When was the last time you had blissful solitude with no distractions? No unread emails calling your name. No text messages lighting up your phone. No kids or pets tugging at your leg.
Spending time in solitude is key to knowing & loving yourself, and it goes way beyond just disconnecting from your phone, email, and Netflix.
It’s intentional time you dedicate to getting to know (and love) the inner workings of you, as you are, raw and unfiltered. According to a 2011 psychological study, making time for yourself can improve emotional health, reverse feelings of loneliness, and increase contentment.
Here’s why it’s important to make time for just you, and how to make the most of it.
You need you.
Much like the way all relationships need intimacy to build depth, your connection to yourself requires the same kind of one-on-one time. Loving yourself means really listening to your thoughts, exploring your emotions, and gaining new experiences that are solely yours — no sharing with others required.
If this sounds selfish, rest assured that even the President spends hours each day alone and considers his nightly retreat a sacred space of solitude and focus.
Will all of this alone time leave any room for others?
Does this mean ditch your tribe and strike out all alone? Intentional solitude is quite the opposite. “Knowing how to be solitary,” says feminist scholar bell hooks, “is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”
What happens at a party when conversation dies down? We turn to our phones to fill the silence and distract ourselves with likes, comments, and snaps. So often, we use attention from others (whether in the room or on our phones) as a way to escape from our own fears and anxiety. Silence shouldn’t be scary, and solitude doesn’t equal weakness. In the words of poet rupi kaur, “loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.”
Here are three easy ways to start practicing self-loving alone:
1. Choose a time and mark it on the calendar like it’s a hot date.
Depending on your schedule, take an hour each day or several hours on the weekend. You can incorporate this time into meditation and/or mindful eating.
2. Turn off the noise.
That’s right, close the laptop, silence the phone, put down the book. This isn’t a threesome with you, yourself, and Zadie Smith. It’s just you with y-o-u. Seek out space to be alone that’s calming and free from distraction.
3. Get outside.
Go for a long walk in the park, a bike ride, a day trip to the beach or botanical garden, or go for a hike in the woods. If you have kids, book a babysitter, ask your partner to hold down the fort, or cash-in a favor from a friend. Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to be an elaborate solo vacation (though that sounds pretty cool). It can be as simple as laying on a blanket in the park or biking through your neighborhood. Keep reflective thought and introspection front and center!
Get started today! Summer is the perfect season to start incorporating these habits of self-love and self-care into your routine. Take time to sit still with your thoughts and to relish the loveliness of your presence.
Manalastas, E. J. “An exercise to teach the psychological benefits of solitude: The date with the self.” Philippine Journal of Psychology, 44(1), 95–106. University of the Philippines Diliman, 2011. Web. June 2016.