At a time when the U.S. seems to be in a panic about a supposed epidemic of loneliness, a whole different theme has emerged. Many people, far from suffering from loneliness, are luxuriating in the time they spend alone. In numbers that are probably unprecedented, they are dining alone, traveling alone, and living alone. And when they are not living alone, they are finding ways to carve out some time and space to themselves – and loving that.
Here’s just a sampling of some recent articles and books celebrating solitude.
Don’t pity me: I actually love eating alone, by Alexandra Hayes
“Walking into a restaurant and saying, “Table for one, please,” came naturally to me, though I suppose to others, a 16-year-old girl eating alone in a restaurant may have looked like something of an anomaly.
“Really, other people’s discomfort in doing something that feels so natural to me has made me feel confident, and a little contrarian, and I like that.”
Spending time alone in nature is good for your mental and emotional health, by Brad Daniel, Andrew Bobilya, and Ken Kalish
Being alone “can allow issues to surface that people spend energy holding at bay, and offer an opportunity to clarify thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires. It provides time and space for people to step back, evaluate their lives and learn from their experiences.”
In praise of doing nothing, by Simon Gottschalk
“Much research – and many spiritual and philosophical systems – suggest that detaching from daily concerns and spending time in simple reflection and contemplation are essential to health, sanity and personal growth.”
Wit & Wisdom, The Week, March 16, 2018
“If they’ve never learned to be alone, people develop only weak and fragile defenses against the ways life decides to hurt them.” Author Astrid Lindgren, quoted in TheParisReview.org
What the joyous solitude of early hermits can teach us about being alone, by Kim Haines-Eitzen
“The lives of hermits may seem distant from our busy contemporary lives. But the romantic appeal of an unencumbered and undistracted life has not disappeared. Hermits in the 21st century come from all walks of life, religious and secular, but share with those from the past a longing for quiet solitude and simplicity.”
Alone: The badass psychology of people who like being alone (collection of blog posts and other writings), by Bella DePaulo
“For unknown numbers of people, being alone is not just a preference – it is a craving, a need. Deprived of their time alone for too long, they begin to fantasize about it. Nothing feels quite right until their need for solitude is replenished.”
Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, by Stephanie Rosenbloom
[I’ve already shared 15 of my favorite quotes about solitude from “Alone Time” in this “Single at Heart” blog post. Here, I’ll share a different point about solitude – that it can be good for connecting with others. And, truth be told, this section is special to me because my beloved Community of Single People is mentioned.]
“Indeed, for those who prefer to spend less time alone, solo travel often leads to just that because it creates opportunities to meet new people and develop friendships…
“Opportunities for friendship are all around: in bookshops, with museum security guards, cashiers at grocers, waiters, fellow people in line. Members of a Facebook group called the Community of Single People, created by Bella DePaulo, the researcher and author of Singled Out, answered a question I posed about how they meet others by saying it’s simply through doing the things they love. A runner said that practically every time he travels alone he participates in a half marathon or marathon: ‘You’ve instantly got a common interest.’
“A woman who likes to bicycle solo said that while she prefers to ride alone ‘because cycling is, for me, about solitude and meditation, never a social activity,’ she has no trouble making friends along the way. ‘Being alone on a bike is all the ice breaker I’ve ever needed. People are drawn to my adventure and want to be part of it.’”