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autism coping skills fomo healthy habits mental health peer pressure self-care spectrum support Jun 13, 2022

Written by David Zecua, a CSU Channel Islands Service Learning student.

Solitude. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Do you picture yourself being alone in a particular setting or do you picture solitude as an internal sensation? I imagine that we all have heard about or have experienced loneliness at some point in our lives. Loneliness can happen when hanging out with friends or hanging out alone at school or at any other social setting, not having anyone to go out with or hang out with, not being able to choose a partner for a project, or feeling alone even with other people around. There are many examples of solitude in our lives and this is just scratching the surface of life examples as your experiences may vary from mine. Depending on the situation, it was probably not a pleasant sensation and it may have made you feel worse about yourself.

As I have learned, solitude can be very controversial. While being alone can be beneficial, it can also be dangerous particularly in recent years with skyrocketing rates of crime and assault and in other scenarios when being alone may put you in danger. Research has shown that too much loneliness may lead to other mental and emotional issues.

Growing up in grade school, solitude was generally not a positive thing as it was not very socially acceptable amongst peers. The social climate in grade school can get fierce, with peer pressure and feeling the need to always have friends to hang around with, otherwise you may get called a “loner” or you may stand out for “not having friends.” And as someone who has autism and who adapted from special education to regular education, solitude was a common thing for me and it was generally frowned down upon. I often hear people worrying about not having anyone to go out to eat with or go out to a movie theater with and possibly having to go alone. I believe that is because the idea of solitude not being good is ingrained in many events and minds. Even when we are more independent and able to go to places we want to go by ourselves, it's common to start thinking about who to go with or there may be some perceived need to invite someone in order to not go alone.

However, solitude can be a great thing and is very underrated. In a world full of sociability and as social beings, solitude may not always be easy to go through or embrace, but it can truly be a blessing in disguise. While there is research showing the downsides of solitude, there is also research that shows the benefits of solitude. According to Carter, S.B. (2012), spending time alone allows the brain to reboot and unwind, it improves concentration and productivity, cutting away distractions from others. It also allows you to think deeply about yourself and it can improve your relationships because you can think about who you are which can help you make better choices in those relationships. And according to Cherry, K. (2020), spending time alone can improve memory and creativity, making it easier to solve difficult issues without social pressure from a group setting distracting your thought process.

Overall this is not to say that being alone at all times is the answer, but solitude should be appreciated more and not be looked down upon. Moments of solitude can do wonders for our mental health and wellbeing. I hope that this is encouragement to spend more time alone and to not feel ashamed or embarrassed being alone in a social setting, because it is okay to be alone. Solitude within limits is not a bad thing and I believe it should be encouraged more. Even with us being social beings, some solitude can have a positive affect overall in the state of our society.

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