In the book, Digital Minimalism Carl Newport talks a lot about solitude and how our modern digital lives are lacking this vital time along with our thoughts. He goes on to talk about its effect on our mental and physical health. This leads me to think about my own life and some steps we can all take to step away a little to improve our lives.
I currently get a lot of time alone but Carl is talking about a different kind of solitude here. He describes this as:
time spent free from inputs from other minds
This is something I don't get. I rarely sit with my own thoughts and nothing else. During my downtime, I tend to listen to music, watch TV, read or listen to a book. I don't just sit and be present with my thoughts and ideas.
Carl Newport gives a number of examples from historical figures like Lincoln and his cottage outside Washington D.C. where he would escape the hustle and bustle of the White House on summer evenings to have space to think and clarify to mental health research showing a link between our constant connection and increase in mental health illnesses of depression and anxiety.
After reading this section on Digital Minimalism I thought I would try this. I spent a night without TV, books or other inputs and just made notes on what I was thinking about. Apart from coming up with a thousand ideas of topics to explore further and write about on my blog I also gained a lot of clarity on my business and where I need to be going both professionally and in my family life.
At first, stepping away, turning off the phone and computer can seem daunting and you might feel like you are missing out but this feeling fades after around 30 minutes. Once you get past this and start to think clearly you get into a flow and you don't miss the connected world. You might find your self getting bored and have urges to turn your phone back on but don't, stick with the solitude and you will start to have more thoughts and ideas.
In my case, I was writing these down as I have a terrible memory and I knew I would want to follow up on a number of the ideas I was imagining.
I have since spent more time alone and free from input from other people and as a result, I have found I am happier, more productive and I sleep better leaving me less tired and ready to take each and every day as they come.
There are also physical health benefits as well. A good place to get this kind of away time is walking in the country. Something I have started doing more of with the dog. It keeps me active and also bubbles some amazing ideas which I can quickly note down on my phone which I keep in aeroplane mode when on these "thinking walks".
As so elegant put in the book
Simply put, humans are not wired to be constantly wired.