The pilgrimage begins sometime in early December, when we enter the phase of Christmas drinks, filled with the redness of Christmas crackers and our own faces. These gatherings are crowned with the mother of them all – the office Christmas party. Yes, that one night that delivers the gossip material for the next 12 months. Of course, we usually have some family matters we need to attend. Speaking to our distant uncles and their brother-in-laws, we’re maneuvering between the ridiculous questions (“When will you get a real job/ when will you get married?”) and the dangerous ones (“So Brexit, eh?’’).
Or, on the other hand, maybe this Christmas there was nowhere to go and no one to be annoyed with? And what is more, maybe those moments of solitude brought some unexpected joy and contentment?
In today's society, spending time alone tends to bear a stigma of being lonely, sad or having antisocial tendencies. We keep talking about individualism and alternative lifestyle, yet there’s still some cultural anxiety around doing things by yourself. Of course, we need friends and relationships to grow as human beings, but if you think about going to see a band or dining out you probably instantly imagine it as an activity that should be enjoyed in a group. Doing things alone is not a cry for help and it doesn’t deserve pity, it has potential to be one of the most empowering experiences in life.
According to Psychology Today’s study, time alone is fuel for life. The research has proven that spending time alone is as important as being with people, and it can help with building mental strength. It seems that being able to spend time without anyone around can increase happiness, self awareness and improve stress management.
We’re existing in a device-centered universe, where there’s no room for solitude and empathy. It’s not only about turning off the phone, it’s also about trying to develop compassion for people who might not have been the most obvious choices for our "social circle”. While spending most of the time with a single group of people, it’s easy to establish a black-and-white attitude like “us and them”. Being on my own, I learnt to let the labels go. At least a bit.
It’s not just a coincidence that writers, when they want to work on their great novel are escaping into a cabin in the woods or another deserted location. Solitude is proven to spark creativity, as we are able to unleash our brains from the usual outside stimuli. The lack of routine also provokes the free flow of thoughts.
Consequently, time alone noticeably improves productivity and concentration. It makes focusing easier, allowing you to get more work done in a shorter time. For me, it’s the best way to tune up my busy brain.
Modern life doesn’t really help us with achieving any kind of solitude. Even when we are not physically with people, the notifications are popping up on our phones. We can’t escape the network. And if we do, the silence might feel uncomfortable at first. When I was alone, I used to occupy myself with a million tasks, like cleaning, binge watching Netflix, planning holidays or my dream wedding with the illusionary boyfriend. I didn’t let my creative space grow, instead I wanted to fill it with as many distractions as possible.
I believe I was too scared of being confronted with what’s left when you remove the white noise. My time alone helped me to realize what I want, and take full responsibility for my actions. Now I understand the value of solitude. I think that one of my greatest discoveries would be the ability to look at it from a new perspective. This stillness of mind can be found on a lonesome walk, long Friday night in with wine, sketchbook and candles, but also on a bus, in a room full of people, or during a fitness class.
So if you're spending this festive period with yourself, unwind and enjoy. It’s not a punishment, it‘s a luxury.