Rita Watson MPH

With Love and Gratitude

A Date With Self: 14 Ways to Find Solitude and Its Benefits

To experience the value of solitude it is important to set aside time to do so.

Posted Jun 03, 2015

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson
Source: Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

Whether living single, in a relationship, or part of a family, have you ever given thought to finding three quiet hours for yourself?   We are learning today that social media can become addictive. Facebook has its ups and downs and can impact self-esteem (Williams 2014). But solitude has invaluable benefits.  Solitude allows us to take a journey inward – a place where the inner workings of our soul may come in touch with the outer realities of the world beyond our vision --- a world where our heart’s desire begins to unfold.

In reading about a class assignment given by Eric Julian Manalastas, “The Date with the Self,” and the work of Jerry Burger at Santa Clara University, “Individual Preferences on Solitude,” I reviewed the last page of my earlier work “A Serenity Journal.”  And I remain convinced that  in solitude we come to a place inside of ourselves that is filled with possibilities.  

When we lived on a country lake that teamed with life, stress was low and social connections were planned.  Internet connections were unreliable and cell phone towers were scattered. What I learned there was the relative safety in country living.   It is rare that one gets into emotional struggles with nature.   However, once back in the city, I began to lose a sense of myself and had to create and plan times of solitude.

A date with one’s self and the findings

Reporting in the Phillipine Journal of Psychology, this is what we learn from Manalastas regarding an outside of class assignment in which students were to make a “date with the self.” He reported:

“During a class discussion on solitude, I assigned students an out-of-classroom exercise – the date with the self. That is, students set aside an afternoon or evening of at least three hours to engage in personally chosen leisure activity entirely by themselves. I presented sample activities as suggestions, including going to a cinema, eating at a restaurant, visiting a park or museum, enjoying a walk in nature, etc., with the self as their “date.” Students were instructed not to think that they were not going on this date ‘alone’; rather, they would be going with a companion who is ‘very special, i.e., themselves.

 “Results showed . . .  significant gains in appreciation of time spent alone, relative to a comparison group of 49 students. Of the features of solitude, anonymity and low levels of negative affect during the exercise accounted for increased appreciation for time spent alone, while feelings of inner peace, low levels of loneliness, and previous attitudes toward solitude were related to overall enjoyment of the activity.  (Mantalastas 2011)

When Carl Jung gave this assignment to a harried minister he instructed him to be alone – with himself.   However, after reporting back to Dr. Jung about his time alone with music and reading, Dr. Jung is said to have explained:   “But you didn’t understand.   I didn’t want you with Herman Hesse or Thomas Mann or even Mozart or Chopin.   I wanted you alone with yourself.” (Kelsey 1976)

What is the best way to find solitude?

To really experience the meaning of solitude it is important to set aside time, as if you were going on a date. If you can stay at home and not be distracted, so much the better, however, at home one often finds things to do when tasked with solitude. Whether you choose your quiet moments at home, outdoors, or in a uplifting environment, turn off all electronic devices – laptops, iPads, mobile phone. Find a corner that has no distractions, and begin.

How to find solitude at home:

  • Read a few words of poetry if it helps you set the mood.
  • Express gratitude for yourself, your home, the people in your life.
  • Light a candle and watch the flame.
  • Breathe and listen to rhythm within you.
  • Sit with a journal or note cards to write out thoughts that come your way.
  • Make a list of your positive qualities.
  • Practice creative visualization, which is training your mind to create images, scenarios or positive possibilities.

How to find solitude out of doors:

  • Reconnect with nature by taking a meditative walk.
  • Listen for the birds or even the sounds of the city. Express gratitude for what you hear.
  • Find a quiet spot in a park, on a beach, along a hiking path and just observe.
  • Go to a museum and marvel at the treasures that have been preserved.
  • Find an interesting tree or piece of sculpture and talk to yourself about what it means to you to have this time to yourself.
  • Walk into a flower shop or find a garden. Reflect on the beauty of the petals.
  • Move your vision upwards to observe the clouds, the sky.

With our busy schedules, making time to be alone can be both difficult and a bit frightening.  People are often afraid of silence and solitude because it feels too much like loneliness.  But there is a vast difference that you come to appreciate once you make a date with yourself.

An exercise in solitude reveals to us treasures within us, treasures that can be uplifting and healing.  Oftentimes neither men nor women pay attention to the world within until they are in conflict or in pain. And when they do all too often they seek solace from a pill, a bottle, a drug rather than their own inner resources. It doesn’t have to be that way.  As a society we have been taught to seek help outside of ourselves.  But those who make time for moments of solitude will find that the effort brings insights, answers, and a certain peace of mind. (Watson 2000)

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

References

Ray Williams on May 20, 2014 in Wired for Success How Facebook Can Amplify Low Self-Esteem/Narcissism/Anxiety

Kelsey, Kelsey: The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation, Paulist Press, 1976

Manalastas, E. J. (2011). An exercise to teach the psychological benefits of solitude: The date with the self. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 44(1), 95-106. Copy at http://www.is.gd/IkdpjX /

Burger, J. M. (1995). Individual differences in preference for solitude.  Journal of Research in Personality, 29, 85-108. doi:10.1006/ jrpe.1995.1005

Watson, Rita E, “A Serenity Journal: 52 Weeks of Prayer and Gratitude.” Paulist Press, 2000.