How to Embrace Solitude in a World Full of Distractions
During COVID-19, we have had no choice but to experience a more solitary lifestyle. It has been a challenge, considering many of us have increased in depression and anxiety.
Distancing ourselves from others can have negative long-term effects. But not all distancing is bad. It’s important to use this time to take advantage of solitude for our benefit.
Solitude gives us the ability to reflect on our lives, find purpose, and develop a healthy lifestyle.
After watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, it was shocking to learn how the addiction to technology and platforms can ruin lives.
In one segment of the documentary, it referenced statistics on young girls. There is data that suggests social media has contributed to 189% of increased self-harm admissions to hospitals for girls 10–14 and 62% for 15–19 since 2010.
Around the same timeframe, suicide has risen to 151% for 10–14-year-old girls and 70% for the older demographic. The use of big data has also contributed to increasing addiction to these platforms.
The pandemic and Netflix’s revelations all point to one significant factor. We are not comfortable in temporary solitude — separate from others and technology. We no longer have time to reflect and invest in our soul and well being. It’s uncomfortable. And we have paid the price through a global decline in mental health.
Without solitude, we are at a greater risk of burning out. Thankfully, we can be intentional about eliminating distractions and creating a better lifestyle.
Make it a Daily Habit
Most of us that experience a moment of silence — when we can reflect on our lives — feel much better and want to do more of it. But we often forget about the experience and neglect to make it routine. It’s a lot like exercise. Many people know it’s good for you, and feel great after doing it, but never make it to the gym.
This requires intentionality. In one of the greatest books on organizational leadership, Charles Duhigg explains how we can improve our habits in The Power of Habit. He writes how habits consist of three steps that form a cycle. There is the trigger or urge to do something (the cue), the routine, and the reward.
We’ve all heard advice about bad habits (or starting good ones), but Duhigg gives us better guidance. Instead of creating a habit from scratch, which is very difficult, just redirect an existing habit.
Consider biting nails. Your cue might be boredom. Your routine is biting nails. Finally, your reward is feeling satisfied and entertained.
Let’s say this happens most often in your home while sitting on the couch. Maybe you want to start a habit of solitude and you think meditation would be a good way to start doing it. All you have to do is switch the routine out of your habit of biting nails.
You are bored. You meditate. You feel satisfied by using your time wisely. The trigger is the same and so is the reward, all you are doing is changing your path to get there.
I did this when I wanted to exercise more. My cue was boredom and I would watch TV. I changed my routine to exercise and my reward was the massage bed at Planet Fitness. When I felt bored and wanted to watch a show, I exercised instead. I looked forward to that massage after a workout every day and found the adjusted habit much more fulfilling.
Figure out what helps you facilitate solitude. It might be yoga, instrumental music, reflective writing, a walk outside, and more. Change an old habit with this.
While boundaries sound restrictive, it can be one of the most freeing things you can do. For instance, imagine, like many people, you have a problem with ‘yes’.
“I have a HUGE favor. Can you help me?”
“I know you are SUPER busy, but can you add this one more thing onto your plate?”
“I started this group and REALLY need someone to help me. Can you?”
Sound familiar? The ‘yes’ problem is all about overcommitting. Ironically, one of the most freeing words, ‘yes’, becomes the iron bars of a prison cell. If someone feels the need to please others all the time, they will burn out and deteriorate. The minute they use ‘no’, a boundary, they will be able to focus on the essentials and on their core strengths (creating a much happier life).
When we place boundaries on our phones, social media, news, et al., we free ourselves of the mental energy, time, and effort we waste away when we are not intentional.
Develop boundaries that make sense to you.
No phones while speaking to a friend in-person, making sure your 100% focus is on them; not checking emails after work or dinner — checking it after breakfast or the office when you have had the chance to invest in yourself; checking the news (and only a couple of sources) every other day and only once.
The right boundaries will free you from distraction and allow you to live a better life.
Simplify Your Media Intake
We live in a world with massive amounts of information, especially compared to one hundred years ago. Many of us have experienced information overload, where too much can cause anxiety and confusion.
Whether it’s news, social media, podcasts, and other mediums, it’s important to balance what we consume. Just like food, too much can create serious problems for our health.
Too much media also prevents us from separating ourselves from distractions. In my article published on Addicted2Success, “Why Digital Detox Is Exactly What You Need”, I state the following:
“Think about your ears for instance. How much noise do you hear every day? When you are commuting, you listen to a podcast. When you are working, you listen to music. You chat with friends on video or the phone. You hear notifications go off every couple minutes. When you go to bed, you might listen to an audiobook.
Your ears rarely have a moment of silence. That’s not including other senses like the time you spend watching a screen. As we consistently entertain ourselves, we are filling up our minds with unprecedented amounts of information. We barely even process what we see and hear.”
The minute we learn to remove distractions from our lives and decrease media consumption, we can begin to live a more fulfilling lifestyle.
Once we simplify our intake, we can begin to choose only sources that provide value to our lives. The world is full of reasons to feel upset, so placing priority on things that make you feel happy or that increases your wisdom is essential.
Encourage Others to Do the Same
Lastly, the best way to embrace solitude is by developing a passion for it. Think of the friends and family that struggle with distraction. Maybe they are anxious when you know they could improve by simplifying their lives. Perhaps a friend finds it hard to reach their goals because they spend too much time on their phone.
The greatest calling we have to our friends is to add value to them. By encouraging them to join along the journey, you can help influence the lives around you.
When we encourage others to do the same, we remain focused on our goals of solitude. We feel accountability, we feel supported in our journey, and we can share the benefits of the practice.
It’s through sharing this passion that we can make an impact on people.
In a society that continues to get more distracted, divided, and anxious, valuing the practice of solitude is becoming more vital. When we are mindful of creating a lifestyle with a foundation of reflection, peace, and longevity, we can live a better life despite the noise around us.
What are some ways you see the benefit of practicing moments of solitude? I would love to hear from you!