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How Solitude Can Change Your Brain In Profound Ways

Self-imposed solitude

Solitude can be invaluable and rewarding.

Moments of solitude – even small ones – when self-imposed, intentional, and fully appreciated, can have profound effects on our productivity and creative thinking.

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How Solitude Can Change Your Brain In Profound Ways

How Solitude Can Change Your Brain In Profound Ways

https://www.fastcompany.com/3052061/how-solitude-can-change-your-brain-in-profound-ways

fastcompany.com

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Key Ideas

Self-imposed solitude

Solitude can be invaluable and rewarding.

Moments of solitude – even small ones – when self-imposed, intentional, and fully appreciated, can have profound effects on our productivity and creative thinking.

Undercover Introverts

One in every two or three people is an introvert – preferring quiet alone time to stimulation and large groups of people.

Stepping away from the routine and rowdiness of our daily lives allows us to connect ideas in new ways, follow creative impulses, and simply think about one thing at a time.

Creativity And Efficiency Need Solitude

Being alone is uncomfortable at times. But when it comes to creative work and thinking, it’s important to take a long-term view on those moments of discomfort. 

Being alone has a kind of a rebound effect. It’s like bitter medicine, creating more positive emotions and less self-reported depression down the line.

Giving Your Mind What It Needs

Time alone allows us to order our priorities according to what we need, rather than the needs of others.

When you’re able to disengage from the demands of other people, you’ve suddenly freed up the mental space to focus on longer-term, bigger-picture projects and needs.

Solitude Feeds Our Relationships

Sherry Turkle, author of the book Alone Together:

“You end up isolated if you don’t cultivate the capacity for solitude, the ability to be separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don’t have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive. When this happens, we’re not able to appreciate who they are. It’s as though we’re using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

Make A Weekly Date With Yourself

Make time once a week and do something inspiring and creative by yourself. 

Take a long walk alone, watch a sunrise, go to an unfamiliar church to hear gospel music, visit a museum or neighborhood you haven’t been to, just to experience something new and unfamiliar. 

Embrace The Space

Solitude is a description of a fact: You are on your own. Loneliness is a negative emotional response to it. People think they will be lonely, and that is the problem – the expectation is also now a cultural assumption.

But make the assumption that you’ll be finding the time and space to reconnect with yourself and your ideas, and suddenly the sound of solitude has a delicious ring to it.

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Going with the flow

Elements to help you reach a state of flow.

  1. There are specific goals every step of the way.
  2. There is immediate feedback to your actions.
  3. There is a balance between challenges and skills.
  4. Action and awareness are merged.
  5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
  6. There is no worry of failure.
  7. Self-consciousness disappears.
  8. The sense of time becomes distorted.
  9. The activity becomes autotelic.

To allow this deep work to occur requires you to be vigilant about outside interruptions.

The ability to face distractions

Solitude can initially make you squirm but later becomes a bedrock for intense concentration and creativity. Deflect distractions and use solitude to your advantage:

  • Listen to the sounds of nature. It calms the storm of thoughts and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Accept imperfection. Don't chase an "ideal" work environment; accept what you have.

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The goal of staying focused

The goal is not constant focus, but a short period of distraction-free time every day. 

Twenty minutes a day of deep focus could be transformative.

Do creative work first

Typically, we do mindless work first and build-up to the toughest tasks. That drains your energy and lowers your focus.

In order to focus effectively, reverse the order. Check off the tasks that require creativity or concentration first thing in the morning, and then move on to easier work.

Allocate your time deliberately

We are truly focused for an average of only six hours per week. You want to be really diligent with what you put into those hours.

90 percent of people do their best thinking outside the office. Notice where and when you focus best, then allocate your toughest tasks for those moments.

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