Without getting too much into current events, it’s safe to say that we’re living in unprecedented times.
Never before have so many of us been required to spend so much time in isolation, quarantine, and solitude.
But there is a way that we can make the most out of a bad situation, and thrive during this difficult time.
By choosing to embrace solitude instead of dread it, we can take back control of the situation and use the time to better ourselves, our surroundings, and improve our outlook upon life.
In this article, I present 9 steps that you can use to transform solitude into a time of great personal, emotional and spiritual growth, and at the very least these steps can help you to progress through this period of uncertainty in a positive light.
So, without further ado…
9 Steps To Embracing Solitude (And Keeping Your Sanity in the Process!)
Step 1: Redefine your Personal Dictionary
A mistake people often make when faced with periods of solitude is to think of their time alone as isolation.
While the two words do indicate periods of being alone, they actually have very different meanings.
Even if your time alone is technically isolation, thinking of it in the parameters of solitude can be a great way to view this time in a more positive light.
Where isolation is often a punishment or a time alone that is enforced from the outside world, solitude is a state of being that is actively sought after.
Solitude gives us time to ourselves, to refresh and recuperate.
During periods of solitude, we can be free to do what we wish to without external input, and can often use the time to work proactively on improving multiple aspects of our lives.
Step one to embracing solitude, therefore, is to rewrite your personal dictionary and define the word in a positive light to allow you to step forward with positive intentions.
Step 2: Rationalization
Lengthy periods of solitude aren’t for everyone, and when being isolated is necessary and not chosen by the individual, such as due to illness, it can be hard to come to terms with the situation.
Extroverts can often be heavily affected by this because they gain their energy from interactions with others.
There are positive steps you can take to reduce the negative mental impacts solitude may have upon you, however, starting with rationalization.
Rationalization is a way in which you can turn unwanted, potentially painful, or mentally negative experiences on their head.
Put simply, it’s finding the positives within a negative experience, and re-framing your situation in a rational way.
For example, an extrovert may rationalize a time of solitude by saying to themselves; It’s only a week, and, at the end of the month I have a party to go to’.
An introvert may think to themselves ‘I’ll miss my best friend, but, there’s so much that I really want to do that I’ve been putting off that I can do.’
Rationalizing takes the focus off the negative experience, and provides a positive aspect to channel your attention towards.
This doesn’t have to be an over-arching mantra, however, sometimes it is simply about finding a positive focus at the start of each day such as an errand you need to do, or finishing a project you started a while ago.
Step 3: Be Grateful for Boredom
Isn’t it amazing that in the 21st century with so much around us and so much to do we can still be bored?
Boredom, however, doesn’t always indicate that we have nothing to do, instead, it can indicate that deeper connections are missing from our lives.
This can be our connection to others, but also connections with our surroundings.
In the case of solitude, connecting with others can be tricky, but it is definitely still possible (more on that later), but what we definitely can do is connect more deeply with the space that surrounds us and our own responses to it.
For example, boredom can often come from living too much in the future instead of the here and now.
We’ve all had to sit in waiting rooms for appointments, and let’s be honest that’s beyond boring!
Focussing on the future, or future events puts you in the exact same position, you are quite literally waiting for that thing to happen, instead of experiencing what today can bring you.
Boredom naturally will spring from this situation, so staying present is an essential way of combating this.
You can still keep that future event in your mind of course, and let it excite and motivate you, but pay attention to the day at hand as well, and use boredom as a positive reminder to carpe diem.
Step 4: Conquering Boredom
Now you’ve gained more of an understanding of why boredom occurs, it’s time to conquer it.
Many people in life are receptors. This means that need the external environment to satiate their needs. They often don’t realize that they can be a producer too, and be the receptacle for their own amusement and fulfillment.
Conquering boredom isn’t about finding more things to do, instead, it’s about changing your mindset and becoming a producer.
While changing things in your external environment might give you relief for a day or even a week, you’ll soon find yourself back to square one.
The change needs to come from within. After all, it’s very hard to get bored when your state of mind constantly perpetuates new activities tailored towards your own fulfillment and personal growth!
Step 5: Energy Can Come from Mindfulness
Mindfulness lets us transform negative emotions such as anger, loneliness, or fear, into positive emotions such as inspiration, determination, and joy.
It helps reduce suffering and rationalize the way that we feel, allowing us to become more in tune with ourselves and promotes positive mental health and well being.
To successfully conquer negative emotions through mindfulness you need to be able to accept them, embrace them, and through this, understand them.
