View this post on Instagram
There’s nothing wrong with being alone, yet we try to avoid it.
Sitting with our feelings and letting thoughts mindfully come and go is important for emotional regulation. Without it, we are just machines obsessed with the next productivity hack.
But we are not machines. Somehow, we still expect ourselves to function like one.
Solitude sets us right. With introspection comes greater clarity and self-care. It’s how we self-soothe, recharge, and become more creative and productive.
Solitude deactivates high arousal states in the nervous system leading to feelings of calm. This aids anxiety. We become self-reflective, leading to negative feelings at first popping up that we repressed, but then we can address them to find inner peace rather than depression.
Our moods and mental health are improved with solitude. Yet we’ve stigmatized solitude due to Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Connecting with ourselves is the true thing we are missing out on.
As a society, we are always plugged in. Social media has created a new wave of connectedness. We’re able to get in touch and share things like never before.
While there are many positive aspects to this, a problem is emerging. We wonder, “Who am I if I’m not appealing to everyone else?”
In the evolution of social media and relationships, we are rarely alone. We are always staring at a screen hoping for a like or follow. Hours of our days are easily eaten away.
Yet, we are finding like-minded people and sharing our ideas, save for internet trolls who cling onto the hope they will get a reaction.
We rarely shut down our phones, much less shut out the world anytime during the day. I recently spoke about this with a friend who spends almost all day on social media nurturing one of the biggest online communities.
“As an introvert, Twitter has helped me step outside of my shell. I’ve connected with people like never before. I consider myself less lonely because of the experience of making friends with my followers.
But there are downsides to social media. Haters and trolls have tried to bring me down and used to trigger my PTSD.
However, I have become desensitized from this activity and know it is a normal part of having a platform. People also only show you what they want you to see, so sometimes there are inauthentic connections.
I would like social media to be a healthier place. I usually turn my phone off at night and unplug for some solitude.
This is how I recharge from the experience, but overall, it has helped me talk about issues that matter and share aspects of my story that can help others.” ~ Nathalie Jacoby
Solitude has become a rare treasure left unexplored. We must savor solitude before we lose ourselves.
This doesn’t mean we have to cut everyone out, move to a private island, and take a vow of silence (though you could if you want). It only means that we schedule solitude into our day where we actually take a breath and remember that purpose far outweighs productivity.
Those who desire solitude experience “aloneliness.”
This is when we feel depleted of energy and need to be alone. We are exhausted. We are spread thin. We are overwhelmed.
All of us experience aloneliness now and then. Aloneliness just means that rather than living, we are on autopilot. Aloneliness means we need solitude in order to truly be alive.
It’s time to let go. In solitude, you separate from the world.
This is a good thing. It means you think for yourself and choose your own path. You will not need to copy others or live a lie anymore. Staying with your own inner guidance leads you away from things that don’t matter.
Things you have been carrying get lighter. The need to prove yourself isn’t there anymore.
It’s a beautiful feeling to escape from expectations. Walking away and having boundaries leads to a simpler life. A life that is not owned by others.
Do you have the bravery to live such a life?
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. You may have to think outside the box to get there. You might have to be uncomfortable. You might have to be different. But it’s possible.
Who are you when no one is watching?
Discovering that has to do with differentiating your authentic self from your influences. According to Choosing Therapy, “Differentiation of self is a state of being in which someone is able to maintain their sense of self, identity, thoughts, and emotions when emotionally or physically close with others, particularly within intense or intimate relationships.”
These four ways can help us create our own sanctuary of inner peace and harmony through solitude:
1. Box Breathing Exercise
The best thing to focus on in any situation isn’t the situation itself but your breath.
Calm the chaos within before you calm what’s around you. Mindful breathing reduces stress, lowers your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, improves diabetic symptoms, reduces depression, manages chronic pain, regulates the body’s reaction to stress, and reduces burnout.
Mindful breathing activates your vagus nerve, the largest cranial nerve in the body, which soothes your flight-or-fight response. Mindful breathing is a great coping method. Mindful breathing grounds you when you need a moment to yourself.
Yet most of us have forgotten how to breathe or never learned in the first place.
Try this box breathing exercise:
When you are in a comfortable position, take a deep breath and fill your lungs. Place your left hand on the belly and the right hand on your chest. As you feel your belly expand and retract, your chest should remain still. When you inhale, feel your belly expand past your rib cage. When you exhale, feel your belly being pulled toward the spine. Notice how your hands move as this happens. Inhale deeply for four counts, fill your lungs completely, hold for four counts and exhale to four counts. It’s important to get all the air out of your lungs when you exhale.
Repeat this as a box breathing technique for four minutes or until you are completely relaxed.
Breathe in peace and tranquility and breathe out distress. You can do this when you meditate or at any time during the day. Even if you can’t get a moment alone, you can do this breathing exercise to find some solace.
2. Find Your Inner Wisdom
What if you chose this moment exactly as it is? What gifts would it have to give you? What would it tell you?
This is how to find your sanctuary of solitude. Inner wisdom will come through when you take a step back and observe your thoughts and feelings rather than judge them.
Beyond your negative or positive self-talk, there’s another inner voice. It’s not your inner critic. It’s your inner wisdom.
The inner critic tells you what you cannot do and what you do not have. The inner critic is relentless and irresponsible with its words. The inner critic complains constantly. The inner critic never lets you relax or enjoy a moment of freedom. The inner critic sees your flaws and makes up facts out of feelings.
