The Art of Being Alone

“They are opposite states… Solitude is usually actively sought after and is a personal choice that comes from an inner yearning. Isolation is usually actively avoided and is forced from the outside. Solitude allows for expansion and freedom of thought, providing the chance to soar above the ordinary in order to come back to the world refreshed and reinvigorated. Isolation contracts the walls and makes a prison, draining the will and leaving you exhausted.” Source 

Solitude is a choice. Isolation, while it can be a choice, is most frequently associated with loneliness (“sadness because one has no friends or companions”). Great thinkers choose to be alone, in order to work. Artists of every genre, similarly, tend to hone their craft alone. Alternatively, when people are alone without anything to do, per se, or any companionship; depression and melancholy can easily result. So, it is important—when you feel lonely—to make the choice as to whether you are isolated and if you can turn the time into solitude instead. 

Let’s break them down even further: 

  • Time spent alone by choice (a nap, time getting things accomplished, etc) 
  • Productive (work, hobbies, interpersonal growth…) 
  • Lacks loneliness 
  • Requires alone-ness 
  • Is healthy 
  • Often not a choice
  • May spend time ruminating (going over one thing in your mind—especially a bad thing—over and over)
  • Experience loneliness, a wish to be with others.
  • Minimally or entirely unproductive
  • Marked by boredom

I spend about 60% of my time alone reading and writing. Some of this time could be defined as solitude, some as isolation. I research these blog topics for 3-5 hours a month: looking up a topic (which I always think is novel until I google it!), reading the research or other writings, and another few hours developing the blog. I also spend several hours a week looking for work right now. However, sometimes I get tired or bored by research and job hunting (where solitude meets isolation) and I have to reach out to my daughter, by phone, or one of my roommates to simply provide some companionship. I have found the following to help me transition from isolation to solitude:

To Move Toward Productive Time Alone:
  • Engage in a hobby (right now I’m stuck on grown-up coloring books, reading, writing and crafting)
  • Read a novel or self-help book: The internet is an awesome source for discovering more. is a great start!
  • Write letters, songs, poetry or your autobiography
  • Take a walk/hike, collect leaves, be in the moment with nature
  • Notice the texture of life (carpet loops, leaves falling, the intricacies of a bird’s nest)
  • Exercise/work out/lift weights
  • Cook something new, the internet is replete with recipes:
  • Go to a Meet Up (
  • Watch/go to a movie
  • Draw/color
  • Volunteer to help others struggling or in need
  • Do research on upcoming election candidates
  • Play video games
  • Learn to crochet/cross stich/latch hook
  • Iron clothes
  • Listen to inspirational music
  • Meditate
  • Make a piñata
  • Make a list of things you want or need to accomplish
  • Catch up on your correspondence (the art of snail mail)

The possibilities are endless! Being alone doesn’t have to be a reason to let depression creep in, look at it as an opportunity.

Read the rest of Liz’s posts here

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