Do Not Disturb
Space to Dream
Solitude has some of the same effects as sensory deprivation -- with less external stimulation, your mind may become more attuned to daydreams, shifting emotions, and novel thoughts. "It's hard to be creative when you're using all your mental energy just to juggle everyday demands," Dr. Averill explains. "But when you're alone, your thinking becomes less structured and broader."
That's why Lorraine Mack, a schoolteacher in Duluth, Georgia, sometimes goes to her classroom on a Saturday when she wants to solve problems in a creative way. "I'll look at the empty desks and reflect on each child who sits there," Mack says. "I can put aside all the day-to-day issues and come up with the right approach for each student."
A Stronger Sense of Yourself
Solitude can provide an illuminating look in the mirror, says Karasu. "Many people fill their lives with so many social activities that they don't ever really know who they are." They end up defining themselves only by how many friends they have or how they're perceived at work, instead of having a more solid sense of themselves as individuals.
Afraid that alone time is just a recipe for loneliness? Don't be. "Solitude is the state of being alone," says Rae Andre, author of Positive Solitude. "Loneliness is the state of being unhappy when you're alone." Once we learn to manage our anxieties about spending time by ourselves, we all have the potential to indulge in positive solitude.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2009.