Constant connection to the internet is not good for your mental health. Phones need to recharge and so do our brains. The solution? Solitude.
What Solitude is
Solitude is a part of your day where you are free from anyone else’s thoughts. This means :
- No Reading
- No Talking in person or on the phone
- No Screens (phones, TV, computers, tablets etc)
- No Music
- No Podcasts
- No Radio
What Solitude Is Not
Solitude Does Not Need to be Drastic
Solitude does not mean cutting yourself off from reality, you could find solitude in a coffee shop, in your home, on a walk or on public transport.
Solitude Does Not Need to be Permanent
The idea is not to become a hermit and never speak to anyone ever again. You don’t need that much solitude, humans are social animals after all. It’s about getting some space to reflect on your life and emotions. Connection is not the enemy, 100% connection is.
The Benefits of Solitude
Now you know what solitude is and what it isn’t. But why should you care? There are many benefits to getting some solitude:
Be More Creative
Creative ideas come when we have time to think and let our minds wander. Ever notice how you seem to have your best ideas after the problem like in the shower or driving home? This is because time alone allows your mind to wander and make connections that have been brewing in your subconscious without you realising. If you had been distracting yourself with an audiobook, you would be too focused on the story to have your own thoughts flow.
Get to Know Yourself
Time alone can give you time to think about stuff. If you are really busy at work, then you come home, watch some TV, cook some dinner, scroll through Twitter, go to bed and rinse and repeat, you can go weeks on autopilot.
Taking time to think about your day, your dreams, your hopes, your fears, can help you understand what you want out of life.
It’s tempting to get out of your head when you’re stressed. The numbing distraction of a scroll through the newsfeed can stop you thinking about what’s bothering you. This doesn’t solve the problem. You will still have those feelings in the back of your mind. Dealing with them is the only way to grow.
Have Better Relationships
If you don’t have constant distractions, you can focus on what matters. You can listen to your partner or friend better when they need a sympathetic ear, you can be present rather than half-talking-half-scrolling but being a whole crappy conversationalist.
Before we had mini computers in our pockets interruptions weren’t that frequent, so we had plenty of time alone with our thoughts on walks to work, drives to the shops, queues to get coffee and so on. Yes Walkmans existed and such, but the constant presence of texts, music, notifications, pings, buzzes, bleeps and bloops is something that came in with the Smart phone.
Nowadays you have to make a conscious effort to get away from some form of communication or technology. The constant connectivity means your brain is always on. Your brain craves the rest it gets when it is not under constant stimulation.
Concentrate Harder and Longer
The quick glances we give our phones seem innocent enough, but you can take 20 minutes to regain your full concentration. That’s 20 minutes to get back on track with the hard problem you were trying to solve at work.
Check how many quick glances you give your phone next time you are at work or with a friend and make a quick tally. At the end of the day multiply the number by 20 and see how many minutes of lost concentration you had just to see if someone had a new photo uploaded in the last 5 minutes. You’ll realise how much of your own time you are stealing.
Improve Your Mental Health
Gen Z, the kids who grew up with fast internet and mobile tech, have the highest rates of anxiety and depression of any previous generation, this is true even when you account for the decreased mental health stigma meaning more people are willing to get diagnosed.
Experts say that the constant connectivity and ability to always be distracted means they have no mental downtime and have not learnt how to regulate their emotions, because anytime they get riled up, they can browse some dank memes and forget about it.
Now everyone with a smart phone has this problem.
How to Get some Juicy Solitude
You’re now fully convinced that solitude is a good thing, but don’t know how to get some. Luckily there are some tips:
Leave Your Phone Out of Reach
Leaving your phone in a separate room from the one you are in can be enough separation to cut the habit of a quick check or a 30 minute browse. Stopping yourself at the moment you feel the urge to do a habit, the cue, is the easiest time to break that habit. It requires much less willpower to just not walk over to your phone, than to drag yourself away mid-scroll.
If you’re chatting to a friend and you go to check your phone, then realise it’s not in your pocket, it’s all the way upstairs, you decide it’s not worth checking, you carry on chatting to your friend, the conversation is more meaningful because you’re engaged and you feel a little closer to Mark. Great result.
If you are worried you may miss an emergency, feel free to keep the phone in the same room but just out of sight, so you can hear it ring, maybe turn off social media notifications, so that not every buzz captures your attention.
Take Long Walks
Walks have helped great minds think for thousands of years. They clear your head and even get the brain more active than when you’re just sitting. The key is to leave all devices at home or to just not use them. Try leaving them in your pocket or your bag.
Scenic walks work best, nature has a wonderful calming effect on the human mind, if you’re stuck in a city like me, consider a park, it doesn’t have to be the Amazon to be nature.
Bring a pen and pad so you can write down the ideas you have. No point thinking up a solution then forgetting it. If you write the notes on your phone you may get distracted by some notification or give in to the urge to listen to something, ruining the effect.
Write To Solve Problems
Writing is thinking. So if you take the time to write down ideas, you can really crystallise those ideas and think more clearly than you can using just your mind.
You can write on anything a scrap of paper is fine, the act of the writing matters here more than keeping the notes for later. If you do want to read it later that’s fine too.
You could summarise your best ideas succinctly in a separate notebook, so anytime you need a good idea to solve a problem or write about, you just flip through your idea notebook and have a load of ideas ready to read.
Write To Clear Your Head
If you just need to get the thoughts out of your head, I find getting them on paper to be best. Once you have written down your worries, they leave your head. This is especially helpful if you’re prone to thoughts racing through your head late at night, stopping you sleep.