, Gloucester, MA

May 10, 2013

Simple solitude's healing power

Personal Matters
Susan Britt

---- — Problem: You fear you’re becoming anti-social because you constantly crave solitude. While you are racing to work, running with the kids and meeting husband, wife or partner, and extended family, friend and community obligations, you dream of being alone in a quiet place. You are not alone in this longing for solitude.

According to studies conducted at the University of British Columbia, everyone experiences moments when they need solitude. Researchers there found that people actually require a certain degree of solitude — time to be completely alone — in order to meet a variety of psychological needs.

One of those basic and essential needs is rejuvenation. When we spend time alone, in quiet, eliminating the noise and stimulation of our everyday lives, we give our mind and body “time off” to heal from stress, and to recharge and recoup energy and strength. The University of British Columbia research found that individuals with many demands on their time and attention seem to need solitude more than those with fewer demands. So, if you are always busy, your craving for solitude is not only appropriate, but a healthy signal to meet that need.

It doesn’t really matter what you do while you are in solitude, the researchers found. Simply being completely alone helps you restore yourself to a healthier state of well being, as measured by reduced stress hormones, improved immune functioning and other positive physiological changes.

Solution: Accept your need for solitude as natural and healthy. Then find ways to build time for solitude into your life. Here are some suggestions:

In the morning, awake a half hour earlier than the rest of your family. Then do nothing while you spend that time alone, in quiet.

Take advantage of unexpected periods of solitude. When everyone else is out of the house, stop what you are doing and just find a comfortable place to sit in silence.

Find a quiet outdoor place, perhaps in your own garden, or in the woods, or at the beach, where you can spend some time alone in a natural setting.

Try to plan days, or even half-days, of complete solitude without any human interaction and without any work, chores, books, TV or any other distractions. This can be a regular healing and spiritual pastime that will help you learn to listen to your own inner voice. In the words of the great American dancer and choreographer Agnes DeMille, “Destiny is often revealed in silence.”

Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., a former university director of counseling and career services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at or 978-546-9431.