There’s something about being alone that really gets people.
I remember reading an article on an experiment in which they had a large number of people stay in a room on his or her own for about 15 to 20 minutes in silence. In that room, there was a button that would deliver small electric shocks if they pressed it. They could choose to either sit in that room for a short amount of time, or shock themselves. Strangely enough, mostly everyone chose to shock themselves. I won’t get into too much detail about the study, but it goes to show that certain people can’t be bothered to sit and think for just a few minutes.
Usually when we see someone sitting alone by themselves, we deem that individual as lonely, or an outsider. But little do we know that sometimes those people who are alone are bearing the gift of solitude. They may or may not know it, but seclusion is a powerful gift that allows you to cultivate many things within yourself.
Solitude allows you:
1. Mental freedom
Your mind is your largest playground. Your world with no boundaries, limits, or expectations. It’s yours. You can imagine your life being able to fly, being famous, being with someone you fell in love with–anything. And nobody will hold it against you. Your mind is the most powerful and unseen weapon you have. It is said that all action begins with a thought, and to some extent, that is true. Think about it, the people who are very well known today begin their journeys with a simple thought.
The thought became an idea, and they went through with the idea, day in and day out. And what else came with it? Possibly reputation, respect, power, money, fame–anything. People that are well known like Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney–they all started in unfavorable circumstances. But they kept going at it with sheer tenacity, confidence, and fortitude that led them to being the inspiring figures they are today. And in your own mind, who is holding you back?
Relieve yourself of bias, assumption, and judgment when you are performing introspection and when you are alone. These things will cloud your ability to see things with clarity and for what they are. You are alone in your own mind, but you are not lonely. Your mind is the perfect place to start removing your limits, because you have none. Set yourself free. You are only bound by the limits you set on yourself.
2. Self-Mental practice
If it hasn’t occurred to you yet, thinking is almost effortless. We go from life to death constantly thinking, pondering, and wondering. And while we may not pay much attention to our thinking (although we should), thinking is a skill which can change the ebb and flow of our actions, values, and emotions. Like everyone, we all have problems. Sometimes we caused them ourselves, sometimes the burden is left to us, and sometimes what problems we cause will be left to be solved by another.
As Albert Einstein once said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” which is true for nearly all problems. In mathematics, we must always change our ways of thinking when solving a problem. If our first question was 3 + 5, and the next questions was 4 + 6, we would not use the method of 3 +5 in order to solve the 4 + 6 problem.
Just like life, we must change our methods of thinking with each obstacle we encounter in order to solve them. Practicing new ways of thinking and tackling new problems sharpens our abilities and broadens our mental horizon. Again, the best way to practice new ways of thinking is in solitude. You are free of all judgment when you are alone. The only judge there is should be is yourself.
3. Forgiveness of self
Not all of us are saints. And whether you believe in a deity or not, learn to forgive yourself first. You’ve done a lot of things wrong–you’ve put people down, forgotten people’s names, refused to listen to those more experienced–you’ve done it all. You’ve gotten your hands dirty and you’ve hurt people before, too. And while the people you’ve gone against may not forgive you, you can surely forgive yourself. The best time to do it? Right about now. It’s okay to make all these mistakes in your life. They’re the pieces of experience you pick up and learn not to do again.
When we are not experienced, we have to go through certain trials to get that experience. And while going through the event itself may or may not be so delightful, it surely is something worth going through. In the end of it all, you will make mistakes, and you will hurt people. Those people will get hurt for even maybe the silliest reasons–it goes against their beliefs, you’re doing what they wanted to do first, or they just plain get offended by everything. Whatever the case, forgive yourself, whether you believe you wronged them or not. In the end, only you and the things you did matter most. You cannot move onto the next chapter of your life if you keep looking back. Forgive yourself, and move on.
4. Freedom to be spontaneous
What’s wrong with a little spontaneity? Nothing, that’s what. When you are alone, let your mind unravel. Let it be. In society we sometimes have to maintain composure and keep ourselves on a leash, but when we are alone with our own thoughts and nobody but ourselves, don’t hold yourself back. Do what you want to do. Think what you want to think.
Set yourself free, because honestly, who cares what anyone else thinks? If you can’t be yourself around your own friends or express the things you like to them, those people aren’t your friends. There are always (and I guarantee) people who will like you for who you are. Just keep being yourself and the right people will come around. Being yourself will allow you to wander in places you’ve never been before because you no longer allow other people’s thoughts and beliefs to hold you back. You will wander into uncharted territory, but you are not alone. Be spontaneous, be free, be wild. While you may be alone for now, the right people will join you when the time is right. Enjoy yourself.
5. Ability to communicate with yourself
Okay, we might be getting a little on the strange side here, but bear with me. I personally talk to myself. Our minds can get really out of control at some points due to stress and the calamity of the world around us, so by finding time to be alone, you can speak with yourself to understand what’s going on in your head one word at a time. If you’re one of the lucky ones to have a friend who will stay with you through the night to hear you speak for hours on end without passing judgment, please, cherish them.
They are people who graciously set aside time to listen to you. And if you aren’t that lucky to have a friend like that, don’t fret. You have yourself and your own company. And guess what? You’re always listening, no matter what. They always say that the biggest lies are the ones you tell yourself, so if you can tell yourself a big lie, you can tell yourself a big truth. Set aside time for yourself and speak with yourself. You are a marvelous human being who deserves to be heard not just by others, but by yourself. You come first.
