I remember that the first time I heard it as a kid, I felt highly uncomfortable. Then, as I got older, I would revisit this quote, and observe an intriguing change in my attitude towards it. This saying is a reminder of a simple fact that throughout your lifetime, the most important and the longest relationship you’re ever going to have, is the one with yourself. Therefore, it’s in our best interest to become one’s best friend, explore the meanders of our inner world, treat ourselves with love and compassion, and invest as much as we can in the self-discovery journey.
Today, I feel highly grateful for this saying. It became my metaphorical anchor I return to and depend on, especially in challenging times, like a ship on a stormy sea.
That is just scratching the surface of things to gain from embarking on the never-ending pursuit of personal growth. Luckily I did the work and research so that you don’t have to.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, spending time alone is something that your body naturally craves and needs. Solitude creates an opportunity to unwind and decompress after a cognitively demanding day at work or school. It helps us recharge batteries through its soothing effect.
Research on solitude demonstrates its positive influence on mental wellbeing. When we spend time alone, we are at a lower risk of suffering from depression. In fact, we’re more likely to feel happy. How so? Our self-awareness rises, and so does self-acceptance. We tend to get stressed out less often. We’re becoming more and more comfortable with who we are.
When we get closer to our friends, and we pay more attention to them, we inevitably form a meaningful bond together. The same happens when we choose to focus on our inner relationship. Solitude can help us see things clearly. We become aware of our talents, dreams, values, goals, passions, aspirations in life. We learn to recognise our complex emotions, fears, unhealthy patterns of behaviour, metaphorical “soft spots”, insecurities, limiting beliefs.
Equipped with the invaluable knowledge of the self, one can be truly unstoppable. Knowing one’s limits and triggers, understanding the emotions, and regulating them healthily comes in handy (to say the least) during trying times. We can rise to the challenge of coping with the difficulties and hardships of life.
Taking time to cater to our own needs supports our wellbeing. Our cup is full, and we can share it with the outside world. According to New York Times, solitude has a particular “calming effect that prepares us to better engage with others”. We can do so in a relaxed and empathetic manner. Moreover, we respect our boundaries by paying attention to the people we hang out with. As a result, we are more likely to reevaluate our “filler” friendships and connect to those whose presence in our lives truly brings an added value.
Being alone makes us appreciate our uniqueness. Studies show that solitude increases levels of productivity, creativity and confidence. Spending intentional time alone works up our appetite for life. It boosts the motivation to achieve big goals and bold dreams. It ramps up the momentum and makes us more willing to actively create our reality, plan for the future and track our progress as we go.
It can be pretty intimidating to invest in the inner relationship since we’re not really used to spending time alone. We just don’t do it, and when we do, it’s not that meaningful or intentional. It’s often socially awkward to just sit in a hallway, waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I won’t even start the subject of grabbing a meal alone. That’s why so often we reach for our phones – to distract ourselves with social media and shake off the discomfort.
“We’ve been wired to believe that solitude is our enemy“, says Omar Itani in his article. The society that we live in glorifies the power of surrounding yourself with other people and the crucial role socialising plays in our wellbeing. Simultaneously, being alone is frowned upon, undesired and avoided at all costs.
Before I go any further, I’d like to clarify one thing:
Loneliness should not be identified with being alone. These are two very different things.
Experiencing loneliness can feel like there is no one truly sees and understands us, no one to count on, no one to share a meaningful connection with. The feeling can be present in a crowd of people or when spending a Friday night with some friends.
Being alone, on the other hand, is a conscious choice of intentionally spending time exclusively in our own company and enjoying it.
Where should we begin? What could be the first step? How to start? Once, again – I got you, no need to sweat it.
Here are 5 tips on how to embark on the journey of self-discovery:
“The inspiration you seek is already within you. Be silent and listen.”
P.S. Unplug from your phone, shut off social media pretty please – that’s yet another distraction, and that’s not what self-development is about at all.
In case you still feel uninspired, here are some activities for you to test out…
Use this time alone, free from any external influences, liberated from outside pressure to ask yourself:
“What are my dreams, secret desires, big goals for the future?”
Drop into a meditative space and write it all out. Don’t hold yourself back. Allow yourself to be bold!
Your personal growth should never be pushed on the back burner! Take charge of your dreams and set your goals; make them detailed and tangible. Solitude is a friend of creativity and productivity, so use it to your advantage as much as you can.
Keep yourself in check, hold yourself accountable and don’t allow complacency to creep in! When alone, ask yourself frequently:
What place am I at currently? Are there some things I could improve? What will my next step be?
Formulating these random thoughts into sentences, sorting through them, organising them and freeing your mind from the mental chatter has a natural therapeutic effect.
Just try it out, write daily five things that you’re grateful for and see for yourself how much of a game-changer this one is!
Use your breath as a tool to connect with your body and become mindful of it. Know how to calm your anxiety through its grounding and soothing effect.
Meditating helps you cope with stressful situations by creating mindful moments of silence. Even if it’s 10 minutes every couple of days, that’s a great start!
Spend a day in the forest on your own and let the soothing energy sink in. Connect to the natural world that you’re a part of, recognise its miraculous beauty, observe the spectacle that is constantly unfolding before your eyes.
Learn from nature’s mindful way of being. Learn to let go of control, step back and appreciate this intimate moment.
Experiment with your sense of taste. Spark your culinary curiosity and learn more about your preferences.
Your physical body carries you through life, day after day – getting to know it and taking care of it in return makes perfect sense. Try out solo sports, such as biking, swimming or running.
Take yourself out to a museum, grab a solo meal, go see a movie alone. Observe the thoughts and emotions that may arise. Let go of social stigma regarding solitude and cherish this time.
Research shows that even a 90-minute walk in a park reduces fatigue, anxiety and feelings of depression.
Everything in this world is connected, including our physical and mental health. Supporting your mind will help you thrive physically and the other way around. Learn to listen to yourself holistically, as a whole. Stretch your body, find peace in practising yoga, express your soul through dancing.
In a world where we can order online just about anything, it can feel amazing to have the ability to make something on your own. Work on your sense of independence and let your creativity run free when building a DIY piece of furniture, knitting a piece of clothing etc.
A big part of our identity is located in our physical appearance. See how it changes when you test out a different look. Have a new haircut, try out different make-up or spice up your current wardrobe!
Once again – “We are born alone, and we die alone”.
Whatever happens in the meantime, it is undoubtedly more enjoyable and exciting when we deeply know ourselves. There’s so much to gain (and nothing to lose) through practising conscious solitude and pursuing the infinite journey of self-discovery.
“In silence, you will tap into the incredible power within you.”
– Omar Itani
Going through life with a best friend at all times sounds like a great plan, so why don’t you make sure you are your own favourite person?
I invite you to grab a journal (like right now) and answer these questions:
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