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We use the two terms interchangeably because we’ve been conditioned to think of them as the same state.
Loneliness is being alone — and not liking it. It’s a feeling. Solitude is being alone — and content. It’s a choice. If you can master solitude, you’ll never feel lonely again.
From the telegram to the phone to the mobile to the internet, all major cultural inventions have served the same purpose: to bring us closer together.
Today, we’ve reached peak hyper-connectivity. We can cross oceans at the touch of the button, speak to someone, anywhere, 24/7. And yet, statistics report that we’ve never felt so lonely. The technologies connecting us are isolating us.
You can be surrounded by people, at a party, or in the office, and still feel lonely to your core.
And you can be alone, millions of miles away from any human contact, and still feel joyfully connected to the world.
It’s less about our circumstances, more about how we react to them.
Real solitude is almost impossible to experience in the modern world. And for some, this makes it the ultimate privilege.
Some people know they can harness times of stillness to find answers to questions, solutions to problems.
Solitude deprives you. It stretches you. It illuminates. And this breeds creativity.
The only way to overcome solitude is to face it. Ease yourself in, with 10 minutes, then 20, then 30, of solitude a day, or week, or month.
There’s great power in doing nothing at all. But when you find strength — rather than fear — in solitude, you will live a far richer life: with others, and with ourselves.
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Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:
Loneliness has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have: it is just as possible to feel very lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact.
“Loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed but simply that one is alive.”
One way people have always dealt with loneliness is through creativity. By metamorphosing their reality into art, lonely people throughout history have managed to interchange the sense of community relationships could foster with their creative outputs.
The artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is known for his paintings of American cityscapes inhabited by closed-off figures who seem to embody a vision of modern loneliness.