However, inner wisdom is your intuition guiding you beyond what your inner critic can see. Inner wisdom sees the bigger picture. Inner wisdom looks at things from a better perspective. Inner wisdom sees the potential. Inner wisdom sees the ability you have. Inner wisdom sees a way through where there appears to be none. Inner wisdom is simply the ego being silenced and the heart is being reached.
There is safety and strength when this happens. It means you can finally let go and surrender to the flow.
The inner critic makes you fight harder, but inner wisdom says, “Give yourself grace.”
So what can you do if your inner critic gets too loud? Silencing it can only make it worse, more forceful.
It’s like being told not to think about a purple elephant, so then you think about a purple elephant. What you can do is simply thank it for existing and forits concern. Acknowledge the good intention it has to help you. Then, gently like the wind, blow it away.
Let it slip from your heart, from your hands into the distance. Let it be taken over by the truth.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could access inner wisdom all the time? The great news is that you can!
Simply breathe deeply and listen to the wisdom of the moment. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? What good can I do? How can I heal myself and others? What do I most desire? What am I afraid of and why? What is my purpose?”
This is known as positive reframing and is a powerful tool against your inner critic.
It depletes your inner critic of the energy for negative self-talk. Instead, your inner wisdom takes over with positive self-talk. Inner wisdom looks at the situation from a better vantage point. And it is something you can only seek if you step away in solitude.
Simply sitting alone and letting go for a moment can bring you the answers to these questions. No one in the world can answer them but you.
Here are 13 ways to connect with your inner wisdom:
1. Write out your fears and dreams in a journal entry.
2. Do an activity that helps you listen to your inner voice, such as meditation or yoga.
3. Do something that scares you. Your inner wisdom may be telling you to dream bigger, so let it lead you!
4. Respect your thoughts and feelings.
5. Tolerate uncomfortable emotions. Sit with them rather than trying to “fix” them.
6. Be okay with not knowing the answers.
7. Listen to the wisdom of your body. Do a body scan and feel where negative emotions are affecting your body. For example, you might have tension in your neck or headaches due to stress. This may be a call for balance and rest. To release tension in your body, soften your forehead, unclench your jaws and relax your shoulders. Progressive muscle relaxation may also help relieve tension.
8. Remember you are a human being, not a human doing. Simply be present rather than fulfill the need for constant productivity.
9. Prioritize your needs.
10. Let go of what no longer serves you and receive joy in its place.
11. Find gratitude and savor the small things.
12. Even though you are alone, think about your connection to others and the world. Think about common humanity and how you can better align your intentions with helping others. Try this Loving-Kindness meditation.
13. Forgive yourself if you fall out of alignment with your inner wisdom.
3. The Power of Silence
Unplug and step back from the noise of the world to harness the power of silence.
In meditation, they call it the monkey mind when your mind ruminates and becomes restless. However, there is a space between thoughts you can reside when you become silent and still. Only when you are enveloped in silence can you truly hear what needs to be heard.
Aundi Kolber says that silence can be triggering. Often, we run from this silence. We fear that traumas, fears, anger, remorse, resentment, and sorrow will come up. But this is how you notice your feelings.
Dr. Dan Siegel says it’s important to then name your feelings (otherwise known as Name it To Tame It) to relieve their power over you. Without silence, how would we know what the heart is saying?
Whatever is repressed will rise up. Whatever is lost will be remembered. Whatever is left behind will be found again.
Mindful silence is when you use silence to meditate. When’s the last time you just sat in silence? When didn’t you care to answer the phone or even the door? When do you let go of your worries and ruminations? When do you choose to listen to that voice within?
We don’t have to fill up our day every second. Take the time to hear the silence. Take the time to truly feel. Take the time to let your thoughts come up as they want to.
This is also known as open awareness meditation, where you let what wants to come up while focusing on bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings.
You don’t judge or repress these feelings. You listen to them but also let them be. You don’t have to react to every thought. You just have to give it nonjudgmental space and care. Try this guide to delve deeper into the practice.
Vijay Eswaran does a practice he calls the Sphere of Silence inspired by his grandfather’s practice of Mouna Vratham, a meditative silence practiced in Indian Hindu tradition. The Sphere of Silence is a 60-minute practice divided into segments for 21 days with no breaks. During these 60 minutes, you stay in complete silence with no distractions.
Quiet contemplation on any subject is another powerful practice that can help you reduce stress, innovate, solve problems, and think for yourself.
It’s a key skill that should be utilized before any decision-making. Take a few minutes each day for this and get lost in thinking about life. Greater purpose and insights will come to you.
You could set an intention for the day or a mantra with this quiet contemplation and become mindful. Megan Devine uses the mantra “Right now” to become present and pull herself out of rumination into reality. Thinking this thought can also pull you back into quiet contemplation and meditation when you get distracted or distressed.
To be even more present, try grounding or focusing on your five senses: what you can see, think, hear, touch, and taste.
The silence says things we may not want to hear. But it always tells the truth.
4. Enjoy Your Own Company
You might find that solitude suits you. You might like it a lot or find it’s not your thing. Either way, it can lead to self-discovery.
It’s taken for granted far too much. There are many ideas for how to be your own best friend and use alone time as a gift to yourself.
Tell yourself, “This is my time. I will do what I want with it. I will go on an adventure and learn who I really am.”
The next time someone calls and you don’t want to go out, you don’t have to make up excuses. Simply say, “Sorry. I’m busy. I have a date with myself.”
So what if you’re the only one laughing at your own jokes. Or buying yourself a drink. Or loving who you are exactly as you are.
Your opinion of yourself is the one that matters.
Enjoy life a little, and please don’t forget: being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.
May it be of benefit!