The Benefits of Solitude and Quiet
Parents of young children may look at this title and laugh. When can they enjoy periods of solitude and quiet while seeing to the needs of a hectic family life? There are meals to prepare, homework to oversee, soccer and basketball practices, and the next PTA meeting.
Add to the mix phone calls, tweets, texts and email messages to answer, and that doesn’t count time spent catching up on social media.
A recent article in The New York Times by Ester Buchholz, PhD, stated, “We’re heading toward a time when portable phones, pagers, and data transmission devices of every sort will keep us terminally in touch.” In other words, we’re losing the option to get away from it all. Work, family and responsibility dog us wherever we go.
Something has to change. Scientists and social scientists agree that humans long for both strong interactions with others and a healthy dose of alone time. Joshua Becker, in his article “Solitude: Where Your Life is Waiting,” speaks of freeing ourselves from the constant bombardment of information from others wanting to influence or inform us. Becker is quick to remind us that being alone is not the same as loneliness. Rather, it is a choice we make to experience life for a set amount of time without interaction. It is a gift to ourselves.
Some of the benefits of being alone include the following:
-Freedom from social constraints. Time to please only yourself.
-Time alone facilitates creativity. Writing or drawing may enhance the quiet experience.
-Being alone can enhance the desire to spend time with loved ones, strengthening bonds.
-Time alone enhances the desire for spirituality. In quiet, we’re more able to seek wisdom, guidance and engagement with a higher power.
-Quiet times can lead to self-renewal, a serenity and freedom from stressors.
-Research shows that people who spend time in quiet are more able to problem solve, get along with others and are freer from depression.
-Alone time increases the ability to focus and concentrate.
-Those who engage in quiet times enjoy more self-acceptance.
Getting quiet in a noisy world can take both discipline and practice. Parents with busy family lives may need to capture just five-or ten-minute blocks of time to sit quietly, enjoy the out of doors, listen to music, pray or meditate, or do absolutely nothing. You may find that doing nothing for five minutes is a difficult task. We’re not used to it.
Dr. Eric Julian Manalastas of the University of the Philippines gives his students an interesting assignment. They are to plan a three-hour date with themselves, spending that time alone. It is possible to “be alone” in the midst of a crowd, granting yourself the freedom not to interact with others.
Students who completed this assignment gained an increased appreciation for solitude. They reported a variety of positive experiences, meals alone, walks in beautiful, natural settings, quiet reading in a library, all related to relaxation, serenity, an inner joy and sense of well-being.
But what can you do to capture solitude in your daily life?
You may need to collaborate with your spouse or a friend to accomplish the task, but you’ll be glad you made the effort. List the types of alone time you long for. Some of them may be:
-Walks, hikes or time to sit and contemplate in a beautiful, natural setting
-Time to journal, pray, meditate, think
-Time to be alone in a public setting such as a restaurant, library, museum, movie theater, bookstore
-Time to exercise, stretch, move
-Time to take a drive, browse through antique stores, attend a concert
-A space of time devoid of any expectation — no agenda
We may live in the noisiest, most demanding period in all of history. It will take a conscious choice to still busy minds and bodies, but ultimately the rewards will outweigh the effort it takes to “return to self.”
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer.