The Solitude Edition

I am an only child and I have always loved my time alone.

The Solitude Edition

I am an only child and I have always loved my time alone.

While I usually don’t subscribe to binary labels like “introvert” or “extrovert” because I think it can pigeon-hole you into particular ways of being (I personally believe that your personality is an alive & dynamic process, largely made up of a set of habits/environments, all the while rooted in your own unique nature), BUT if I were to label my personality at the moment, I’d say that I am currently an:

AMBIVERT: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.

I find this label particularly empowering because it pulls for a nice balance from both ends of the spectrum. You realize that being with people is an important part of a rich life, so you foster strong relationships AND you respect your own need for carving out periods of introspection by means of solitude.

Unfortunately, I think that the concept of practicing solitude has been neglected and villainized in our busy and distracted modern world.

During the past 2.5 months in Southeast Asia, I’ve spent a lot of time largely in or on the beach, which has given me the opportunity to SLOW DOWN. With all this quiet time, one of the things that I have discovered:

Many of the methods that I previously regarded as ways of practicing solitude were not actually solitude!

For example...It turns out that:

-Listening to a podcast...NOT SOLITUDE

-Reading books...NOT SOLITUDE

-Scrolling through social media...NOT SOLITUDE

-Watching Netflix...NOT SOLITUDE

-Finishing a book on audible...NOT SOLITUDE

-Googling things I’m interested in...NOT SOLITUDE

I have discovered that while I might physically be alone, all of these practices still bring NOISE into my brain because I am still listening to the thoughts, beliefs, and opinions of other people.

*Reading this email is definitely NOT SOLITUDE because now you have me in your eyes and ears [META 😂]!

Here are some ways that we (myself included) can start practicing intentional periods of solitude daily (beyond the usual, “Go meditate” tips):

SOLITUDE IN OUR MODERN WORLD:

  1. “Sound-masking”: Ever heard of sound-masking? It’s basically a method to ensure that you aren’t being distracted by the background hum of conversations in your work environment (or in any environment) by layering in light ambient sound (unique from white or pink sound) via strategically placed speakers. If you watch this video about it, it honestly sounds a bit Big Brother-y, but it’s kinda a cool concept!
  1. Music (without lyrics): Turns out that music with lyrics constitutes as yet another form of noise. This study was just published a few days ago and after looking at the effects of relaxing music on almost 1000 ICU patients, they concluded that, “Music therapy determined a significant reduction in the levels of anxiety and stress, as assessed by self-reported scales and physiologic parameters.”
  2. Step Challenge: Having to meet a certain amount of steps each day can be a great way to practice of solitude. Whatever the number, simply being outside and observing your surroundings can be a meditative experience. Pacer is a nice app for this.
  3. “Daily [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE__________] Ritual”: A friend of mine washes her dishes every morning and that is her time of solitude/planning the day. Another friend considers her nightly skincare routine to be her own time of solitude. Ok, obviously these are not the most exciting thing around...but get creative! Maybe writing your own book of jokes? You get the idea.
  4. Shinrin-yoku (or Forest Bathing!): Learn more about it here but here is the basic premise: It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.
  5. Tea Ceremony or Cacao Ceremony: Despite the fancy names, these don’t have to be a big deal necessarily. In Japan, they suggest bringing a thermos of hot water with you during your forest-bathing session (see #5), pouring a little tea and taking a breath!
  6. Gratitude Practice: I wrote about my nutso relationship with gratitude HERE. But if you don’t click on it, the main takeaway is that I’m currently on #1537 of daily gratitude emails with no end in sight. Accountability has been clutch for me with this, so if you need a method to keep this practice going...a small email chain could be one avenue to test out!