The Power of Solitude

Nicholas Roerich, 1874-1947   Himalayas

“Lamas speak about the Abode of the Great Rishis. Each one describes Shambhala according to his own understanding. The mention of treasures is correct, but they are described in different ways. Legends about Our Warriors exist all over the world and are not without foundation. There are also described many gates and mirrors. The legend about the Tashi Lama granting passports to Shambhala is symbolic. The appearance of similar symbols in various parts of the word proves how much Truth has spread. ‘Even ancient Mexico knew about the Sacred Mountain where the Chosen People live. It is not surprising that all Asian nations preserve legends about the Sacred Mountain. It is described almost correctly, but he who is not called will not reach it.”

Agni Yoga, Supermundane, The Inner Life, 16

Published by INTERNATIONAL ROERICHS’ MEMORIAL TRUST Naggar, India – Knowledge, Tolerance, Cooperation


Doesn’t Roerich’s painting reek SOLITUDE!!

I purchased  this copy of his painting on a postcard in 1998 from the Roerich home in Naggar , KulluValley, Himachal Pradesh, India.

I passed by his home on the way up into the mountains trekking  to  visit Malana, an isolated self-determining community who’s residents claimed to be direct descendants of people who were remnants of  Alexander the Great’s armies.

  • Whilst this tale of origin seems to  have been disproved now through DNA, the claim though plausible, was always contentious.
  • Nevertheless, the people of Malana are known for their independence, and ancient beliefs which are theirs alone.
  • Malana is  only accessible for around five months a year.  Residents are a respected and resilient community, allowing visitors, but only at arm’s length.
  • Perhaps I’ll write another blog about this trek , however, this story is about solitude.

Here’s another picture of me  taken a week or so before I  went on the trek .  I  was  in the forest above Vashist, where I stayed which is next to Manali about 40 kilometres from the Roerich Home, further up along the river Beas.

Looking back now,   stumbling upon Roerich’s lovingly cared for home and property strikes me as huge milestone of spiritual serendipity  pointing me towards the importance of solitude on my mid-life rite of passage and spiritual journey in India in 1998.

I purchased the postcard with Roerich’s painting from the gallery shop attached to the Roerich home, stashed it in my pack, continued the trek, and it has been an ongoing regular  reminder of my great adventure and source of spiritual awareness, pleasure and insight ever since.

The Power of Solitude – How mastering the art of being alone can boost your mental health

  • This article, published in the New Scientist Australian Edition on 30 march 2024 discusses the nuanced view of solitude, distinguishing it from loneliness and emphasising its importance for psychological health and creativity.

The author, Heather Hansen, reflects on personal experiences and explores research that reveals how solitude can enhance emotional well-being, foster self-discovery, and even boost creativity under the right conditions.

  • The piece also discusses how solitude can satisfy some fundamental needs typically met through social interactions, like feeling connected, competent, and autonomous.

Research findings suggest that chosen solitude can be beneficial, allowing individuals to manage their emotions better and feel less stressed, whereas enforced solitude or excessive alone time can lead to feelings of loneliness.

Importance of Solitude in Different Living Situations

For People Living Alone

Solitude is especially significant for those who live alone.

  • It provides a chance to recharge and reflect without external pressures, fostering a sense of self-reliance and inner peace.
  • This time alone can help individuals develop personal interests and skills, enhancing feelings of competence and autonomy.
  • Chosen solitude, where individuals willingly spend time alone, can lead to creative thinking and problem-solving, contributing to a richer, more satisfying life.

For Those in a Relationship or Living with Family

In relationships or family settings, solitude helps maintain individuality within the collective dynamic.

  • It allows each person space to pursue their interests and maintain a sense of self, which can contribute to healthier, more balanced relationships.
  • Solitude offers a break from the constant interaction and expectations of others, helping individuals reset emotionally and return to their communal lives with more patience and clarity.
  • For couples, ensuring each partner has time for solitude can prevent feelings of being overwhelmed or losing one’s identity in the relationship.

Overall, whether living alone, with a partner, or in a family, solitude is vital for maintaining emotional balance, fostering creativity, and fulfilling personal needs.

  • It provides a psychological space to explore personal thoughts and feelings, which is crucial for well-being in any living arrangement.

In her applied research paper, Solitude Skills and the Private Self, Virginia Thomas describes how her study investigated the question:

  • What are the skills required to experience solitude positively and constructively?

