The famous writer, professor at Georgetown University shares his discoveries about the benefits of loneliness and solitude for the brain.
I recently read three books on the benefits of loneliness. Two of them were called “Loneliness”, and the third, which was published last, was called “Start with yourself” (Lead Yourself First). It is positioned as a guide for the leader, but in reality, it is a reflection on the value of moments when you can be one on one with your thoughts.
The last book impressed me the most, because one of the authors is a former army officer and a respected federal judge, and accordingly it is written in the spirit of strict logic and ontological clarity, which warms my overly technical heart. If you reject the style, there are many interesting points in the book, but I was most impressed by two of them, so I decided to share them:
Lesson №1: The most correct definition of “loneliness” is a subjective state in which you are isolated from the influence of other people’s thoughts.
When we think of solitude, we often imagine isolation from the physical world (an abandoned house or the top of a mountain), such an idea we want to immediately reject because it is too romantic and completely impractical. But as this book makes clear, the real key to solitude is not responding to the actions of others: whether it’s listening to podcasts, using social media, reading books, watching TV, or talking to someone. This is a time when your mind is alone with you – no matter what is happening around you.
Lesson :2: Regular doses of loneliness are crucial for the efficient and sustainable functioning of your brain.
When you spend time in isolation from other people’s thoughts, you have the opportunity to process and regulate complex emotions. This is the only time you can rethink the principles on which you build your life. This is what solves complex problems and is often necessary for creative thinking. If you avoid spending time alone with your own brain, then your mental life will be unstable and less productive.
In addition, these ideas demonstrate an interesting new look at one of my favorite topics: deep work. Not all types of deep work are suitable for this understanding of loneliness, as you can actively respond to the actions of others, for example, when you are trying to understand a difficult piece of text or concentrate on a complex lecture.
But in general, deep thinking is the time you spend alone with your own mind. This is just one of the many shades of loneliness that contributes to the prosperity of the individual. I ended my last book with the result: “Deep life is a good life.” Rethinking it, the authors of “Start with yourself” could say: “A life full of solitude (both at work and at home) is a good life.” This reasoning should be spread more often, especially today when you react to events from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep.
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