In several of the Ten Tenets, Michael Arloski mentions the importance of reconnecting to the natural world. In number eight, he talks about how spending time alone is important. He also says that being alone with yourself, especially in nature, is essential for really getting to know who you are and where you are going.
Let’s take a closer look at why that would be true. In the hyper-connected world we live in, alone time has, for some, become not only un-obtainable, but nearly unthinkable. A 2014 study at the University of Virginia published in Science found that when participants were given the choice of being alone with their thoughts or subjecting themselves to electric shocks, a full two-thirds of the men and a quarter of the women chose to shock themselves instead!
Times of solitude aren’t for everyone. Dr. Kenneth Rubin, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland, explains that for solitude to be useful, certain preconditions have to be satisfied. The period of solitude has to be voluntary, you have to be able to regulate your own emotions, you have to be free to break the solitude and rejoin a social group whenever you want, and you have to be able to maintain positive relationships in a general sense. Basically, you must be a stable, mature person who already has solid social connections.
It’s likely you are a stable, mature person and can see the benefits an occasional period of solitude might offer. What is it specifically about solitude in nature that allows us look more deeply into ourselves than alone time spent indoors or in a city environment?
There is ample evidence that being in nature is good for us, both physically and mentally. The Japanese people have a delightful term they use for spending time in the woods. They call it shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ and a 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine backs up the benefits of this practice – lowered blood pressure, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people who walked in the forest contrasted to those who walked in a city environment.
Richard Louv, a journalist and author of nine books who coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ is on a personal quest to bring the power of nature back into our daily lives and the lives of our children. As he puts it, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
Native Americans over the centuries embarked on a journey of solitude in nature called a Vision Quest in order to reveal the nature of their life’s purpose. Most of us aren’t going to be doing that any time soon, but we can still reap the benefits of quiet time in nature. A morning walk in a quiet park, a hike on a nearby trail, even a solitary tour through your local botanical gardens can be restorative. When I lived in south Florida, one of my favorite places to spend time was Fairchild Tropical Gardens, a dazzling collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants, trees, tropical fruit, orchids and other flowers. Living in Colorado, I’m fortunate to have access to many beautiful forest trails. There’s always a way to spend time in nature and I find it increasingly important as the pace of life seems to continue to pick up speed.
Ask yourself how can you add some alone time in nature to your routine. You will be repaid many times over.
As we come into this time of Thanksgiving, I always like to let you know how much I appreciate all of you – those of you who read my articles, comment on and share them, my clients, and those I have met throughout my coaching journey. It means so much to me that you take time out of your busy lives to read my words and share your thoughts, and for that I am truly grateful.
Enjoy this time of Thanksgiving with family and friends!