When I was 13, I started locking myself in my lair and writing angsty poetry, which caused people (especially my parents) to assume that I was a lonely, depressed, misanthropic hermit. As it turns out, I was spending some very necessary and healthy time alone. A new study at Harvard University found that spending time alone is crucial for us to have fully-developed personalities. Sufficient quality time with numero uno has been linked to improved focus, memory, creativity, mood, and even better social skills when we finally emerge from our caves.
Why? Because other people take up a lot of space in our minds. Not only that, but they cloud our judgement. Being alone helps us engage in the process of high-level reflection and introspection. It helps us figure out what we really think about stuff. Double the need for solitude if you are highly creative, a prophet like Jesus, or a genius like Beethoven (or fancy yourself a writer). Anyone? Anyone?
Anyhow, I’m sold. Always have been. So what’s the problem? We have cultural stigma about solitude. A study done a few years back at the University of Massachusetts found that people actually feel good, more often than not, when they’re alone. But somehow, somewhere, solitude and loneliness became synonymous. Especially for teens who researchers found tend to sequester themselves when they feel crappy but emerge from isolation feeling slightly less crappy. Yeah, adolescence is tough. I guess that explains why my mom was always knocking on my door telling me to come out. If only I could have said to her, “I am forming my personality through meta-cognition” instead of shouting, “Go away!” and turning up Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock.”
Solitude has long been linked with creativity, spirituality, and intellectual might. The leaders of the world’s great religions — Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses — all had crucial revelations during periods of solitude. The poet James Russell Lowell identified solitude as “needful to the imagination;” in the 1988 book “Solitude: A Return to the Self,” the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr invoked Beethoven, Kafka, and Newton as examples of solitary genius.
Teenagers, especially, whose personalities have not yet fully formed, have been shown to benefit from time spent apart from others, in part because it allows for a kind of introspection — and freedom from self-consciousness — that strengthens their sense of identity.
Hell yeah! I’m behind this 100%! I’m no expert, but I can only imagine that teenage minds are still forming the abilities to inductively and deductively reason. The more opportunity they get to exercise their minds naturally can only be a good thing, IMHO.