6. Ask and answer your own questions
We’re always seeking answers from the outside world. We are taught to ask authorities and people with more experience the answers to our questions, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what if you were to ask yourself? Surely you’ll probably answer with “I don’t know”, but if you can somehow change that “I don’t know” to an “I’m not so sure”, you’re on the right track. Those words indicate you have a piece of information that you can flesh out and infer upon.
Sometimes we know more than we think, and maybe, just maybe, if we take the time to ask ourselves the harder questions before asking someone else, we can dawn upon knowledge we had discovered ourselves. And that itself is an intangible feeling. So before you go asking someone else for answers, ask yourself. You might just know more than you think.
7. Re-evaluate your beliefs, values, and morals
One night before I fell asleep, I had questioned whether or not I was “easy to read.” As in, were my emotions, intentions, and ways of thinking obvious to others? I had always believed that I was an open book, that I was easily understood by others, but I didn’t know for sure. When I had this question in mind, I asked some people I knew whether or not if I was easy to read.
As it turns out, I wasn’t. I had a very shady disposition. I always made people laugh and made people comfortable, and after that, there was not much else people knew about me. They never knew my softer, calmer, (I’m about to toot my own horn here) and more eloquent side of myself. At least, not until later. They didn’t know that I took pleasure in writing or that I enjoyed silence over chatter. They always knew me for my laughter, the way I made other people laugh, and the constant shenanigans I thrived in.
After finding out I wasn’t easy to read at all, I took it upon myself to re-adjust my beliefs and my values. With that in mind, I sought to be a bit more honest in my words. I would be a little less ridiculous so that people would value it more when it was time to be crazy, and make it more obvious what my intents are. I have no fear in my capabilities during adversity and I am not worried that my intentions are for evil, so to let others know what I plan on doing is nothing to be concerned over.
In your own ways, do your beliefs, morals, and values that you hold project outward as they do inward? Do you “follow through” with your intents? Are you truly what you perceive yourself to be? If not, take time to review whether or not the things you do are in line with your values. You might just find out that there are little kinks and tangles with your words and your thoughts. Whether you decide to change your external actions to be in line with your internal beliefs or your internal beliefs to be in line with your external actions, making sure that these things are working in harmony leaves out the possibility for confusion when something goes wrong. You’ll know exactly why you did something, and you’ll know what went through your mind when you did it because it’s in line with your beliefs.
8. Cultivate a comfortableness in your own skin
This is my favorite. Being alone in your own company allows not only for some introspection, but some comfort to be found in yourself. They say that you’re going to be stuck in your skin for quite some time, so you might as well get used to it. And to be happy with yourself is probably one of the most comforting things there is. It’s the thing you get to keep from the moment you draw your first and last breath. It’s yours. So why not learn to love it for what it is?
Do your best to make it your home. Because you are your own home, you are your own company, your own friend, lover, and counsel. To put your heart into something that is not your own can easily be taken away from you. And if it is taken away from you, what will become of you then? Learn to love yourself, because when you do, are you truly ever lonely? Remember that being alone is a state of being, while being lonely is a state of mind. As Olay’s slogan once was, “love the skin you’re in.”
9. Establish maturity and resilience
There’s a vast perception on what maturity is.
Some believe that it comes with age, others believe it can come at a young age. When you are alone, you can focus on yourself and understand what it means to be mature. If you are at that point of in-between where you start to see flaws in yourself and wish to fix them, where you believe maturity does not come with age, and that you take chances when you are afraid, you are on the right track.
Maturity is something that is learned through experience and does not come to you. It is also not very easy to be a mature character–it involves taking responsibility, accepting that you can (and will) be wrong, understanding that what you know is nothing compared to what you don’t know, and maintaining your composure when someone blows up in your face. However, with frequent practice of trying to keep your cool and finding time to collect yourself after you’ve made a terrible mistake (taking responsibility), you can further the growth of your character and understand what it means to stand back up when you’ve fallen.
10. Try to improve who you are, and try to be the kind of person that you would admire
I find that the whole point of solitude is so that you can not only enjoy your own company, but also to review, change, and improve who you are as a person.
If you already have a person in mind who is ideal, why don’t you become that person who you believe is ideal? Why don’t you become that cheerful, happy, optimistic, and funny person? Or why don’t you become that intelligent, witty, carefree, and sassy person? Instead of seeking it in other people, why not become that person that you like so much? Like I said before, you are the only person who sets the limits for yourself, so why hold back?
Sure, it’ll take some work to pull it off, but if you take it one day at a time, it’ll become a habit. And before you know it, you’ll be what you’ve always wanted to become. The same applies to your values. You should redefine your values to be in line with the person you wish to become. If you are constantly looking for problems in everything, you’re not going to be that optimistic person you wanted to be. You should try to find values that are easy to grow into. Now I’m not saying you should pick values and stick by them literally regardless of circumstances. It’s not always a good idea to remain an optimist 24/7, but rather, become a hopeful realist. That way, you won’t go hoping it rains when your house catches fire and you’ll decide to get outside someplace safe.
There is a balance that you must find and maintain–you want to be hopeful, but not naive. The best way to figure out which values are objectively important is through logic and reason. This may all sound overwhelming, but if you take this step by step, one day at a time, in a slow, but perfect execution, you’ll be there in no time.