The joy of being alone
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.
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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.
We’re told happiness comes from within. And yet, we’re never taught how to be alone with ourselves.
We celebrate self-esteem. But we stigmatize spending time with ourselves.
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.
Our fear of solitude is really fear of boredom.
We want to be entertained, constantly. The alternative — introspection — intimidates us. And so, we drown out our discomfort with distractions. But that doesn’t mean the discomfort will go away.
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.
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.
Technologies connecting us are actually isolating us. From the telegram to the phone to the mobile to the internet, all major cultural inventions have served the purpose of bringing us closer together. And yet, today, in a work hyper-connected, statistics report that we’ve never felt so lonely.
Loneliness, according to many experts, is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, if you feel alone and isolated, then that is how loneliness plays into your state of mind.
For example, a college freshman might feel lonely despite being surrounded by roommates and other peers.
Being alone and, therefore, forced to face our own thoughts, can prove rather disturbing. People need other people to feel well: being sociable is not anymore just a skill to develop, it is a mere condition of our existence. However, learning how to feel well while being alone is another skill at least as important.
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