Finding Solace in Solitude

A personal and psychological look at the effects of solitude.

Looking for a solo vacation? Embrace your personal journey at a Wanderlust Festival this year. 

For the past three years I have loved one man. He is a great man, truly. We happily walked this world together and shared many smiles, deep thoughts, and deep love.

Over the course of the past year it became clear to me that loving this man in the way that he wants, and deserves, would mean sacrificing myself in a way that I could not. And so, as early spring crept in to the Northeast this year, I walked away from my great love with a kiss and a full to nearly breaking heart.

The past couple of months have been remarkable. I’ve spent much more time than usual by myself. I have never been one who was drawn to isolation, and while there have been plenty of moments of sadness, I have also found tremendous relief. At the peak of spring, I find myself at Omega Institute teaching yoga and enjoying deep quiet. I can feel myself healing in these solitary spaces, healing deep parts of myself that I had forgotten needed to heal.

I believe it is possible to be whole in any circumstance if you are willing to do the work. However, I also believe there are times in our lives when surrendering to solitude is the best medicine.

I believe it is possible to be whole and also in a committed partnership. I believe it is possible to be whole in any circumstance if you are willing to do the work. However, I also believe there are times in our lives when surrendering to solitude is the best medicine. So many of us are afraid to be alone and, in my opinion, this becomes a way of running from ourselves and our necessary work.

The Gift of Solitary Medicine

At this point in my own life, I’m intrigued by the idea of solitary medicine. Of quiet space in which to do deep internal reflection and transform our dark spaces to light. I’ve been researching what psychologists have to say on the subject, and while there are many instances where isolation is psychologically damaging (for example, the studies of Harry Harlow in which he isolated infant monkeys at birth, these experiments are now considered cruel and inhumane), there are also many psychologists who purport the benefits of solitude for healthy adults.

Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. reports spending time alone:

  • Allows your brain to “turn off” and unwind
  • Improves concentration and increases productivity
  • Makes room for self-discovery
  • Allows space for deep thought
  • Helps you work through problems more efficiently
  • Can enhance the quality of your relationships with others.

She recommends finding time alone throughout your day by getting up early, taking your lunch hour alone, and making time to disconnect from all electronics. (In almost all of the pieces I have read on this subject, psychologists make the distinction between being alone and being in front of an electronic device. It does not count as solitude if you are plugged in!)

Ben Martin, Psy.D. also makes an important distinction between being alone and being lonely. He recommends for those who find themselves alone and lonely that engaging in productive activities like reading, creating art, or caring for a pet to create more ease in being by yourself.

The next time you find yourself alone, whether by choice or not, consider it an opportunity. Explore your inner world, meditate, practice yoga. You may surprise yourself by finding the peace you have been seeking elsewhere lies within you.

elizabeth-crisciElizabeth Crisci is a yoga teacher and artist in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She is the creator of Love by E, handmade gemstone mala and jewelry. She teaches in workshops, special events, and trainings in the Northeast in addition to a range of regular, weekly classes. She teaches smart and accessible yoga designed to make you feel good. She loves every minute of her work. You can find her writing and her teaching schedule on her website.