Mindful

In a past article, journalist Andrea Chalupa suggested everyone make a plan to take out 24 hours in solitude. She quotes her father, Dr. Leo Chalupa, saying that “A national day of absolute solitude would do more to improve the brains of all Americans than any other one-day program.” This might sound scary to some and intriguing to others, but have no fear, this is not going to happen. But what can happen?

Thomas Merton said, “Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.”

Spending time in solitude is actually a very healthy thing to do—it gives us an opportunity to balance the busyness.

We are in an age where there is no solitude at all and if there were any we’d grab for our phones to make sure there wasn’t any. Whether you’re in the camp who believes it our not, the pace at which we live our lives and the amount of things we try to pay attention to at once are major recipes for stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors.

Spending time in solitude is actually a very healthy thing to do—it gives us an opportunity to balance the busyness. It’s not only a mindful act, but a self-compassionate act too. Furthermore, the more balanced you are, the better you’ll rub off on others, so maybe consider it’s something that might even make the world a a little bit better.

So what if we took her proposal to heart, but scaled it back a bit?

How about starting with five minutes of solitude per day? Maybe we can even scale it to two sessions of five minutes a day at some point?

Why even consider this?

I conducted a national research study in 2006 that found that taking this time out even once a day had significant effects on well-being and stress. I wrote the steps to cultivate these moments in an earlier blog post.

Realistically, 24 hours of solitude sounds overwhelming to most…and when something is overwhelming we don’t do it. For example, if we both sat at the bottom of Mount Everest and I said, “Ok, let’s do it,” most people wouldn’t even begin. However, if we sat at the bottom of a five-minute hike up and you knew that five minutes hike in that moment would be good for your stress and well-being, you might have a bit more motivation to do it.

There are many free short guided practices on the web.

So here is my proposal: can you handle 5 minutes a day of solitude or maybe a short guided practice?

Just a few minutes…give it a shot and let us know what you notice.

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
Elisha Goldstein

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and conducts a private practice in West Los Angeles. He is author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books, 2015), The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).

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