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Have you ever had a great idea come to you while in the shower? Why is it that the best thoughts seem to occur when we’re not prepared to write them down? For me, my mind seems to be most creative when I’m driving, walking my dog, riding my bike, or doing housework – not when I’m at work or sitting in front of a computer. I have noticed a common theme in these activities: solitude.

The word solitude tends to have a negative connotation, but it is not the same as loneliness or boredom. Loneliness is described as the pain of being alone when companionship is desired. It is something imposed on you by others. Solitude, on the other hand, is something you choose. It is a constructive state, a time of self-reflection and engagement with oneself that often results in innovation and creative thinking. Solitude renews the mind; loneliness depletes it.

Although walking the dog, doing chores and driving are not things I always enjoy doing, these activities do provide me with the opportunity to disconnect from technology and let my mind wander. Taking time to be alone can seem like a waste in the busy, fast-paced world we live in today, but it is more valuable than one might think! Solitude was named one of the ten habits of highly creative people by the authors of the book “Wired To Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind”. Daydreaming is another habit, which often occurs during simple activities done in solitude such as walking and cleaning.

How might you embrace solitude and provide your mind with space to wander in the midst of your daily life? Maybe you could try:

Going into work early. If you can work an early arrival into your schedule, you may be able to get some quiet work done before your co-workers arrive and new emails start to come in.

Taking short “mental breaks” throughout the day. Step away from your computer every couple of hours to stretch or take a walk, if possible, or to practice mindfulness.

Minimizing distractions. Consider turning off phone and email notifications when you’re working on an important project to stay focused without unnecessary interruptions.

Taking a technology break. Set limits on technology use to enjoy quality time with family or in nature.

Do you have another suggestion for embracing solitude? Share your suggestions in the comment box below!

 

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

Kaufman, S.B. & Gregoire, C. (2016). Ten Habits of Highly Creative People. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_habits_of_highly_creative_people

Marano, H.E. (2016). What is Solitude? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/what-is-solitude.

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