As we go through changes in our lifestyles and daily patterns, such as beginning university or starting work at a new place, we pick up habits that suit the changes in our lives. One such change is beginning anew when making friendships, especially in a new environment, the idea of introducing yourself over and over again can become tiring soon.
However, sometimes we push ourselves in this desperation to meet a social standard to avoid the title of being a “loner”. But why is it so terrible to want to spend time with yourself? There is a stigma that surrounds choosing to be alone that comes from assumptions of involuntary solitude and, perhaps, personal inadequacies.
There is a great difference between isolation and solitude, although they are often mistaken for being the same thing. Michael Schreiner of Evolution Counseling puts it this way, “Solitude is usually actively sought after and is a personal choice that comes from an inner yearning. Isolation is usually actively avoided and is forced from the outside.” You can feel isolated regardless of whether you are physically alone or with a group of people, these feelings usually arise as a result of depression or anxiety and can make you feel incredibly disconnected from others.
Solitude, on the other hand, is a positive engagement with yourself. This does not mean that you’re entirely alone in life, to enjoy solitude also means having a healthy relationship with the people you love and trust. You can do most things alone as your feelings come from a place of inner enrichment rather than filling up an emptiness within.
To partake in creative tasks, to fall into deep reading, or to simply think without interruption requires solitude. These activities require a great deal of introspection and personal time, which can be difficult at first if you’re not used to spending your time alone, but it is a rewarding process. Exploring and embracing solitude has several benefits which, according to Choosing Therapy, are improved sleep quality, increased productivity, better emotional regulation and more time to explore your happiness.
While being social and spending quality time with the people you love is just as healthy, there is such a thing as socialising too much. Too much social interaction can lead to more stress and feelings of anxiety, rather than focusing on the quantity of your interactions, it is a much healthier choice to focus on the quality of each interaction.
Facing the shift of moving on from high school to university in an entirely different city, I went from socialising with friends every day to being alone most of the time. It was a jarring experience and the shift caught me off-guard, but in this time alone, I rediscovered old hobbies that I loved and had time to reflect on my day. While change may be difficult, and it will always be uncomfortable at first, take heart in knowing that new environments mean more potential.
Moving away from familiarity allowed me to grow and change myself without feeling immense pressure to always stay the same. If you’re going through experiences like this, you’re not alone and once you’re comfortable with that fact, you can begin to enjoy life a little more.
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