“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person.” ~ Oscar Wilde
There have been timeless arguments, open-ended debates, and casual conversations about relationships, being connected, and being alone. I am sure compelling cases for each have been and can be made. Yet I believe most would agree that the most important relationship we have in our lives is with ourselves, as challenging as this relationship is.
In June, I shared a post about the importance of our being connected, from a traditional, social perspective. On the flip side, there is abundant research that suggests blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life – that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we need to spend time away from them. When we can shift our expectations with ourselves and others to opportunities for discovery, we open ourselves to new paths and unchartered territory.
As we become more chronologically gifted, and open to finding what truly makes us feel deeply and strongly, we can then make even more meaningful choices about if and with whom we want to share ourselves and create connections. It is the prospect of losing yourself and finding your way back that makes the experience that much better (yet, uncomfortable for some). The end outcome with creating space and allowing time alone, is to give yourself a chance to learn more about yourself.
In a recent study, Eric Klineberg, a sociologist at New York University claimed, “There is so much cultural anxiety about isolation that we often fail to appreciate the benefits of solitude.” Whether it is for a short period of time of an extended duration, why not consider “the benefits?” Here are three ways to explore:
- Focus some time on your thoughts (because thoughts do create your reality). What are your most powerful thoughts? Where are you putting your attention? Take time alone to become aware of your thoughts. Monitor them, rewrite them, and spend time each day changing negative thought patterns into what you truly believe and want. For those familiar with neuroplasticity, this is how new brain pathways are created.
- Schedule solitude. Proactively create time on your calendar to spend time with yourself. If you can make time for all the little extras you fit in your day, like stopping at Starbucks, you can schedule time for solitude. It doesn’t have to be gobs of time, just long enough to meditate, focus, relax, produce and/or think deeply is better than no time.
- Like a vitamin – once per day. Check your online communication once each day. This means one stop to your inbox, Facebook and reader. This rule not only allows you to enjoy more quiet time during your work, it forces you to actually meet people when you are feeling social.