Solitude is bliss

Friday, 13 December 2019

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Solitude is bliss

Jayanta Madhav Barua | July 20, 2019 16:05 hrs


Solitude and loneliness are two states of mind experienced by various people in different stages of life. Both have positive and negative connotations depending on the situations. Are these both complementary and interlinked to each other or do both have opposite impacts on our mindset? Before coming to any definitive conclusion in this regard let us do a bit of analysis and study.


Solitude is a term generally used in the positive sense. It is found in a state of temporary recluse from the day to day busy life with hard timelines and tight personal schedules. In solitude, an individual focuses on a few objectives and seeks answers to some of the questions hitherto unanswered in his sub-conscious mind.  A person goes to an isolated place away from human habitation where he enjoys the serenity and the sound of silence in a natural environment. Solitude ignites creativity within the person. In solitude, a person may experience changes in his self-concept. This is a practice that has been followed by many ancient saints over thousands of years in India.


Solitude can provide scope for introspection and growth in spirituality. It can even assist in making personal strategies and preparation of mental roadmap for individual goals to be achieved. The person goes into a state of meditation leaving aside all his materialistic, emotional and physical desires with total detachment to the world. After a period of long silence and complete detachment from the world, a stage comes when he attains enlightenment as per the ancient beliefs of Hindu philosophy which is still prevalent in different parts of India. Gautam Buddha attained his enlightenment through meditation, which is a technique to get rid of all sensory inputs, physical necessities and external desires including social interactions. However, the context of solitude is attainment of pleasure from within but this does not always necessitate complete detachment from the external world. In the present day world, we see many busy people looking for serenity and solitude away from their ever hectic life. 


On the other hand, loneliness is a very complex and unpleasant experience of isolation. Loneliness is felt due to lack of connection with people, lack of social interaction in the present, past and the future. Surprisingly, loneliness is experienced by some people even when surrounded by a society. The factors leading to this state may be varied. The feeling of loneliness may be temporary or prolonged. It may be social, physical, emotional or psychological. A person brought up in an atmosphere cut off from a civilized society may suffer from a social phobia which may finally lead to loneliness at a later stage in his life. 


Loneliness is a social pain - an unpleasant experience that is encountered when a person’s network of social interactions gets cut in some way or the other. It is worth mentioning here that since olden days, forced loneliness is used as a tool for punishment to the criminals and anti-social elements. According to the psychiatrists, every person needs to have his own optimal level of social interactions. Too little or too much of social interaction may also lead to the feeling of either loneliness or over stimulation. In other words a balanced social life is essential to live in a human society.


Certain situations like loss of an intimate family member or a close friend can be a cause of transient loneliness. However one can overcome such situations over a period of time through personal efforts and social interactions with close friends and relatives. The people with highly selfish attitude, devoid of empathy, are more vulnerable to social isolation at some point of time in their lives. We have come across many lonely people, particularly in the West, having intimate conversations with their pets in absence of any other company to overcome the boredom.


There are several studies that have been carried out on the number of people feeling lonely.  It is estimated that a mind boggling 60 million people or 20% of the populations in US are suffering from loneliness today. Another study found that 12% of Americans have no one with whom they can spend free time. And this number has been increasing over time. Between 1985 and 2004, the number of people with whom an average American can discuss important personal matters has decreased from three to two. A similar study in UK says half a million people above sixty years of age spend each day alone and gets to speak to no one for 5 to 6 days a week. With the advent of urban lifestyle and the concept of nuclear families, the problem of loneliness has cropped up in a pluralistic society like India as well. The same was unheard of in the past. 


To encounter this dreaded symptom of loneliness certain engagements like involvement in social welfare projects, selfless service/karma without expectation of any returns are found to have beneficial effects in both mental and physical health. Yoga and meditation are widely practiced for a perfect balance of emotional and physical well-being. Certain creative hobbies like painting, writing, making sculptures etc are effective tools to overcome loneliness. 


In conclusion “Loneliness is a curse but Solitude is bliss.”  


(The author is a widely travelled freelance writer, motivational speaker and a mechanical engineer)

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