Her analysis yielded evidence for eight themes (i.e. skills) clustered within these  three central organising concepts  (Table 1 : Eight Solitude Skills Within Three Central Organising Concepts):

  • Connect with self
  • Protect time
  • Find a balance

Theme/Skill Definition of theme Example of theme and central organising concept
1. Enjoyment of solitary activities Ability to find pleasure and meaning in solitary activities, enjoying one’s own company “I feel nourished by myself meditating or being creative or going on a long bike ride by myself. And then if I’m doing those things, it’s like I need no one else, I need nothing else, I can just be happy and content with what I’m doing.” Connect with self
2. Emotion regulation Ability to identify feelings, tolerate distress, and regulate emotions “As my body relaxed, my mind quieted, I had a lot of tears, I had an emotional release that felt really cleansing, even though it was uncomfortable to feel sadness.”
Connect with self
3. Introspection Ability to engage in self-reflection and insight “I process what I’m needing or going through at the time in my life, it’s important for me to just to kind of step back and reflect on everything.”
Protect time
4. Make time for solitude Ability to carve out time for solitude, and if needed, negotiate for it “During the week when I’m working, and I go to the gym or I fill my day with stuff, I still have several hours alone to recharge or to prepare myself, and that’s important to me.
Protect time
5. Be mindful of how time in solitude is spent Ability to use solitude intentionally or constructively, free of distractions or obligations to others “[I tell myself] don’t go on the computer because you’re going to get distracted ::: I just try to be very disciplined about it so that I don’t feel interrupted or empty.”
Protect time
6. Validate need for solitude Ability to validate one’s need for solitude despite judgments from self, others, or society “There is kind of this feeling you know, in our world, in our society, that if you like to spend a lot of time alone, there’s something kind of wrong with you. And I don’t agree with that at all.”
Find a balance
7. Heed internal signals to enter solitude Ability to notice and act on internal sensations that signal a need to enter solitude

“I just feel easily irritated and I just want everyone to leave me alone, and so then I’m like, oh okay, I need to put myself in time-out.” Find a balance


8. Know when to exit solitude Ability to recognise when solitude has served its purpose and act on the desire to re-enter social life  “I’m feeling restless or lonely …  I’ve gotten what I need from being alone, and okay, now who can I go meet?”
Find a balance

Virginia Thomas finds:

“As a whole, the solitude skills demonstrated by these participants, and the function of self-connection they appear to serve, find a home in the construct of the private self, developed by clinical psychologist Arnold Modell (1992, 1993), building on what Winnicott (1965) described as the true self.

  • The chief characteristics of the private self are authenticity and an internal coherency of being, drawing on William James’ (1890) articulation of the psychological necessity to maintain a continuity of self.
  • The private self is supported by the capacity to generate meaning from personal experience.
  • While meanings are also generated through social interaction and participation in the public sphere, Modell (1993) argued that occasional retreat from social roles and societal obligations is necessary to contact an affective core where private thoughts, feelings, and meanings are processed and recategorised.
  • The private self is “the source of autonomy” (Modell, 1992, p. 3), sustained by the freedom to be oneself when alone and exercise the agency to engage in “vital personal interests” (p. 3) that are meaningful and nourishing.”

Her conclusion:

“Fostering the private self in solitude is critical for supporting mental health and well-being (Modell, 1993), and the findings from this study suggest that certain skills assist individuals in successfully navigating solitude and reaping the benefits.

The capacity to be content when alone is a developmental achievement; indeed Winnicott, in his landmark paper on the subject, called it “one of the most important signs of maturity in emotional development” (Winnicott, 1958, p. 416).

The solitude skills identified in the present study may represent some of the psychological resources necessary to sustain an authentic, private self, with the added implication that they are valuable not only for those who volitionally enter solitude, but also for those who find themselves in unwanted isolation.

Applying these skills could position individuals to leverage their time alone for the purposes of self-regulation and self-reflection, increasing the likelihood of experiencing positive solitude.

Whether this preliminary set of solitude skills can be found in populations beyond the study sample, whether these skills can be learned, and whether the practice of such skills can enhance psychological functioning are all empirical questions worth investigating. Doing so would further our understanding of the role positive solitude has in adjustment and well-being.”

Alistair’s conclusion on all this is:

  • Solitude is definitely something well worth practising!

Here are some great tips and ways to use time for solitude
  • Practice mindfulness: Try meditation or deep breathing to enhance your focus and self-awareness.
  • Acknowledge discomfort: Personal growth often involves facing discomfort head-on.
  • Be curious
  • Practice self-reflection
  • Establish rituals
  • Challenge yourself
  • Start projects
  • Practice authenticity and vulnerability
  • Seek out new and meaningful connections and build community
  • Prioritise self-care and good mental hygiene
  • Take a break from social media
  • Take a phone break
  • Let your mind wander
  • Get physical
  • Spend time in nature
  • Volunteer
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Be bold and try new things
  • Lean on animals for emotional support

This blog post is a collaborative creation by Alistair Fraser, with the innovative assistance of OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4 and DALL-E 3, showcasing the synergy of human creativity and advanced AI technology.

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