When was the last time you were alone? I mean really alone.

No people, no noise, no technology, no distractions what so ever. Just you and your thoughts. For me the last time was 14 years ago on an Outward Bound adventure. I was left alone in the forest with nothing but a sleeping bag, water and a pencil and paper for 24hrs.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve done.

Being alone can be scary. It causes us to question all kinds of things. Ourselves, our actions, our life. The distractions of the world are so many that ‘fortunately’ we can go practically our whole life without ever thinking deeply about what we’re really doing. All the chatter drowns out our deepest thoughts. Without space to grow, our best ideas may never materialize. We have to clear out some room.
The Benefits of Voluntary Solitude

Doing things alone is awesome. You are in complete control and you get to let the moments take you wherever they please. There are no agendas or personalities to satisfy. No one to compare against. You’ll see people and the world in an entirely different light. Just pure exploring. I fell in love with it when I lived in Spain. Solo travel is the perfect example.

You get to slow down. See and appreciate the world around you. Think consciously about your life without constantly reacting to the thousands of monkeys thrown on your back each day.

You learn to appreciate your own company. Spending time alone allows us to get to know ourselves. To let it all hang out with no worry of others’ perceptions. Be your own best company and never be without a friend.

You do things you’d never do. When I’m alone I do so much more thinking, reading, writing, meditating, observing and exploring than I’d ever do around the hustle of society. Your priorities change. Life gets simpler.

Whether you are constantly around people or not, some intentional time to let your thoughts run wild can be valuable medicine for us all.
How to Get the Most Out of Time with Yourself

1. Schedule it. Pick at least a night and ideally a full weekend or a few days where you’ll be alone.

2. Leave town. Solitude can be experienced at home but I’ve found it best to get out of your surroundings. It helps break the pattern of everyday life and thinking.

3. Find a place without distractions. Maybe a friend or family’s mountain cabin, beach or lake house. Anything to get away. The cheapest and simplest is to pitch a tent in the woods for a few days. Another idea is a meditation retreat for a day, a few days or longer. You won’t have a choice but to slow down. I have done various one and two-day retreats and loved them. Goodlife Zen and Mary’s Virtual Retreats are great ways to ease into taking some time to yourself.

4. Be close to nature. This always helps get us back to our roots and immediately tends to calm the desire to do a million things at once. The fresh air, colors and sounds are some of the best therapy one can find.

5. East simply. Stick to a bunch of water, nuts, fruits and vegetables if you can. It makes shopping cheap and easy and you might find yourself with a bit more energy when you return to reality.

6. Pack simply. There will be no one to impress out there so pack light. Only the bare necessities. Books, journal and a few personal items. Err on the side of less. It gives you one less thing to worry about before and during your adventure.

7. Leave the technology at home. For your first retreat I’d recommend no technology at all and especially no internet. Don’t kid yourself. If it’s there, it will consume you. Leave it behind. I’d even recommend a couple days with nothing. Not even a journal or book. Then you are guaranteed to do the things you rarely do at home. You are forced simply to be. There is nothing to check off so it’s impossible to be in a rush. The feeling will be wild.

Note: If you must have a computer (say if writing is the purpose of your getaway), only allow it in designated times and avoid connecting to the web. Perhaps mornings and nights (so you can enjoy your days outside).

8. Get rid of your watch and calendar. Let the days flow as they may. For the first time in a while, you have nowhere to be.

9. Take some deep breaths. Find someplace quiet. Sit still. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Ideally do this outside. Think about nothing at all. Just listen and enjoy. Some call this meditation. Call it whatever you want. Take at least a couple 30 minute sessions a day to just be.

10. Ask the big questions of yourself. The ones you never have a chance to ask. What am I passionate about? What’s great in my life? What am I proud of? What is my purpose? What am I best at? What am I meant to do in this world? The point is not to solve life’s problems. It is to open your mind to them and address the idea that there’s a lot to be learned about yourself.
You Deserve Some Solitude

Life has gotten too complicated to not reserve some time to ourselves and our thoughts every once in a while. It is not just about being alone. It’s about being disconnected from life and consciously connected with your thoughts. For those of you who claim you don’t have time for it, you are the ones who need it most. Trust me, I was there with you.

There will always be times in life when you are alone, whether it’s your decision or not. Why not get used to them and learn to embrace the calm? These times give us a chance to experience life in a way we never otherwise would.

Make solitude a priority and your mind and body will thank you.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”

-Deepak Chopra