Solitude: Facts & Best Practices

In a world that has become so busy, having some time alone can be often difficult to achieve. Many do not even see the need to create time to be by themselves, seeing it solely as an act that has negative connotations.

 However, being alone isn’t such a bad thing, and practice is needed to master it (Ps. 39:2-5, Gal. 5:25)

In the following paragraphs, we will be looking at how to harness the power of solitude to improve ourselves and those around us. First, let us look at some facts.

1.      The meaning of Solitude

Although they are very similar and both have to do with being alone, solitude is different from loneliness. Solitude can be likened to the positive aspect of being alone, while loneliness is the negative aspect of it. 

Solitude can be achieved by purposefully secluding yourself from the company of others for a given period, and doesn’t necessarily translate to loneliness. Whereas, a lonely person feels alone and oftentimes depressed, even amid others.

2.      Pros of Solitude

Contrary to the belief of many, being alone can have both negative and positive effects on an individual. On the positive side, being alone can be a very good time for some personal reflection on your spirituality, and to strengthen your relationship with God. It’s a time when you have a review of your life, your strengths, and the areas where you need some improvement.

Solitude is a very powerful tool in Christianity. God forms a bond with His children when they create out time to be with Him, as was the case with the saints of the Church. Very many of them lived secluded lives, spending most of their time with God. 

In the very noisy world of today, separating yourself from the noisiness of the world can help you hear God more and grow in spirituality (Habakkuk 2:20, Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 46:10). Furthermore, being alone helps you become more productive and creative, and helps you clear your mind too.

3.      Cons of Solitude

On the downside, being alone and idle can reduce the functionality of the brain and cause it to function below par. Also, solitude can easily become loneliness when it is not tempered by companionship and such a case can lead to depression. Therefore, be watchful of the way you feel when you’re alone, as this can tell you when loneliness begins to set in. In addition, if not properly guarded, the mind and imagination can easily be controlled by the devil into thinking and executing evil deeds. This is why it is important to have friends and access to spiritual guidance and mentorship in your day-to-day life. This way, you may return to this support system easily after a period of solitude.

3.      Solitude is a virtue

Solitude e is critical to the growth and general well-being of an individual. Various research has shown that solitude has several psychological and social benefits, which includes a greater focus and improved concentration and creativity. See here for instance.

Being alone helps you detach from the noise of the environment to be able to focus more on yourself and to carry out some personal evaluation on yourself. In addition, a personal retreat on your spirituality can only be achieved in the stillness of solitude. Here, you can hear the voice of God speaking, addressing various aspects of your life, renewing your vision and strengthening your decision-making ability according to his Will  (1 Kings 19:11-13).

Jesus has set an example for us by practicing solitude during His time on earth (Mark 1;12-13) and he invites us to do the same (Mark 6:31-32). Therefore, time must be taken off to be alone regularly, for personal reflections and contemplation.

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How to handle Solitude – Things to do

There are a few things that can be done with your alone time, to get the best out of it. Some of these are listed below.

1.      Meditate on God’s word

This is often referred to as quiet time, a time that is reserved solely for meditation, between the individual and God. During this time, read up a bible passage of your choice and reflect on it. Allow the Holy Spirit to minister the life-giving revelations of God’s word to you. You can also meditate on the readings of the day by using daily Mass readings and devotionals such as this one. Meditating on God’s words does two things.

First, it helps keep your mind engaged. This way, we do not give room for the works of the evil one manifesting during this time. 

Secondly, you improve your knowledge of God by meditating on God’s words. This knowledge is oftentimes not found in the letters of the word, but in the revelation of God’s messages embedded therein. He will whisper these to you if you are open and willing to hear them while meditating.

2.      Pray

This is complementary to meditating on God’s words. Meditating on God’s words often leads to prayer using the revelations gotten from the meditations. Various kinds of prayer can be said here. But the most common prayers practiced in the quietness of solitude are meditation and contemplation. These are both silent prayers adopted by the Church, and give room for the voice of God to be heard in prayer. Unlike other forms of prayer that focuses more on speaking and asking God for favours, the earlier mentioned forms focus more on hearing from God, and are therefore more effective for reflective purposes.

Therefore, follow the examples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 14:13, Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35) and always make out time to be with God in prayer. Just like meditating on God’s word, God reveals Himself to you the more in prayers and draws you closer to Himself. In addition, praying connects you to heaven and transforms you into the person God wants you to be, and reveals certain hidden details of your life to you.

3.      Retreat and Recollect 

The journey of life can be filled with ups and downs, joys and disappointments, etc. There’s a need to sit back and reflect on the happenings in one’s life, the direction it’s taking, goals that have been / yet to be achieved etc, and effect necessary changes to get to the desired destination in life. 

The quiet and peaceful environment that comes with retreats and recollections (which should last for eight hours or more) provides a good ambience for some of these reflections.

During times of solitude such as retreats, you may also think about your spirituality and reflect on the areas where changes are needed and the necessary changes needed. Think about how you can be a better person, both for yourself and for those around you.

In personal reflection, God also speaks if you are listening and reveals the various changes that are needed while strengthening you for life’s journey as He did with Job (Job: 38-42). Thomas Jefferson said, “One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more”. Therefore, the journey of life is best done with the observance of some periodic pit-stops where time is taken to reflect on the journey so far and plan for better advancement. For other benefits of retreats, see Tips to Benefit from a Silent Retreat.

4.      Ease off Daily

Life comes with a lot of pressures. As such, there’s a need to take some time off to cool off and relieve the body and mind from the stress of life. There are a few things that can be done to ease off stress and maintain a healthy mind and body. Some of these are

  • Go to the movies
  • Visit a park
  •  Attend a musical concert
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood
  • Learn new activities e.g. a new language
  • Engage in sports 
  • Go to dinner with friends, etc.

In conclusion, being alone is essential to making progress in life and spirituality too. A lot can be achieved in the serene atmosphere of solitude. However, care should be taken, as solitude can easily become loneliness when it is not tempered with healthy accompaniment by the right friends and support system. Therefore, let us carefully practise this virtue and follow the examples of Jesus Christ to reap the benefits therein. Thank you and God bless.

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