Mind, Body, and Soul is sponsored content.
A mental health expert unpacks the ideas and differences between solitude and loneliness.
"I have this theory about busyness," says Terry Warburton, Clinical Director of Recovery of Hope Winnipeg. "I have had so many clients say to me over the years that they feel better emotionally when they stay busy and that’s what they try to do. I would say that is sometimes true for me as well."
Warburton equates it to being excited before taking a trip. However, when she gets there, she feels sad.
"As strange as it sounds, snow globes have helped me to understand this about myself and others. I think that all of the things that we do and think about, our work, our hobbies, our kids, our relationships, our worries, our internet time, all swirl around us and in us like someone has shaken up a snow globe. There are a lot of pieces floating around. But then as we slow down, the pieces settle, and what is left?"
It's only when people slow down that they can truly identify what may be going on inside of them.
"We are left with our own thoughts and feelings, maybe our hurts and disappointments, maybe our ungrieved losses, and many other things. It can feel like something is wrong with us because we start to feel our unpleasant and vulnerable feelings. But maybe they were there all along and our busyness, the shaken snow globe, has masked what’s really going on inside of us."
According to Warburton, the answer isn’t to shake up the snow globe of busyness again, but rather pay attention to what is left when it all settles.
"The swirling snow from the snow globe just masks what’s already there. I truly believe, and the study of the brain backs this up, that the experience of solitude is actually something that is going to help us with these feelings. It matures and heals us."
Finding time for real solitude can help people process emotions that are buried.
"Solitude and loneliness are two very different things, but we sometimes lump them together. The truth is that we all experience loneliness at times, even in crowds or surrounded by friends. We often think of solitude as being alone, but that is only a small part of it. It's possible to be alone but not be experiencing solitude that heals and grows us. Solitude is the practice of creating a relationship with ourselves."
When a person is able to take time in solitude, the benefits are many.
"It creates an inner freedom that helps us to listen to, pay attention to, and navigate our overwhelming thoughts and feelings. It is through solitude that we make good decisions that benefit ourselves and others. It enhances the quality of our lives and those around us. Solitude helps us to respond to others and to our world rather than react to it. Solitude helps us to be reasoned and reflective, calmer and slower in what we say and how we act."
Parents have a part in teaching their child or children how to productively participate in solitude.
"Our children learn to experience solitude not by being forced to be alone, but by spending time with adults who value and practice solitude."