Developing the Skills to Thrive in Solitude

As millions of people around the globe sink deeper into a lengthening period of physical isolation, those staying home alone are likely feeling the lack of social contact as well as the fear and anxiety over what comes next in a big way.  But learning to thrive alone is a skill and over time, one can learn to embrace the space and lean into solitude, even without finding something to occupy every minute of the day. 

People are programmed to feel comfort in having human contact and many individuals, especially extroverts, might be feeling highly uncomfortable being exclusively in their own company right now.  In fact, according to a Vox media report, in recent research, many people chose to give themselves an electric shock rather than be left alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.   

Although social media, video calls, voice calls and streaming services ensure we are only a click away from distraction, what if spending this time alone with ourselves doesn’t have to be a source of loneliness?   Perhaps this forced solitude is an opportunity to grapple with life’s big questions, face difficult emotions head-on or work on discovering your authentic self.  And by using this period of time in a waiting space where the future is unknown with a sense of purpose, isolation can be more bearable.  

Many people find that they are more successful in daily life if they follow a routine and the same is likely true while people are staying home to keep themselves and their community safe.  Getting up, making coffee or tea and reading the newspaper each morning can offer a sense of comfort and normalcy.   Making a plan for the day, even if it only involves reading a few chapters of a book, walking the dog, weeding the garden or listening to music while you sanitize the house can help restore a sense of well-being.

If you are able to volunteer to do something to help others during the pandemic, sewing masks or scrub caps, delivering groceries to seniors or tutoring children online, feeling a sense of purpose can also help alleviate loneliness and anxiety.  

Read more about how to thrive in isolation and use this unique experience to enrich your life in Jenny Odell’s book How to Do Nothing

And for tips from an astronaut about isolation, follow this link to a recent Space Nation Wellness post.