few days or even a few hours gives you shivers, it’s probably because you haven’t learned how to be comfortable with your own silence. But if you can fully appreciate just being with your own thoughts, you can fully interact when you’re with people. Here are a couple other reasons to carve out more time for yourself:
Improved productivity. It’s amazing what a few hours of uninterrupted work can accomplish.
Time to think. Your brain is your best tool, but how can you use it properly when being constantly distracted?
Lead your own life. If you’re constantly part of the group, you’ll do what the group does – even if it doesn’t reflect who you want to be.
Pick your own friends. If you’re willing to spend time alone you can be more choosy with who you spend time with. Instead of settling for people that dull you mentally and drain your energy, you can pick friends that engage you.
Inner peace. There is a reason monks spend so much time meditating alone.
Creating More Time for Yourself
Here are a few tips for how you can set aside more time to be by yourself:
Work Offline. Unplug the cables when you work to prevent the temptation to constantly stay connected. The time you save from wasteful internet usage means more time to spend having real conversations after work.
Close the Door. Have a closed-door policy when you work. Hanging up the Do Not Disturb sign will ensure that other procrastinators don’t have the chance to interrupt your flow.
Morning Ritual. Wake up early and squeeze in an extra hour to think before work. This process can also give you time to focus yourself before the day.
Park the Car. If your house is busy, park your car somewhere quiet after work. This can guarantee you some alone time to think, read or plan out your goals.
Set Aside Interaction Time. It’s better to toggle between meditative solitude and complete social engagement than to be constantly half-engaged, half-detached. Set aside time to completely focus on family or friends.
Read. Adopt the reading habit and use books as a way to enjoy your own solitude.
Start a Hobby. Work on a creative activity in your spare time. With increasingly busy lives, hobbies are starting to disappear. But a creative pastime can allow you to explore all those creative ideas you can’t pursue at work.
Run. Running by yourself can be a great way to focus yourself. Whether you listen to music or follow the beat of your own footsteps, running gives you quality alone time.
Turn Off the Tube. Television can be a substitute social life. The characters and situations can seem compelling enough that you start to see them as friends, instead of moving pictures on a screen. Turning off the television when you are alone means you’ll be driven for better quality social interactions and more reflective solitude.
Meditate. Spend a few minutes just focusing on your breathing. Shift all your awareness into your breathing, the muscles in your body or the various sensations around you. Meditation can help you appreciate silence.
Chores. Focus yourself when doing chores. Cooking, cleaning, washing or errands can become activities that center you throughout the day.
Five Minute Thought Breaks. The next time you feel the urge to check your e-mail, spend five minutes just thinking instead. Focus on your current surroundings or the work you plan to do next.
Stop the Music. I love listening to music. But silence can be better for focusing your thoughts. Turning off the iPod or radio for a few minutes during your commute can give you a chance to think.
Weekly Reviews. A big part of GTD is the weekly review. Weekly reviews are a chance to check over your goals and projects, reorganizing your approach for next week. They are also a chance to get quality solitude time in your day.
Redesign Your Life. Alone time can be your chance to redesign the elements of your life. When you’re constantly connected and trying to interact, you don’t have time to evaluate those connections.
Once Per Day Online Communication. I only check online communication once each day. That means only one stop on my inbox, Facebook and feed reader. This rule not only allows me to enjoy more quiet time during my work, but it forces me to actually meet people when I’m feeling social.
If you want to combat loneliness in your own life, become a master of solitude. If you aren’t fully comfortable being by yourself, you’ll never be able to truly connect with other people. I prefer to abandon the idea of introverts and extroverts and instead focus on the person who can be completely engaged with people and also completely peaceful in solitude.