When Silence and Solitude Become Loneliness

Published: Nov 22, 2023 | Revised: Feb 13, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

When Silence and Solitude Become Loneliness

Silence — in the sense of a quiet and calm environment — is generally associated with health benefits. For instance, it’s thought that it promotes recuperation and healing from stress, anxiety, and fatigue that’s caused by a demanding and hyperactive society. It’s also thought that an atmosphere of silence and quiet promotes quicker rehabilitation after an illness or treatment.

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Then again, there are also people who deliberately choose moments of solitude, not because they’re ill or anxious, but simply because they like or even prefer to be or do (certain) things alone.

Periodically being alone and abiding in silence can give our brain and body the opportunity to process experiences and recharge, while creating the conditions to be more creative and productive as a result. This can be done consciously, but funny enough we actually already do this on a daily basis when we go to sleep.

But silence and solitude can also become real stress factors. There are quite some people who experience silence as loneliness, and may get depressed or anxious from it if they haven’t specifically chosen to be alone. A good example hereof is the recent COVID pandemic which demonstrated the damaging psychological effects of social distancing and lockdowns (notably on people who lived alone), which was basically a forced state of perpetuated silence and aloneness.

Moreover, in an atmosphere of silence and solitude we are typically confronted with the incessant flow of our own inner thoughts and emotions. Many of us are really not so into that and find it an unpleasant experience, unless, of course, we have deliberately chosen for this “meditative and reflective” moment or period.

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When we are regularly confronted with aloneness and a mind that tends to drive us crazy, it may be of help to learn a meditation technique to control the flow of thoughts, take pets or plants to take care of, or spend lots of time outside in Nature with the “birds and the bees” to counteract this. Perhaps solitude may still be the case, but certain types of things we engage in can help us to feel less lonely.

Nonetheless, as with most things in life there are often two sides to phenomena: eating, sleeping, walking, working, and so on are all necessary and good things for us, but nothing should be too little or too much which then often make it a “bad” thing.

The same counts for silence; moments and periods of calm and solitude are in many ways incredibly important, nurturing, and good for us, but neither little nor much of it in our lives will be helpful. In the end it’s all about balance.

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