Solitude and Loneliness

A friend of mine is going through a hard time right now. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how I can help, partly because my friend has isolated himself from parts of his social sphere. For better or worse, my friend has introduced a degree of solitude into his life and my role, at least for now, is to be patient and support his choice.

Sitting in meditation is also a practice of solitude. It is easy for me to see the benefits of this kind of temporary, self-imposed solitude for anyone who needs a break from an over-connected, over-busy, over-stimulated life.

Therapeutic solitude should not, however, be conflated with loneliness, which Wikipedia describes as having “anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings.” Research has shown that those who describe themselves as “lonely” are more likely to suffer from depression and other health problems (“Loneliness is a Warning Sign to be Social,” R. Penaluna & F. Mohammad, Nautilus, 11 June 2016). Meditation practice may not be appropriate for those experiencing severe loneliness and should only be undertaken in a supportive environment.