While people’s definitions of solitude might vary, what is interesting is that for many, being solitary doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no one else around. Instead, many people can, and do, find solitude in public spaces, whether this be sitting with a cup of tea in a busy cafe or reading a book in a park. And my research suggests that taking some time for yourself could have a positive impact on your daily mood.
Many of us have had days when there are troubles at work, when things don’t go as expected, or when we take on too much and feel overwhelmed. What I’ve found is that learning to take a little time for yourself, a moment of solitude, could help you deal with these feelings.
WHAT CAN WE GAIN FROM SOLITUDE?
In a series of experiments, I brought undergraduate students into a room to sit quietly with themselves. In some studies, I took away the students’ backpacks and devices and asked them to sit with their thoughts; at other times, the students stayed in the room with books or their phones.
After just 15 minutes of being alone, I found that any strong emotions the participants might have been feeling, such as anxiety or excitement, dropped. I concluded that solitude has the capacity to bring down people’s arousal levels, meaning it can be useful in situations where we feel frustrated, agitated or angry.
Many people might assume that only introverts would enjoy solitude. But while it is true that introverts might prefer to be alone, they are not the only people who can reap the benefits from solitude.
In a survey of more than 18,000 adults around the world, more than half voted for solitude as one of the key activities they engage in for rest. So, if you are an extrovert, don’t let this stop you from taking time for solitude to calm down.