Introverts have a special advantage: the ability to be alone. There are people out there who feel that being alone is being with no one, but we know better, don’t we? We can be alone with ourselves. If you have not yet embraced that part of yourself, it’s time. Too many of us have bought into the idea that we are, at the very least, “eccentric.” Some say “weird.” Some say “antisocial.” There’s no point in wasting our time and energy trying to change people’s minds. Instead, we need to take advantage of our comfort with solitude. Solitude is not for the lonely or sad or defeated. It’s for the healthy among us. It’s for everyone actually, but we, the introverts, welcome it, while others avoid it at all costs.
Claiming our right to solitude is not an indulgence. It’s essential. We need to relax, recover, and replenish our minds, bodies and spirits from our day-to-day stresses. I wonder if we realize the toll that the world sometimes takes on us, or if we are so used to feeling stressed that it’s our “normal.”
Am I hearing, “Yes, but . . . .”? Are you going to try to tell me that you’re too busy? Guess who needs solitude the most? Busy people! You schedule the dentist, hair, nails, visit to Mom, yoga classes. You can schedule solitude. And you must honor it as much as you honor appointments with others.
There are people in your life who won’t understand. They understand, “I can’t. It’s my night to watch reruns of Friends.” But not, “I can’t. I have an appointment with myself.” Even if your family, friends, colleagues don’t understand the importance of solitude, it is imperative that you understand it and maintain your resolve. I usually just stop at, “I can’t.” Then I continue on without skipping a beat, offering when I can go to the movies, help with a project, listen to the latest tale of woe.
You don’t have to schedule a long time for solitude, and it doesn’t have to be every day. Any time you can spend alone goes into the “Plus” column. It’s not always easy. We are so “connected” these days, via cell phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. So first thing is to unplug. The silence may be deafening, but forge ahead.
You can, naturally, simply kick back and think. It doesn’t count if you use the time to make a mental to-do list, or if you are sitting there fretting about an upcoming social event. It’s a time for pleasant thoughts. Relive happy moments, or, literally, count your blessings — think of all the things you are grateful for.
Read something that you can get lost in. A novel that takes you out of your world and into another. Or a non-fiction book about something that fascinates you, for instance, ancient history. (I thought of that because it’s my favorite.) Any topic related to your work is not allowed.
Write a journal and you will get a bonus. You can go back later and learn more about yourself from what you wrote. Or write that novel that’s been simmering inside of you. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish with a few pages here and there.
Create in whatever way brings you joy: photography, crafts, gardening. The new rage, the adult coloring books, is a really wonderful way to escape while returning to the simpler days of childhood.
Drive along some open roads. There’s freedom in being behind the wheel in your private space and being in control. I’m not advising interstates — you could end up more frazzled than when you started.
Listen to music. The best part of music is that you can listen while doing any of the other suggestions. Find music that wraps itself around you, holds you in its arms and soothes you. With music, you don’t even need that space of your own. You can listen to music in a crowd, on the bus or subway, while you exercise or shop. It’s why God created the iPod.
Paradoxically, the time we spend in solitude enriches the time we spend with others. We can re-enter the world refreshed, more at ease with ourselves and, therefore, more at ease with others. And when things get strained, there is always the comforting anticipation of our next scheduled solitude.