It’s a common but underestimated side-effect of living with chronic illness: spending a lot of time alone. Because you’re stuck at home while your family and friends are off to work, school and sports. Because your migraine or crippling fatigue force you to crawl in bed, in darkness and quietude. Because you need to rest in between activities or simply can’t join in on social activities.
It can be hard to spend so much time in solitude and stillness. But being alone is not necessarily synonymous to being lonely. You can be completely content on your own, and you can be surrounded by people yet feel like no one understands you.
Although we all need company and social connections to feel good, you can also find beauty in solitude and stillness.
Spending time alone gives you space to tune into yourself. Stillness silences the voices of others telling you who you should be and why you should do, and gives you space to listen to your own thoughts, feelings and intuition. More so, being on your own offers you time for self-reflection. Without distractions from the outside world, it’s easier to get a clear picture of what you want in life, what matters most to you and how to achieve those goals and dreams.
Time alone also allows you to check in with yourself physically. By paying attention to your physical sensations, you learn to notice your body’s triggers and warning signs in time – and what helps to feel better.
What’s more, stillness can help you stress less. When your body relaxes and your mind calms down, you activate the restorative part of your nervous system. And less tension often leads to better sleep at night and improved concentration during the day. Getting quiet also lowers your cortisol levels and blood pressure, both important markers for your overall health.
So what can you do to make your alone-time reflective and restorative instead of lonely?
First of all, it helps to purposefully choose ‘me-time’ instead of letting loneliness overwhelm you. On the surface, you may be doing the same things, but emotionally, there’s a big difference between mindfully laying in savasana to recharge and staring at the ceiling feeling bored, sick and alone. If spend a lot of time on your own, you could make a plan to deal with social isolation or a list with fun things you can do at home alone.
Secondly, in our always-on world, we should all unplug from time to time to make space for stillness. Disconnect for an hour, a day or a weekend to spend time with your own thoughts and sit with your feelings. Enjoy analogue hobbies like reading magazines, playing guitar or brewing your own beer without getting distracted by messages, notifications or your favorite show in the background.
Finally, get into the habit of journaling for self-reflection, soul-searching and finding fresh perspectives. Practicing mindfulness and the art of savouring will also turn your time alone into more meaningful moments. You may not always be able to escape the loneliness and boredom of being on your own, but you deserve to get some upsides from all that alone-time too.
Take a look at these 16 inspiring quotes to learn to see the beauty of solitude and stillness.