The Underrated Art of Solitude

Words by: Caitlin Johnston
Art by: Sarah Annett

Sometimes it feels like there’s an unwritten obligation to constantly interact and to always make ourselves accessible to the people around us 24/7.

As a self-proclaimed extrovert, taking time to find solitude feels like ripping teeth, but I’m slowly learning its value and trying my best to find the sweetness in the act.

Growing up, solitude was always linked to punishment. There seemed to be no bigger threat than being given a time-out or sent to my room alone. As a naturally extroverted person, I get my energy from being around other people, but often tend to overdo it. After hitting many overwhelming breaking points, I’ve learnt that even though being around others gives me energy, I do not need to be energetic all the time, in fact, it’s healthier for my mind and body not to be.

We’ve been brought into a world that preaches the “rise and grind,” and “work hard, play hard” culture, so I suggest that before we dive headfirst back into the hustle and bustle of life (when normal hustle and bustle inevitably resumes), we should reassess this mentality, avoid social burnout and instil into our lives some positive solitude practices.

So, here’s a few things that make quiet time worthwhile:

Salvaging Childhood Hobbies

It’s never too late to jump back into some shelved hobbies. I’ve found revisiting my love of illustration, video games and sewing really beneficial in escaping the world and savouring that sense of childhood joy. Hobbies in solitude won’t be graded, you won’t be judged for it, and you literally can do whatever you need to do to take your mind off everyday life. Technically speaking, ‘Netflix-binge-watching’ is a hobby, but I would suggest going the route of a physical hobby instead such as painting, baking, playing sport or being a plant parent!

Get to Know Yourself Better

I believe that a lot of who we are reflects the people we’ve been surrounded by, and it is necessary to,
at times, step away and gain some perspective. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before, but journaling is the safest place you can express your-self, debrief experiences and see your life laid out on a page. Solitude can be surprisingly mentally messy, and journaling really reveals what type of friend you are to yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn.

Doing Absolutely Nothing

Yes, you’ve read correctly. It is alright to sometimes do nothing and not feel guilty about it. For myself, this has been taking time out and not watching TV — just sitting in my own company away from the mindless scrolling of social media. I like to lay down in the backyard looking up at the sky, play some music and just stare off into space. Whatever ‘doing nothing’ looks like to you, go for it!

Finding solitude for myself has been a rocky, uncertain journey with many failed attempts. It’s a continuous battle when the little voice in my head starts thinking: maybe I should be studying? Maybe
I should catch up with that friend? Maybe I should use this time to plan my career? until I exhaust every second of my day. It’s easy to push downtime to the lowest priority because you won’t physically and immediately see the benefits, but it really is time worth investing in.

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