“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” – Francis Bacon
A little solitude can be relaxing. A lot can make you feel lonely, isolated and miserable. But sometimes solitude is unavoidable. You may have to close yourself away from friends to finish a project. You may be placed into a new environment without the comforts of your old friends.
Although Francis Bacon may have been exaggerating in the discipline necessary to enjoy alone time, it can be a tricky task. During the summer I found myself relocated away from most my friends. In just a day I went from being surrounded by hundreds of people and sharing a social network of dozens, to near isolation.
At first I found the silence uncomfortable, but now I’ve been able to integrate it to a point where I believe I could be equally happy by myself for extended periods as I am surrounded by people. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your solitude:
1) Cultivate Friendships, But Don’t Stress Over It
In any semi-permanent cases of solitude, you should start laying down the foundations of a social network. Make an effort to meet people and when you do, try to make the contact last more than just a handshake. Solitude can have advantages, but just as being in a huge crowd, it shouldn’t be permanent.
At the same time, don’t stress over the fact that you are alone right now. That is only going to make you feel miserable. Any effort to change has to start with accepting your current situation. Once you’ve done that you can begin to enjoy the solitude as you build a social network.
2) Fill Your Day
Combining isolation with inactivity is a recipe for depression. Not having something to engage your mind will leave you feeling useless. Your day should be filled with tasks and projects. Leaving huge gaps in your schedule is just going to lead to watching late-night television infomercials and sleeping fourteen hours a day.
Use the time to reflect on yourself, your life and larger philosophical questions. Many religions use solitude as a way of achieving spiritual enlightenment. You can use it as a way to gain a better understanding about yourself and the world you live in. Cutting away all the noise can give you room to think clearly.
4) Establish Rituals
If you are going to be alone for more than a few days, you should establish rituals. Habits for how to get up in the morning, cook meals and the routine chores you need to accomplish. Having core rituals for basic functions can give yourself order in a day normally filled with the pressures of friends and work.
5) Challenge Yourself
Once you’ve enjoyed the relaxing quiet for a few minutes, you’re probably going to get bored. Inventing challenges for yourself is a way to stave off the boredom, while contributing to your growth. Finding ways I can push myself even when the environment doesn’t demand it helps me focus. Trying to shave off time when I run or read more each day are just a few ways I found challenges in my environment.
6) Start Projects
If your isolation is going to last over a month, you should start a project to keep yourself engaged. It can take a while to rebuild a social network if you’ve recently moved, so something to occupy you longer than reading a book will have to do. During my time off I finished an e-book for this website, redesigned the website and I’ll have another e-book finished by late August. Finishing projects is incredibly rewarding and it helps order your thoughts.
7) Stay Connected
Use the internet to stay connected with past friends, or to make new friends online. I use Facebook to keep track of friends and to stay in touch even when I can’t visit them. Developing online connections with readers and other bloggers has also helped me stay in touch with the world.
8) Discipline Your Thinking
Discipline yourself to avoid negative and destructive thinking. Respecting that you are feeling isolated or bored is important. But don’t indulge in it. Focus your thoughts onto the challenges at hand, how you intend to break your situation or future goals. Improve your ability to experience a negative thought, but switch focuses to prevent a downward spiral.
9) Use Enthusiasm
Find reasons to be enthusiastic. I found even simple things like listening to music while cooking or taking a walk could be transformed into moments of enthusiasm. People tend to be less expressive when alone. By doing the opposite, and expressing private excitement you can go from enduring isolation to enjoying it.
10) Don’t Make it a Prison
Isolation is one extreme in a social setting. The other is being stuck in a crowd. Each needs to be experienced, but neither state should last forever. I’ve noticed it is easy to build too much order into a private life. Building so many projects and challenges that you avoid opportunities to meet new people that might interrupt your schedule.
Utilizing solitude is important, but so is having the will to end it. If you find yourself in a deprived social circle, don’t just endure, expand. Meet new people, even if you are in a temporary location. Be able to use both time alone and time connecting equally.