Alone but not lonely

portugal sunsetFrom the vantage point of spending a somewhat quiet weekend at home, I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy those moments when I don’t have to be social.  From time to time, I even like to shut my eyes and reflect on my day, my life, what’s happening in my community and the world. But this habit may be going the way of the dinosaur. posted a long article by essayist called “The End of Solitude.”

But spending time alone can be healthy. In “How Solitude Can Change Your Brain in Profound Ways,” Jane Porter quotes the author of the book “Quiet,” (Susan Cain) who says, “Solitude is a crucial and underrated ingredient for creativity.” Porter acknowledges that quiet moments are not to everyone’s taste.  She brings up the 2014 study in which two-third of the male subjects and a quarter of the females preferred giving themselves mildly painful electric shocks to spending fifteen minutes alone without their cell phones or any other form of entertainment.

Porter cites Sherry Turkle, researcher and founder of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, who says, “it’s important for people to intentionally set aside time each day when they abstain from “social snacking” activities like texting, tweeting, and Instagram.”

Turkle believes (from her book, “Alone Together” ) that “when we don’t have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive… It’s as though we’re using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

Today, I asked two friends my age how they felt about spending time alone. Neither talked about solitude, but both shared stories of events in which everyone consciously unplugs.  One creates quiet events for her church, in which people come together to think, meditate, write and engage in other silent activities. The other takes part in an annual retreat away from the city in which phones, computers, radios and TVs are forbidden.

Maybe age makes us appreciate solitude more. As we get older, we spend more time looking back than ahead. We have more of a need to make sense of our lives and the world around us. And one obvious change: we know fewer people who will appreciate our selfies.


About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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4 Responses to Alone but not lonely

  1. Beth Calkins says:

    I was “forced” into the concept of being alone when the empty nest hit me full force – my husband died at about the same time that my kids left home to start their own lives. I spent a lot of time reflecting and “being.” I can tell you that there is a very distinct difference between being alone and being lonely. I have been “alone” for several years now, but I am not, and never will be, lonely.

  2. JanO says:

    Oh, how I agree with Beth. From busy high school to my current 79th year I’ve realized the importance of moments alone. When my 3 sons were young, their nap/reading time became my own. My working years included hours to myself…family understood how much better-natured I was if left alone for a bit.

    • stillalife says:

      Hi Jan,
      Thanks for your comment. I enjoy getting up early and reading the paper with a cup of tea and the cat on my lap — no phone, no computer, just me and the quiet morning.

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