Solitary Moments: Essential for Social Animals

Prasanth Aby Thomas
Published: August 2014

Ever since childhood we learn that man is a social animal, we need one another to survive. This is absolutely true, I agree, but what they don’t tell you at school is that we also need to be alone at times. When I say alone, do not mix loneliness with solitude. Loneliness is a negative feeling that can pitch you down to the depths of depression, while solitude is a voluntary decision to take some time off from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and be alone.

I have to admit, I used to hate the concept of solitude before – that is, until I realized how essential it was to me. But even after I realized it was good to be alone at times, I was forced by the society to remain in others company. Don’t we all have friends who want to be with others all the time, who feel bored if they are alone?

I used to accept this pressure from society as a natural phenomenon, until once I just couldn’t stand the noise around me and took off on a hiking trip all alone. I walked through the country side, climbed a few hills and crossed a few streams, without talking to anyone, looking at anyone, or even, thinking about the world I left behind. It was just me and nature, and it was then that I realized how crucial a role does solitude play in our lives. From then on I decided to make this aspect, an important part of my life, every week I spend some time, away from others, in activities that do not require me to be worrying about others.

I implore all of you to try this at some point in their lives. It is best to give it a shot when you feel overcrowded within your mind with noise, work and pressures. (If you are into computers, the effect of solitude is more like defragmenting your hard-disk!).

You need not go off on a long period of detachment from others. For some people it might just be an hour or two in a week. There are quite a few people who enjoy a morning cup of coffee by the window, all alone, in tune with their inner rhythm. Some others like to take off on a swim on weekends, without others. Whatever the activity, the point is to make sure that you enjoy these moments. Be mindful, and aware of the situation, do not let your mind wander off aimlessly, looking for company.

But a decision to embrace solitude is not going to go down well with our society. Although our society’s ancient roots speak of sages who opted to be alone, modern Indian society will scoff at the idea of running away from people. It takes a bit of courage to do things that will be against the society’s accepted model, but let me assure you, embracing solitude once in a while is a decision that you will not regret.