When I talk to others about spending time alone, they typically get scared looks on their faces. When I pursue this topic further, I am always surprised to hear that they are actually scared to be alone with themselves. Why? Maybe there is a stigma associated with spending time alone — they may look lonely or weird or maybe people are scared of getting to know themselves. Not exactly sure but what I am sure of is that most people I know don’t think spending time alone is a priority.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Every day I make some time to be alone. I go for walks. I take a drive. I sit in a quiet room in my house. I will go for a hike or run. And, without music or any distractions. And obviously no other people. I have been doing it since I was a teenager. And I know it has profoundly changed me and impacted my life.
We live in very busy times. Most people are swamped. Overwhelmed and overloaded. Jobs. Family. Friends. Social media. Netflix. TV. Podcasts. Books. Magazines. And on and on. So much content. So much stuff. So many distractions.
It’s never been easier to be busy, yet never harder to stop and take a time out for yourself.
I also mediate, do yoga and practice mindfulness. And those are wonderful tools to help slow down my mind and find inner calm. But while those practices have helped me enormously, one thing they don’t do is force me to get to know myself. They actually help you clear your mind of thoughts. But what do we do to get inside our thoughts and really understand them?
How am I doing? Am I happy? Am I frustrated? Am I healthy? How are my relationships? Is work going ok? Do I enjoy my work? Am I being a good father, spouse, friend? And on and on.
I am blessed to have married my soulmate. Very happily married. And we talk all the time, about everything. But it would be selfish and narcissistic of me to spend all of our alone time talking about ME! I am honestly more interested in HER:)
So my alone time is when I get to learn about myself. And talk to myself. And come to terms with the things I am doing or not doing. I suppose you could see this practice as having an internal therapist that I can see whenever and wherever I want. And I get that you may think that being inside my own head so much won’t lead to critical analysis of things or outside insights, but I would argue that being self critical and self reflective is actually more productive because I can’t lie or fool myself or tell myself what I want to hear either.
I started this practice when I was 17 (I am 52 now). I would drive to the mountains about an hour from my house and go for these two-hour hikes on the Appalachian trail. And it was like a religious experience for me. I came back feeling so much better than when I left. And it really helped me make plans, make changes and come to grips with the things I was avoiding or confronting in my life.
Taking time out doesn’t have to be long either. Sometimes it’s a few minutes. Other times, when I make the time, can be a few hours. Regardless, I come back refreshed and renewed each time.
And it continues to this day. My favorite place to do this is in nature. I am blessed to live near many amazing parks and wilderness areas and I will go there and walk in nature. It calms me. It reminds me of how small we actually are in the scheme of things. And I get to experience the beauty of this world and often just sit on a rock, under a tree and marvel at nature. It’s there in the silence and beauty of nature that I can really reconnect to my inner truths.
One of my favorite quotes about this practice is from Henry David Thoreau — “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
The silence. The deep thinking. The reconnection to my soul. My real truths. These are all the amazing experiences I find when I dedicate myself to being alone.
Try it. You might learn something…