We live in an age where it has never been easier to connect with others, yet it is a time where we have never been further away from the relationship we have with ourselves.
Constant connectivity makes us lose ourselves in the crowd: we only see what everybody else does, what everybody else thinks, what everybody else likes.
We constantly crave more. More input, more stimuli. Just being in the moment is never enough: if we go for a run we also need to be listening to music, if we’re enjoying a coffee at the bar we also need to be texting our friends or sharing pictures of the moment; we can’t just drive, or draw, or sit on a park bench and do nothing else.
We go places to experience things just to experience something else on top of it. And, more and more often, we even seek to experience someone else’s shared moment instead of focusing on our moment. It’s like we’re doing everything to avoid just being in the moment, and to be with ourselves.
Yet, without spending time with ourselves to just be and think, we can not discover who we are, what we want and what we like, what we find ugly or beautiful or how we behave or react to certain situations; if we don’t spend time to self-reflect, we will not be able to contemplate our actions, to hold ourselves accountable and to see what is right or wrong.
If we always only consume, we will never create. But in order to create we need to think, and thinking often requires solitude.
Being in solitude is the state of being alone (not lonely) and which allows us to fully focus on ourselves and what is around us. It’s a state that was once reserved and praised by the great ancient thinkers, but that is now neglected by modern society which always craves for more, needs to be always on and busy with something.
But what happens if we embrace solitude?
Solitude allows for self-discovery and self-awareness. It allows us to discover who we are and what we like. It gives us a chance to listen to our inner self and to find out what we want, where we want to go, what we want to be doing right now.
When we’re with others we often compromise and tag along for the sake of the group. It’s often only when we’re alone that we follow our instincts and chase the things that stimulate us and that fuel our curiosity.
We always ask others but often forget to ask ourselves: how am I doing today? What can I do for myself today that would make me feel great?
Solitude is a great occasion to take care of ourselves and to treat us well. As social human beings, we often put others and their needs first, forgetting ourselves in the process. Yet, self care is such an important practice for our health and overall well-being.
When we’re alone and doing nothing, it gives us an opportunity to let our mind wander. Mind-wandering is basically shifting our focus to self generated thoughts and feelings, and it connects us with our emotions, lets us process our experiences and reconnect to our memories. Ultimately, this helps us to fuel our creative thinking as it allows us to connect the dots and form new ideas.
Being in solitude will also make us great observers and let us experience our surroundings to the fullest.
When we’re with others we naturally shift our focus to them, but by doing so we often neglect all the little details of our surroundings: a smell in a room, the taste of a meal, the rustling leaves in the trees…
When we’re alone instead, we open up our senses and therefore experience our surroundings more fully. We will notice things that we never noticed before, and we will experience things that we know already under a completely new light.
Being more observant will also make us more prone to reflect about society, and this in turn will strengthen our empathy towards others.
We are living in a time where we’re constantly busy doing things, and more specifically, busy reacting to things that the world throws at us: from our instagram feed to the newest netflix show, from whatsapp messages to our inbox. Even our to-do lists are full of things that we need to check, things we need to review, things we need to report back to.
There is never a time where we have just a blank space, a space where we have the opportunity to create something instead of reacting to something. But solitude can be that blank space, as solitude allows for creation instead of reaction.