Time For You: Part 2 – Solitude Practices

9 mins read

This article is written to provide you with some recommended practices for enhancing solitude in your life.

In Part 1 of this series, we explored why solitude is so beneficial in our lives, and the ways we have reached a point of “solitude deprivation” in our culture. To refresh, solitude, as defined by Cal Newport in his book “Digital Minimalism,” is not a state of loneliness or deprivation, rather a subjective mental state in which we are free from external input from other minds, sources, etc.1 So how do we implement better solitude practices in our lives? In a world where we are inundated with text messages, social media posts, podcasts, music, film, and more, how can you begin to unplug from all of that and let yourself exist with your own thoughts in quiet solitude? In this article, we are going to go over 3 easy practices for you to begin your journey of solitude and self-rediscovery.

Solitude Practices

1. Leave Your Phone at Home

Most of us have experienced the Misplaced Phone Macarena. You’re on your way out the front door and realize you’re not sure where your smartphone is. Cue the pocket patting, checking every place you could conceivably have placed your phone on your body before you either a) find your phone in a pocket, or b) panic when you realize your phone is not on your person. There’s a certain amount of anxiety that seems to come when we don’t have our phones within easy reach. This anxiety, though varying in levels between individuals, is exactly why it’s important to enact this practice.

Smartphones have become viewed as a vital appendage, without which we will miss out on something better going on, be unreachable, without directions and general information at our fingertips, and ultimately be subject to boredom. How do we contend with the cultural digital presence? In theory, it’s easy! Abandon the belief that not having your phone is a crisis. Unless you know that you are going to be receiving a very important call within a specific period of time, your phone is not a vital appendage.

If you are unable to leave your phone at home due to concerns over safety, emergency calls, or just don’t feel ready to take that step, try carrying your phone at the bottom of a bag, in your car’s glove compartment, a drawer at work, etc. This will keep it out of your hands without being completely out of reach.

2. Take Long Walks

Throughout history, key figures have extolled the virtues of walking. Jean Jacques Rousseau, a Genevan philosopher from the 18th century and a foundational cornerstone of modern political, economic, and educational thought, once said, “I never do anything but when walking, the countryside is my study.” Taking the time for a long walk alone, not just a 15 minute jaunt around the block but a genuinely lengthy walk, is one of the best ways to let your mind experience solitude. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this activity is the time, as many of us are under the impression that there are more important things we could be doing, and scheduling a minimum 1-2 hour walk can seem daunting. However, make going for walks a priority. Schedule them into your calendar and discuss with your family and friends when works best for you to roam freely.

When you go for these walks, try to combine this activity with the last, and leave your phone at home. If you’re unable to do this and must have your phone, put it at the bottom of a backpack or bag and strive to not touch it.

Finally, while we do understand that weather in Saskatchewan can be intense, it’s time to broaden our perception of “good weather.” As a rule, your risk of frostbite increases rapidly when wind chill values go below -27, but up until that point, dressing in warm layers and keeping your body moving will make your walk brisk but enjoyable. It’s all about how you dress, so make sure to layer up!2 When was the last time you went for a walk in the snow? The bracing wind can be the best cure for a bogged down mind. Even if you don’t want to get close to -27, anything up to -25 is a fantastic day for a walk! Likewise, redefine “good weather” when it comes to cloudy days, rainy days, or blustery days.

3. Journaling

Writing letters to yourself, or journaling, is an excellent source of solitude. Using pen and paper (or keyboard and screen) to compose your thoughts and structure whatever is running through your head will often help bring clarity to those thoughts. Writing provides the space you need to work through complicated decisions, difficult emotions, surges of inspiration, or overwhelming tasks. Cal Newport suggests that not only does writing letters to yourself give the time to slow down and be freed from outside input, but also provides you with a conceptual scaffolding on which to sort and organize your thinking.1 Whether this takes the form of a traditional letter or journal entry, or other forms of writing, thinking by writing is key in reframing your personal mental space. For more information on journaling, why it’s beneficial, how to get started, and so forth, check out our series here.

So Long, Solitude Deprivation

There are, of course, many ways you can implement solitude into your life. These are 3 of the easiest ways to start prioritizing solitude, but there are many more! Solitude is a personal experience and practice, so it’s all about finding methods of solitude that best fit your needs. Taking time to exist with your own thoughts is fundamental to being productive and innovative, minimizing anxiety, building better relationships, and better understanding yourself.

As you move into the rest of your week, take the time to consider how much solitude you experience regularly. Be aware of the time you spend casually checking your phone vs being alone with your thoughts, and consider trying some of the activities we’ve discussed to improve the quality of your solitude. If solitude is a personal journey, only you can take those steps towards truly connecting with yourself.

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