People often think I’m an extrovert. And I understand why: I love hosting parties and events, I have a rich social life, and I’m very comfortable speaking to large groups. But like a true introvert, I recharge in the quiet, solitary moments. It’s where I do my best thinking. It’s where I gain clarity. Creating ample time for solitude makes me a better person.
But the need to retreat is not exclusively the realm of introverts. Everyone — social butterflies and shy, silent types alike — needs regular time out of time, away from it all.
The value of taking time to retreat from the chaos of everyday life is something I talk about in my new book, Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness. There is value in being alone. “Unbusying” yourself is a great first step, but it goes beyond that: Carving out moments of solitude — particularly when immersed in nature — provides a respite of mind/body/spirit. It also gives us the space to recharge and rejoin the social world stronger and better than before. Quiet retreat and contemplative reflection allows us to go deeper, think bigger, and act with greater consciousness. Sometimes limiting what and to whom we have access delivers the greatest bounty.
This week I am surrounded by the beautiful Idaho mountains. Normally a creature of the sea, I am struck by the marked difference in the energy of the two environments. The hypnotic roar and constant flow of the ocean yields an immense intensity, and it invigorates my body with its negative ions (negative ions, ironically, have a very positive effect on us). The mountains, however, whisper softly in calm stillness. The air is different up there. Serenity envelops you.
And while a week in the wilderness like this one is idyllic, it’s not always feasible. But it need not be all or nothing (so brush aside that excuse!). Whether it’s a daily walk in a local park or a day trip out of the city, finding a way to escape the clamor of everyday life is worth the effort. Some extreme extroverts may resist — in a hyper-connected world, being alone can feel scary. We’re accustomed to chatter and constant validation of our every thought. So listening exclusively to your own voice, with no immediate external validation, may seem daunting. But you will reap the benefits when you do re-emerge back into the hubbub — carrying a piece of that solitary comfort with you.
“Alone” isn’t a dirty word. So relish in your own company. Luxuriate in solitude. And make alone time a priority.
I’d love to know how you create space for alone time — is it something that comes naturally or do you struggle with it? What does it do for you? Let me know in the comments section.
p.s. If you know someone who values alone time — or someone who finds it challenging, share this with them. It may prompt them to prioritize regular retreats.