Source: Wikimedia Commons, Curt Smith
Scheduling solitude is like creating a sand castle moment — a time to imagine, reminisce, and find time for gratitude. When my children were young and we were going through a particular rainy season, I brought in their wading pool, filled it with new beach sand, and created an indoor sandbox. With their plastic pails, shovels, and watering cans, they spent hours building sand castles. They worked diligently, happily, and silently.
In our present day society we are bombarded by disturbing news. We need to disconnect from the media and digital devices. Making a time for solitude in our day creates for us the opportunity to let our minds wander aimlessly. Sometimes in quiet, a solution to a problem will come our way. Or a piece we are writing comes into focus. Or a flash of memory reminds us of a time during childhood that should be savored and written about — a memory to treasure.
Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together, writes this in Reclaiming Conversation, (Penguin Press, 2015)
“Solitude is important for everyone, even the most extroverted people. It’s the time you become familiar and comfortable with yourself. And developing the capacity for solitude is one of the most important tasks of childhood, every childhood.”
She sees solitude as essential to developing empathy for others.”If you are comfortable with yourself, you can put yourself in another’s place.” p 61
Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Students of Science and Technology at MIT.
Seven thoughts regarding scheduled solitude
Be clear that solitude is a positive and productive experience. As writers, as thinkers, as parents, as spouses, as friends — we owe it to ourselves and those we love to refresh our spirits. Here are ways that can enhance your solitude experience.
- Same time: Choose a time each day that you know you can be undisturbed for at least five minutes.
- Practice: Mindfulness or meditation are perfect activities.
- Gratitude journal: If solitude feels unnatural, make a plan to be quietly busy. Buy or make yourself a Gratitude Journal. During your alone time, simply express gratitude for yourself, your family and/or friends, your home, your neighborhood.
- Problem solve: Think of a problem that is perplexing you and generate as may solutions as you can imagine.
- Play the “I wish” game. What are some of your secret wishes? Think about these during your moments of solitude.
- Childhood memories: How did you spend alone time as a child? Did you have a favorite toy? Did you create imaginary friends? Did you talk to the animals?
- Memoirs in general: During moments of silence, images may come to you that inspire a memoir. Give Yourself a Memoir Gift, 18 Tips/ Psychology Today.
Some people are afraid of solitude. Overcoming the Fear of Solitude: 10 Thoughts/ Psychology Today. In one experiment reported there were participants who opted to give themselves a mild electric shock rather than be deprived of “external sensory stimuli.” Scientific American “People Prefer Electric Shocks to Tedium.” It was based on a study from Timothy D. Wilson, Ph.D., a social psychologist at the University of Virginia.
For Science, Wilson et al. reported on a series of studies which noted that participants preferred mundane external activities to being alone in a room for 6 to 15 minutes “with nothing to do but think.”
We often find ourselves in a group-think situation. Brainstorming with other seems to have replaced quiet pondering. But as Professor Turkle pointed out, “brainstorming” may not be the ultimate in creativity. She says, “New ideas are more likely to emerge from people thinking on their own. Solitude is where we learn to trust our imagination.” p.62
Solitude brings us serenity, the simple experience of absolute calm. What we do with such time is up to us. Thinking of solitude in terms of a sandcastle moment adds a positive connotation to what some people find fearful. Conjuring up moments when we built sandcastles as children brings a joyful image to the alone time we might otherwise fear.
Copyright 2018 Rita Watson