Mindfulness is a process of learning and healing that can help you to navigate difficult times such as solitude.
It can help to fortify your mental health and increase your self-awareness.
This can allow you to respond to situations in a way that is more beneficial to your needs and the needs of those around you.
For times when solitude is a choice, mindfulness can also help you make the most of your time alone.
Through practicing mindfulness you can gain a deeper insight into your psyche and spot emotional triggers and thought patterns which can give you great control over your emotions and encourage a stronger sense of self.
Step 6: Practice Mindfulness within Mundane Tasks
Times spent in solitude, particularly when you are unable to leave the house can mean the majority of your time is spent completely mundane tasks.
While these tasks are necessary and completing them can improve your living space, they do little to stimulate the mind.
Instead of viewing the mundane tasks in your life as chores to be dreaded, instead re-frame them as mindfulness opportunities.
Simple tasks are the perfect moments to do this, because, while your hands are busy your mind can be free to be mindful.
Use the time to focus on you, let your breathing become calm and rhythmic and your thoughts focused upon the here and now.
These simple steps can help transform the task at hand from mundane to spiritually nourishing.
While it is impossible to avoid our responsibilities in life, we can alter the way we choose to experience them.
Instead of pushing through chores and feeling depleted afterward, try approaching them in a mindful way and become restored by them instead.
Step 7: Take Things One Day at a Time
For some, an extended period of time alone can be overwhelming, and a few short weeks may as well be years.
This is commonly because the person is looking at the event as a whole and not breaking it down into more manageable chunks. Imagine building a house.
You’re not going to think of what color you’re painting the bedrooms when you haven’t even got the foundations down!
So why approach day-to-day life with an ‘all at once’ attitude? After all, it’s just a recipe for stress and anxiety!
Instead, exist in the present. Don’t think about tomorrow or the day after. Focus on making the day you’re currently living positive.
By doing this you break down the overwhelmingness of extended solitude into much more manageable pieces.
You’ll likely find that time passes much more quickly when living this way and that you feel much more positive and focussed.
Step 8: Try Something New and Break Free from your Routine
Boredom or dissatisfaction can also occur because we are under-stimulated.
As high-functioning creatures, we become tired if each day is the same, and require new stimuli to remain positive and productive.
This is why trying new things can give us such a rush of energy. It’s the mental version of splashing cold water on your face in the morning.
Of course, routine does have its place in our day-to-day lives and can be useful for remain on-task and productive.
However, too much routine in our free-time can leave us feeling trapped and anxious.
Breaking from your routine may seem scary, but solitude is the perfect time to change things up.
When alone you have no one to impress and no one’s expectations to suppress you (but your own).
Therefore use the time to experiment with your established routines, you’ll likely feel liberated and may even discover a better way of doing things!
Step 9: Connections are Still Important
Very few of us can completely isolate ourselves from others for more than a couple of days.
This is one of the rare times where living in the 21st century is beneficial!
When physically connecting with someone isn’t possible, there are so many alternative options for communication.
From video and voice chat to social media, emails and phone calls, even a good old letter, there are lots of ways to connect with others outside of physical meetings.
The best thing about communicating in this way is that you are in control of the extent of your interaction.
When meeting face to face it can be rude or difficult to bring the interaction to a close.
With social media or online messaging, for example, you can control when you reply, and how often. This makes a great option for those who seek some solitude but do not want to feel completely cut off from friends or family.
It is also ideal in times where solitude was not a choice.
Put simply, it’s all about balance.
Unless you’re a Buddhist monk you’re unlikely to want to be completely cut off from others for more than a few days, to finding a happy medium between connecting and distancing is important.
…Solitude? More Like Extra You Time!
As with lots of potentially negative things in life, embracing solitude is about approaching the situation from a different angle.
Instead of living in isolation, you are engaging in a period of solitude.
Instead of dreading time alone, you are capitalizing upon it as a resource, a chance to change the way you think and grow as a person.
Instead of being stuck with the mundane, you’re exploring the depths of your mind through mindfulness.
Finally, instead of feeling trapped, you’re breaking free from your routine and liberating yourself, opening up a whole new world of opportunities.
All this means that when the time comes when we can all stick our heads back above the metaphorical parapet, through embracing our time of solitude we can emerge empowered, refreshed, and stronger than ever before.
Like a butterfly in its chrysalis, view this period of solitude as a time to transform into something beautiful and who knows what you’ll discover?