What Is the Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness?

By  //  May 17, 2022

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The lives of modern people move at a fast pace, and our communication has never been so efficient. Online messengers, social media, and emails allow us to stay in touch with our relatives, friends, and colleagues almost constantly. At the same time, excessive communication can make you feel overloaded, wishing you could spend some time just by yourself.

When the amount of information that comes from all directions becomes overwhelming, people can become easily irritated and feel like they can never catch up. Fortunately, there is a solution that might help you if you need a break — you can simply enjoy solitude.

Unfortunately, the concept of solitude is surrounded by many misconceptions. We live in a world where social connections hold a lot of value so people who avoid excessive interactions might be perceived as lonely. So, are solitude and loneliness the same?

Even though some people may use these two terms interchangeably, the truth is that they mean different things. Although loneliness and solitude may look similar to others, they feel completely different. Moreover, one can be surrounded by people all the time and still feel lonely.

Simply put, while solitude means being alone, it’s a positive experience, while loneliness creates a feeling of isolation. It’s a negative experience that can make you feel like something important is missing from your life. In this article, we will consider loneliness and solitude in more detail.

Solitude: Definition

According to the definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary, solitude means being alone, without other people. If you think about it, loneliness can also be described in the same way. However, loneliness isn’t a direct solitude synonym because when we talk about solitude, we usually mean being alone intentionally.

We don’t choose to be lonely but we may choose solitude, and that’s probably the main difference between these two concepts. Loneliness doesn’t feel good, while solitude usually means being in a peaceful and pleasant state so you can focus on your thoughts and practice self-awareness.

Solitude vs. Loneliness

As you can see, the main difference between the two is the choice. One can choose solitude, but nobody seeks loneliness. While solitude means simply being by yourself, loneliness is a feeling and not a pleasant one. Usually, people feel lonely when they wish there was someone by their side.

The feeling of loneliness can have a negative impact on your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. It is also a common symptom of various mental health problems, including depression. Therefore, if you realize that this feeling gets stronger, a great solution is to seek professional help. For instance, you can try video chat therapy.

In contrast, solitude isn’t about feeling lonely and being sad — it’s rather an opportunity to enjoy the company of yourself. When you enjoy solitude, you just don’t need anyone else. Solitude creates a perfect environment for self-reflection and self-awareness.

When you’re alone by yourself, you can also be more focused and creative. Without being distracted by others, your brain can focus all of its energy on generating fresh ideas, analyzing information, and finding creative solutions.

While the feeling of loneliness stems from an unfulfilled desire to share the moment with someone else, solitude is the complete opposite of that. Solitude has a lot to do with a feeling of fulfillment and sufficiency. It’s peaceful, rich, and satisfying. Solitude is an opportunity to restore emotional energy and take a look inside yourself.

Benefits of Solitude

As you can see, there is a big difference between solitude and loneliness, with the former being rather a positive experience. A person may seek solitude to focus on work or creativity or to simply take a break from excessive socialization. Here are some of the main benefits of solitude:

■ Improved productivity;

■ Clarity and calmness;

■ Improved concentration;

■ Self-exploration;

■ Mental replenishment;

■ Problem-solving.

With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that solitude can also lead to unpleasant feelings, including boredom and even loneliness. Solitude decreases emotional arousal, which can be either negative or positive, and results in a calmer state, which can also be positive or negative.

This means that solitude can help you make a transition from anger, which is an intense feeling, to positive calmness. However, it can also make you switch from positive excitement to the feeling of boredom, which is a low-arousal yet negative experience.

Besides, even though solitude is a result of a person’s choice, people may make such a choice for different reasons. For instance, one may decline an invitation to Valentine’s day party because of holiday anxiety disorder or depression. In this case, the best solution is to talk to a therapist and learn how to feel better about being single.

Downsides of Solitude

When it comes to solitude, a lot depends on the reasons why people choose it. While it can help you find peace of mind, if you retreat to solitude because you’re dissatisfied with the relationships that you have with others, solitude can turn into loneliness.

Chronic loneliness can make you feel disconnected from others and damage your self-esteem. Not only can it negatively impact your mental health, but it can also be very difficult to overcome because you may not have the necessary support and social resources.

Therefore, if you realize that loneliness negatively affects your life and your solitude is no longer a choice, the best solution is to talk to a licensed therapist. A professional can help you figure out what caused the problem and suggest effective practice that will help you cope with loneliness.

A great thing about therapy is that you don’t even need to commute to a therapist’s office to get the necessary support. Online platforms like Calmerry allow you to communicate with therapists remotely from the comfort of your home. Learn more about therapy so that you’ll know what to expect from your virtual sessions.

Wrapping Up

Although some of the experiences associated with solitude can be unpleasant, research data shows that its positive effects outweigh the negative ones and that experiencing solitude on a regular basis is beneficial for mental health in the long term.

The main thing is to make sure that your solitude doesn’t turn into loneliness. Ask yourself, do you want to be alone? Why do you want to be alone? Do you actually enjoy solitude? How does it affect your life?

If you feel lonely, don’t hesitate to talk to a licensed therapist. This way, you’ll be able to share your feelings with someone who understands you, figure out the causes of the problem, and make the first step towards a better life.